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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Aug 28, 2000

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Aug 28 Notes

The $10K ITF satellite event has started at the Jai Club grasscourts in Jaipur today .. 5th seed Rushmi and 7th seed Sonal have advanced .. A nice result to report -- Qualifier Shruti Dhawan is in the second round .. Remember her winning the satellite masters in late 98 ? .. She was just 16 then .. A few missed ITF events and then a long layoff due to a back problem had pushed her completely out of the limelight .. She did play the two weeks of $10K events a few months back, but did not create any waves then .. She has looked good so far, qualifying in, and then easily winning her first round too .. Sheetal Gautham, the top junior in 1998, won a tough three-setter to advance too .. The top two seeds, Manisha and Sai and a few foreign players are all scheduled to play tomorrow .. See the Jaipur satellite page .. Also, I have updated the entry lists for the upcoming Delhi and Bangalore satellites in the next two weeks with the Aug 25th updates.

The Indian u14 boys left Prostejov (World Junior Tennis Final-20) on a good note, winning their last two ties (after losing the first 4 ties in the pool they were in) .. Yesterday they beat Mexico 2-1 to top the group of 4 teams which played for placement in the 17-20 spots .. Rafael Gutierrez d. Tushar Liberhan, 61 64 ..  Karan Rastogi d. Ernesto Arrieta, 61 67(5) 64 .. Rastogi / Divij Sharan d. Gutierrez/ Miguel Angel Reyes Varela, 62 16 61 .. That placed India at the 17th spot in the world .. As for the Asia-Oceania countries, Japan ended at #12, Australia at #13, India at #17 and Thailand at #19 .. Nice comeback work by Karan Rastogi yesterday after we were down 0-1 .. Actually the young pups should be commented on fighting hard to place well in the lowest set's placement, rather than get demoralized after all the poor results in their original group ..  This is actually the best result for India since 1998 when our under 16 team then (Kamala Kannan, Karan Doctor etc) placed #9th in the world at the World Youth Cup .. Spain beat Russia for the top spot in boys. Russia beat CZE for the girls' title .. Shaui Peng and China upset USA to take the 3rd spot .. Taiwan at 5th, Japan at 15th, and Korea 17th in the girls' final standings ..

The PaesEnSports boys, 17 yr old Sunil Kumar Sipaeya and Vinod Kumar Sewa are at the Canadian Open Junior Grade-1 ITF international, the prestigious pre-USOpen warmup event at Repentigny, Cuebec, Canada ..  Vinod Sewa is drawn to face qualifier Ryan Russel of Jamaica in the first round of the 64-draw event, and Sunil Kumar faces wildcard Hiroud Akhavan of Canada .. Vijay Amritraj's son, Prakash Amritraj (USA) has a tough first round match against #5 seed Yen-Hsun Lu of China .. Most top junior names are playing this event .. As far as I know, this is the first Grade-1 event that either Sunil or Vinod has taken part in .. Grade-1 is the second highest ITF grade, behind only the Grade-A level of the junior grand slams .. Winning two rounds to get to final-16 is as good as a title at a grade-5 event, for instance .. Good to see the two boys getting a chance to play there! ..

Sep 27 Notes

LP and MB must be on their way to New York City for the US Open .. I hear that Todd Woodbridge may be less than 100% at the US Open (Thanks, Deb C) .. Actually I had noticed that Woodbridge withdrew in the first round qualifying match this week at the USO - I am told he has a leg injury .. Will try to find out how serious it is .. As for our boys, MB had said a while back that he was committed to defending the mixed doubles crown from last year, with his old partner, Ai Sugiyama .. LP was unsure of playing Mixed doubles when I talked to him a week back .. I think it is better for him not to worry about it - every unnecessary tournament also increases the chance of injuries etc as well, just as happened at the French Open mx-d ..

The ITF $10K satellite starts at Jaipur tomorrow, and some qualifying matches (if there were enough players, that is) may have been done today .. Anyway, I have started a Jaipur satellite page, where you can find the official acceptance list as of August 9th .. I am told that Kavitha Krishnamurthy of Canada has withdrawn, as she she really needed a break after quite a few events in Summer and has the college season starting at Princeton Univ soon .. On the other hand, I heard that Jyotsna Vasisht from USA (who was actually in Delhi earlier and had moved to USA when her dad was posted out there by GOI if I am not mistaken), has been given a wildcard .. I will await more news from Jaipur as the Indian newspapers start the coverage today or tomorrow .. You can also find the following week's satellite early entry list, at the Delhi satellite page.

At the World Junior Tennis final in Prostejov (CZE), our boys made sure yesterday that they wouldn't end up at the very bottom of the 20 team field .. In the placement ties for the 17-20 spots, Indian u-14 boys beat Thailand 3-0 (Tushar Liberhan d. Kirati Siribut 64 61 .. Karan Rastogi d. Natapong Pongkunsub 75 61 .. Liberhan/ Rastogi d. Sarrun Kaewjinda/ N.Pongkunsub 64 36 63) .. Thailand was actually 8th seeded in the field, but have had a terrible time there .. Today, India plays Mexico for the 17-18 spot placement .. Japan lost to Czech Republic 1-2 in the 9-12 placement and are playing Peru for the 11th spot today .. Australia d. Britain 3-0 in the 13-16 spots and plays RSA for the 13th spot .. Well, India was 5th-seeded in the Asia-Oceania regionals three months back, and now we can say we are #2 in Asia (#3 in Asia-Oceania) in that age group, I guess - though the region placed none in the top-10 in the world .. At the top of the placements, #1 seed Russia beat #4 seeds USA 3-0, #3 Spain beat #2 Germany 3-0 to advance to the finals in boys .. On the girls's side, #1 Russia beat #4 China 3-0 and #3 CZE beat #2 USA 2-1 to reach finals .. Today, China plays USA for 3rd spot, Taiwan girls play Croatia for the 5th spot (Taiwan beat ARG 2-1 yesterday), Japan plays Egypt for 15th spot (JPN lost to GBR 0-3 yesterday) and Korea plays Mexico for the 17th spot (KOR d. Uruguay 3-0) .. So, that gives an idea where tennis stands in the world at the 14 and under age group.

By the way, I have got some emails asking me what the difference is, between "under-14",  "14-and-under", and  "14s" .. As far as I know, no difference .. The age groups are determined (by ITF and by AITA) based on the age as of January 1st .. If one is under-14 then, he/she is eligible for the age group .. During the year some players may turn 14, and so "14 and under" is appropriate .. To avoid confusion, "14s" is perhaps a better term to use .. At least that is my understanding ..

Yet another update on the young ones -- 15 yr old Sasha Abraham of Hyderabad reached the QF of singles and the final of doubles (with Allma Mohammed of Ghana) in the Grade-4 ITF international at Mozabique last week (Aug 14-20) .. I had given her earlier results in the Aug 16 Note-1 .. For a 3rd time in a row she ended up with the top seed Maretha Van Niekerk of RSA and lost in the QFs, 67(2) 36 .. In doubles, Sasha and Allma were second seeded and lost in the final to Niekerk and Carien Vermeulen of RSA .. She has come up neat top-225 with all the points from the trip to Africa ..

Aug 26 Note-2

Well .. The boys are not fully back to old form yet .. #3 seeds Gambill-Humphries d. Bhupathi-Paes, 46 63 62 today in the semis at the Hamlet Cup ..  They have some work to do, before we can start talking about another grand slam final and Olympics medal and all that, I guess ..  But, still a good tournament for them to start back up the ladder - they got to play three matches, and had some good fights with a couple of top-15 teams as well, to get a good measure what all they have to work on .. Now they will get 3 or 4 days off before they play the first round at the US Open next wednesday or thursday .. They can use all the match practice they can get right now, and it also shows us why LP was not talking of skipping Tashkent yet.  If they go out early in the US Open, they would certainly want to play Tashkent to get matches and confidence.

Aug 26 Note-1

Paes/Bhupathi are scheduled to play the semifinal against Gambill-Humphries at the $390K Long Island Hamlet Cup today at about 3.30 pm .. Interestingly, this is only their second semifinal at an event other than a grand slam or at Hartford, since the Chennai Open in April 1999  .. Actually that shows what a bad year last year was for them, except at the six important events; Grand slams, WDC and Chennai! .. Gambill-Humphries is one of the teams that has been together for a while, and they are ranked 12th in the world .. They won the San Jose title in February, and have had two finals as well - at London in February and at Los Angeles last month .. Actually Gambill was injured and they had to give a walkover in the final at LA four weeks back .. This is their first event after that, and they have looked good at Long Island so far .. Mahesh should have a good idea on how to handle this team, as he and Kratzmann had beaten them 76(5) 63 at the St.Poelten semis in late May, on the way to a title .. Interestingly, Gambill and Humphries were finalists last year at Long Island, the first time they played together and found that they should team up for the long term -- and their first semifinal win together was over Bhupathi and Wayne Ferreira in three sets there (Leander was playing USO qualies then) ..  It should be an interesting match today, and another nice test of how our pair is coming along in their return.

As for the US Open draw, here it is (upper-most quarter):

 1 T.Woodbridge/ M.Woodforde (AUS)     vs C.Mamiit (USA)/ J.Thomas (USA)   \ 
   L.Hewitt (AUS)/ M.Mirnyi (BLR)      vs J.Stark (USA)/ E.Taino (USA)     / \
   Mahesh Bhupathi/ Leander Paes (IND) vs J.Oncins (BRA)/ D.Orsanic (ARG)  \ / \
16 T.Carbonell (ESP)/ M.Garcia (ARG)   vs C.Haggard (RSA)/ T.Vanhoudt (BEL)/    \_ SF
 9 N.Kulti (SWE)/ M.Tillstrom (SWE)    vs M.Bertolini/ C.Brandi (ITA)      \    /
   P.Goldstein (USA)/ C.Woodruff (USA) vs W.Black (ZIM)/ K.Ullyett (ZIM)   / \ /
   T.Davis (USA)/ R.Ginepri (USA)      vs P.Albano (ARG)/ L.Arnold (ARG)   \ /
 7 S.Lareau (CAN)/ D.Nestor (CAN)      vs M-K.Goellner / M.Kohlmann (GER)  /
Boy, that is a tough, tough quarter of the draw with 4 of the top few quality teams in there (Woodies, LP-MB, Lareau/Nestor, and Kulti-Tillstrom) ..

The three weeks of $10K women's ITF events are starting in India on Monday at Jaipur (followed by delhi and Bangalore) .. I will post the early entry list for Jaipur and Delhi later today.

The Indian u14 boys lost 1-2 to South Africa yesterday at the world junior tennis final-20 at Prostejov (CZE) yesterday: Tushar Liberhan d. Thomas Liversage 60 36 63 .. David North d. Karan Rastogi, 64 26 64 .. Liversage/ North d.  Liberhan/ Rastogi 63 63 .. That left India in the 5th place in Group-1 which included ESP, SVK, RSA and CZE .. As there are 4 such groups, India will finish in the 17th thru 20th spots .. Actually, Tushar's win yesterday was the only win India had in 12 matches there in four round robin ties .. As for Asian teams, Thailand also finished last in their group without winning any ties, and they are playing the 17-20 placement tie against India today, with Mexico and El Salvador playing the other bottom-most placement tie .. The 3rd Asian country, Japan, beat Canada yesterday and will be playing for placement in the 9th-thru-12 spots .. The top four seeded teams have advanced to the semifinal, topping each of their pools - Russia, Germany, Spain and USA .. On the girls' side, Asia is doing pretty well, just as in the higher levels of women tennis .. China is in the semifinals .. Again, the top 4 seeds advanced from the four pools - Russia, USA, Czech Rep. and China .. Taiwan is playing for the 5-8 spots, Japan for 13-16 and Korea for 17-20 .. China is led by Rui Du and Shuai Peng, Taiwan by Su-Wei Hsieh and Yi Chen .. China and Taiwan ended up in the same group, sadly, Taiwan being the 5th seed .. China advanced primarily based on their #2 Shuai Peng beating Taiwan's Su-Wei in a comeback three-setter .. Anybody remembers these two girls coming to the subcontinent early this year? - 14 yr old Shuai Peng was totally unbeatable, winning double crowns in all three ITF juniors, Delhi, Chandigarh and Calcutta, with two title match wins against  Radhika Tulpule a few years older than her .. The week after at the Grade-3 juniors in Dhaka, 14 yr old Su-Wei of Taiwan was in the finals of both singles and doubles too .. Watch out for these girls in the future .. I will also look for Sania Mirza and Sanaa Bhambri of India, in the future .. Actually, in the Asian regionals in early May, India did not have its full-strength team on the girls side, with Sania unable to go .. The Bhambri sisters (Sanaa and Ankita) could not pull it off to qualify among the 4 teams from Asia-Oceania .. On the boys side, Tushar and Karan played very well there, qualifying among the top-4 (Australia being the 4th team along with Japan, Thailand) though India was seeded 5th there.

Aug 24 Note-5

Oh yeah .. They are back and into the semis! .. M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes d. S.Aspelin/ J.Landsberg, 76(5) 76(6) .. Good to see them able to win two tough tiebreakers against the #16 team in the world in only their second match together this time .. Tomorrow they play the semis against teh #12 team, seeded 3rd there - Gambill and Humphries .. Go Indian Express! .. I have no details on today's match, and it just got done at 10.45 pm there.

Aug 25 Note-4

How about this ? .. LP-MB may end up with the Woodies in the 3rd round itself, at the US Open .. The draw just came out and it shows our boys placed in the top 1/8th of the draw with #1 Woodies and #16 Carbonnel/Garcia .. The first round is against unseeded J.Oncins (BRA) and D.Orsanic (ARG) and if our guys win that, it could be the 16th seeds next .. Will post the draw soon .. There is actually a team there that can upset the Woodies (very tough as that may be) in the second round though -- Hewitt/Mirnyi .. This is going to be a fun at the US Open doubles!

Aug 25 Note-3

I knew some clueless people would bring this up in India, and was literally waiting to see where I will see the comment first -- about the flag-bearer "controversy", kicked up out there after Leander said that playing Tashkent might be necessary, and that he may have to miss the flag ceremony .. "Many in the IOA had favoured Dhanraj Pillay, for whom this will be in his third Olympics. He also captained the side that regained the gold medal in the 1998 Asian Games after a lapse of 32 years.  They are insisting that as Paes is not willing to forsake the Tashkent tournament, the honour should be given to Pillay. Paesí action is being construed as selfish .. Only IOA president Suresh Kalmadi and secretary Randhir Singh are insisting that Paes be given the honor" - says the Telegraph (Calcutta) Saturday ..

Selfish??  SELFISH?? .. How clueless can these people in IOA be ? .. I know that Leander had once sworn to me that he would never ever go back to Uzbekistan after that last trip in 96 when LP went there for a challenger series primarily because Mahesh needed to come up the ranks in doubles before they could hit the big circuit .. LP and MB fell ill and survived there on candy bars (no joke; this is true), not liking most of the food .. Nothing against Uzbeks, but they had a tough time there .. I was surprised to see them even thinking of going to Tashkent .. There are people who think they are going there for the paltry prize money or something ? .. Selfish ?? .. Get it into your thick heads, people -- Leander is a professional who wants to go to Sydney to win a medal first - carrying the flag is not the issue, however emotional LP may get about that honor .. Don't for one minute think the tricolor does not get his blood and adrenaline pumping at double speed -- I don't think Leander has to do anything to establish that to anybody - what he did in Atlanta is proof enough (or perhaps these jokers in IOA have also become like the "crorepati" man whom we commented on earlier today) .. If LP says he may even forego the honor of carrying the flag for the sake of getting one or two more matches if more match-practice is needed, that speaks volumes about his commitment to do something at Olympics with Mahesh .. Selfish, my rear-end! .. I wish more Indian sportsmen were "selfish" like Leander - I would rather have no sportsmen to carry the flag for us (Mr. Suresh Kalmadi can walk with it!) if all our sportsmen went there "selfishly" and got us medals instead!

On the other hand, I see once again some sort of PR problem LP always seems to have these days about clearly stating why he does some things the way he does ..  One line that "if they won a lot of matches at the US Open they might not have to go to Tashkent," would have done the job (actually, this is what I had heard from them when I talked to LP and MB last week, I thought) .. Hey, Lee, don't assume that politicians in the sports circles in India understand winning-based thinking .. After all it is the country where our own Nehruji once said that "winning at Olympics is not important; participating is" - a lot of people have taken that to heart, even sportsmen .. So much to the extent that they question a person's commitment when he wants to practice for the medal rather than carry the flag if that is what is needed ..  It is safe to assume that they have never heard the line, "winning is not everything; it is the only thing", from the legendary American football coach Vince Lombardi ..

Gosh, such an unnecessary controversy once again .. LP and MB will win enough matches at US Open, and I expect them not to be going to Tashkent, if so .. Actually I myself am against the Tashkent idea if they have played 2-3 matches at Long Island and at least 3-4 matches at US Open .. On the other hand, regardless of the number of matches, if Leander feels he needs another couple more before feeling 100% while heading to Sydney, he should do exactly as needed ..  Dhanraj Pillay will of course be a very deserving candidate to carry the flag for us, too.

But, damnit, that "LP is selfish" line got me going!

Aug 25 Note-2

LP-MB are scheduled to play at about 7 pm at the $390K Hamlet Cup in Long Island, against the Swedes, Simon Aspelin and Johan Landsberg .. The winners will advance to play the 3rd seeds Jan-Michael Gambill and Scott Humphries, who won their QF yesterday ..

The "official announcement" came out today about LP and MB playing together at the US Open .. Bhupathi Sr., confirmed this to PTI today .. He also said that there was no mediation between the boys .. The dads "initially tried to help them, but the two decided to sit together and sort out things themselves," he also said ..

At the Grade-5 ITF international in New Jersey, the 4th seeds Vinod Sewa and Sunil Sipaeya won their 3rd round (QF) match yesterday over Erich Hechtman and Evan Zedar, 64 62, but they could not upset the second seeds Giancarlo Capuccio (VEN) and Erick Martinez (MEX) in the semis .. Sewa/Sipaeya went down 46 46 ..

Aug 25 Note-1

LP-MB play today at the Hamlet Cup .. I have not seen the schedule yet.

Here is a "shocking" story, about how little Indians seem to know of, in sports (except perhaps in cricket) .. Gulu Ezekeil, sports editor at Indya.com had an article about sports questions in "Kaun Banega Crorepati", the big Indian show with Amitabh Bacchan (similar to the US show "who wants to be a millionaire") .. He writes, "what was shocking was the inability of a doctor from Durgapur, West Bengal, last week to guess the Olympics medal winner from among the following: Milkha Singh, PT Usha, Leander Paes and Jaspal Rana.  The good doctor chose the audience as his lifeline, they went for Usha and he agreed. End of contest! .. Well, it was only four years ago at the last Olympics in Atlanta that Paes had won a bronze in the tennis singles event .. Both Usha (400m. hurdles, 1984) and Milkha (400m, 1960) had missed a medal by a whisker while Rana (pistol shooting) did nothing of note at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics" .. What is shocking to me is that the audience majority picked the wrong one .. I assume the audience who goes for these shows are not really representative of Indians .. Jeez, from under which rocks are these people crawling out ? .. I don't know whether to laugh or cry .. Hey, Leander and Mahesh, you just have to win a gold .. Bronze and all don't cut it, guys! :-)

By the way, the one who won the largest prize money so far, 50 lakhs, just yesterday, was stumped by the question on picking the only Indian footballer who had a hat-trick in Olympics - answer from a. Neville D'Souza; b. PK Bannerjee; c. Shabbir Ali and d. Sailen Manna (Gulu talks about the show itself messing up Manna's name as Munna!) .. The answer is of course A, from the 1956 Olympics Olympics QFs, when India beat Australia 4-1 to reach the semifinals (India is not even in the world top-100 in football, but many in India probably may not know about Melbourne -- those were the days, eh ?) .. This contestant was from football-crazy Calcutta, that too, but he chose to quit and take the money at that question, rather than go for the crore .. Oh, boy!

Back to tennis .. At the Grade-4 ITF junior event at New Jersey, Sunil Kumar and Vinod Sewa won the second round match and have reached the QF of doubles (they had a first round bye, as the 4th seeds) .. They beat Scott Brown and David Gopstein of USA, 75 67(4) 75 .. In the QF, they face Erich Hechman and Evan Zedar of USA.

Aug 24 Note-3

I am not sure when exactly Niru played the match -- I am sure I saw that the match was not on the schedule by late afternoon .. Anyway, I could not follow the match .. Sadly, Niru went down after a good fight in the first set against the top seed in the 128-player qualifying field (damn, of all people she had to go up against Bedanova!) .. D.Bedanova (CZE,89) d. N.Vaidyanathan, 75 61 .. Niru defended 10 of the 20 points she had at the US Open .. She will proceed to a few challengers in the US, starting with Hopewell Junction (New York) in the week after next, for singles .. In doubles, Niru's partner for the last few weeks, Evie Dominikovic (AUS,143) is playing with Eun-Ha Kim (KOR,147) at the USO qualies .. Niru's rank is 177, which may have been slightly lower than needed to make the draw.

At the Long Island Hamlet Cup, the Swedes, Aspelin/ Landsberg won the first round today in easy straight sets against the lucky losers, Merklein/ Spadea, and will be facing LP-MB tomorrow in the quarterfinals .. Aspelin/ Landsberg are one of the better teams to emerge lately, and are 16th in the ATP doubles team rankings .. Not necessarily an easy match for LP-MB tomorrow.

Aug 24 Note-2

It looks like Nirupama won't get to play today .. They reshuffled the schedule at the US Open qualies and placed another remaining first round match on court 5 after 4 matches, and Niru's match has gone off the schedule for today .. Stay tuned to see if there is any other changes, but I think she is getting the day off.

Aug 24 Note-1

There was some rain delay earlier in the day at the US Open qualies, but it looks like Nirupama's second round match against Bedanova will get underway by 6.00 pm there (6.30 am India) .. Our chatroom will be open as usual with live scores and chat.

I noticed that Todd Woodbridge retired in the second set of his qualifying match against Michael Russell at 36 13 - not sure if he is injured or something.

Bad stuff from Prostejov (Czech Rep.) - India lost 0-3 to Czech Republic today in the ITF u14 World Junior Tennis final .. Tushar Liberhan lost to Jan Langer 57 36,  Karan Rastogi lost to Tomas Pickacek 46 16 and then Rastogi /Liberhan lost to Langer/ Pickacek 76(4) 46 57 .. So India has lost three ties without winning a match so far .. We have one more tie to go, and that is against RSA tomorrow.

Sania Mirza, the 13 yr old from Hyderabad who is #1 in the AITA u-16 ranks, #5 in u14 and #5 in u18 as well, was at the Grade-5 ITF Junior international in Sint-Katelijne-Waver, Belgium, last week .. She was actually the top seed there and won the first round against Kelly Hesbois (BEL) , but got upset 16 76 26 by Karina Kues of Belgium (who then went all the way to final) in the second round.

Nirupama is scheduled to play the 5th and last match tomorrow (Thursday) on court 5 at the US Open qualies in New York .. Tough to predict the time, but it may be around 6 or 7 pm in the evening there .. Also some rain is probably expected tomorrow too ..

There was an itty bit stuff in yesterday's JordanTimes about the futures going on there .. It said, "Jordan's veteran players Faris and Laith Azzouni returned to the competition scene but were unlucky as the doubles competition started on Tuesday .. The two brothers lost 2-6, 2-6 to India's Mustafa Qousi and Michel Yobal" ..  It took me a while to figure out who Michel Yobal was .. That is how an Indian name, written in English and then translated to Arabic, turns out when written in English again .. That is Vishal Uppal, playing with Mustafa Ghouse! .. So they won a round of doubles .. No further news  - I am waiting to find out how Vijay Kannan did in the QFs of singles.

Aug 23 Note-2

At the Hamlet Cup, rain affected a lot of matches today, and the new schedule shows Aspelin and Landsberg playing Merklein-Spadea tomorrow in the first round, which means the latter team has replaced the top seeds Kulti-Tillstrom in the draw .. I guess Tillstrom is having trouble with blisters on his hand .. LP-MB will thus not have to play the seeds in the quarterfinal, which will now have to be scheduled for Friday .. But stay tuned for any schedule update from there.

The Telegraph (Calcutta) reports that Mahesh had talked to Knowles and he readily agreed to MB playing with LP at the US Open .. This was confirmed to the newspaper by Bhupathi Sr.  I had heard from LP-MB a few days back that they may be back at the US Open .. I held on before reporting as I was not sure if LP had talked to Siemerink and had way clear for him to play with Mahesh yet .. I think there should be no problem and they should be playing together (this was the "another bit of good news" I mentioned in the Aug 20 Note-2 on Sunday, actually .. Funny how I try to keep the info confidential if I feel the two guys may not be want to announce it yet, and the dads always spill the beans soon to the press! :-)) ..  Bhupathi Sr. also mentioned that Woodbridge was considering playing with Bhupathi later, and that he was also only too glad to make way for LP-MB to reunite .. After all, the Woodies were on record advising LP and MB to get their act together and take the torch away from them for the future .. So, things are right on track for the Indian Express, folks .. It's fun time again !!

I had joked to Leander and Mahesh that if they play together at the US Open, we were counting on 2400 points and a direct entry to World Doubles Championship (that is 1000 for USO title, 400 for Olympics, 500 each for Stuttgart and Paris masters titles -- all the rest of the titles will be just gravy over that :-)) .. Kidding .. They both had a nice laugh about it - but said we shouldn't get too greedy, and that they will take everything "one day at a time", to use the sports cliche .. Anyway, let us wait and see if everything works out fine for them to play at USO ..

Some bad news to report from Prostojev (CZE) where the Indian under-14 team is playing this week at the World Junior Tennis final .. There are 4 groups with 5 teams each .. India is in Group 2 with 3rd seeds Spain, 6th seed Slovak Republic, South Africa and Czech republic .. Not an easy group .. After 5 days of round robin when teams in each group play each other, the 4 group winners will advance to the semis on the 6th day, with the final being on Sunday .. The bad news is that India lost 0-3 to 3rd seed Spain on Monday (Bartolome Salva d. Tushar Liberhan 64 62, Rafael Nadal d. Karan Rastogi 62 60 , Marcel Granollera/ Bartolome Salva d. Karan Rastogi/ Divij Sharan  62 61), and then lost 0-3 to the 6th seeds Slovakia on Tuesday (Peter Miklusicak d. Tushar Liberhan 63 62, Kamil Capkovic d. Karan Rastogi 62 62, Kamil Capkovic/ Peter Miklusicak d. Karan Rastogi/ Divij Sharan, 61 60) .. The chances for India to advance look almost nil now, but that was expected to be difficult anyway .. They get the easier two teams (ranks-wise) in the next two days after an off-day today .. Hopefully they can win those two and have a chance to finish in the top 8 or top-12 .. Actually India, Thailand and Japan are the only three countries that advanced from the Asian regionals (Thailand actually was seeded 8th too, and were in the same group as Japan) .. Thailand has lost three ties already, and has one doubles win only to show .. Japan has beaten Thailand but lost the other tie .. That is all Asia has so far, to show .. Japans seems to be still alive, though, with two more ties to go.

Aug 23 Note-1

Nirupama had a struggle, then a laugher and then a tight fight, but she came through in the first round of qualies today - Nirupama d. Sybille Bammer (AUT,229), 75 63 .. IN the next round, she faces the top seed Bedanova who also won by identical score of 75 63 in the first round.

Nirupama started badly, dropping serve in the very first game .. She was facing disaster in the 5th game as well, going through deuces, but held on to go 2-3 .. She was all warmed up by now, and broke SB in game six to tie it up at 3-3 .. Sybille was not done, as she had Niru at 15-40 in the next game .. Niru dropped serve again, on the second break point there to fall to 3-4 .. Niru broke back again, after going through 4 chances in the next game - 4-4 .. Once again Niru dropped serve after fighting off a break attempt in the next game .. This was a dog fight by now .. With Sybille servng for the set at 5-4, Niru was again at it .. After facing a set point, she broke Sybille and then served a love game to go up 6-5 ! .. Now it was Niru's turn to get a set point at 30-40 off SB's serve, and she was  not going to let the chance go .. For a 4th time in a row, she broke Sybille's serve and won the set 7-5 .. Clearly a case of Niru kicking it into high gear when needed ..

She started the second set without losing any steam with a love game, then she had SB once again at 15-40 .. She was on full flow now, and converted the first break chance there to go on top 2-0 .. This became a laugher soon, as she broke SB 6 times ina row to go up 75 40 .. Niru must have lost her concentration a bit then, and was suddenly down on serve at 0-40 and dropped a game - 75 41 .. Niru was still in no mood to let SB hold serve though .. It was soon 51 after SB served .. Niru was again having trouble holding serve, as she was broken for a 5th time in the match in the next game .. Then, finally SB held serve once after 7 consecutive times being broken, and she was threatening again at 75 53 .. Niru was down 0-30 in the next game, serving for the match, and SB seemed to be doing last gasp things, trying to get a break get back on serve .. After wasting one match point at 40-30 and a few anxious seconds, Niru closed it out at 75 63 .. The match took an hour and 20 minutes .. Niru gets 10 WTA points for the win, including 4 bonus points .. The next match will require Niru to play her very best though.

LP-MB should be playing tomorrow, as Kulti-Tillstrom are playing their first round this aftternoon at Long Island.

Aug 22 Note-2

Nirupama plays the first match tomorrow (wednesday) on court 6 at the US Open qualies against Sybille Bammer of Austria .. Start time 11 am (8.30 pm India) .. We will have live scores and chat at our chatroom.

The big news today is that Leander Paes will be the flag-bearer for India at the Olympics ! .. To me this was automatic, as he is the only individual medalist we have had since 1952, and the only medalist from the last few Olympics too .. Some had expected Dhanraj Pillay also to be in the running for the honor, though .. Dhanraj is of course a great hockey player, but Lee edges him out for sure .. Dr. Vece Paes has however informed IOA about the possible inability for LP to get there for the Opening ceremony, if LP-MB have not had enough matches together and they have to play at Tashkent (or if they go past a round or two there) .. The IOA has said they will wait till the 15th and then will have to go for alternate plans if so .. I am sure LP will try to find a way to get there .. Let us hope that they will end up playing US Open together and go deep in the draw so that a Tashkent trip will be unnecessary the week before Olympics tennis.

Some excellent news from Jordan today (I am still looking for the results from last week, though) -- Just got word that Vijay Kannan has just reached the quarterfinal at the $15K Jordan F2 futures with a big upset in the second round over the 5th seed from Israeli - not sure who, but I believe Eyal Ran (#457) -- that too in a fighting three-setter of the kind that Vijay was known for during the junior days .. 36 63 76 win .. Cool stuff .. In the first round he beat Azzouzini, a veteran player from Jordan, 61 62 [actually, there are two Azzouzinis, brothers who are veterans there - not sure which brother] .. Rishi Sridhar reached the second round with a win over Vishal Uppal, 64 46 76 in the first round, but he fell in the second round to the second seeded Ben-Qiang Zhu of China (#434), 36 06 .. The whole Indian crowd is there, actually .. Manoj, Mustafa and Rohan lost in the first round .. No other details yet .. Also awaiting info on doubles .. Good to see Vijay winning a nice match - he gets three ATP points, and Rishi gets one ..

At the New Jersey Grade-5 ITF junior international, Sunil Kumar Sipaeya was the 3rd seed and won two rounds in the 64-draw, but got upset today by the 15th seed .. Sunil Sipaeya beat Johnny Liu (USA), 62 61 and then Yoku Kiuchi (USA) also 62 61 before being upset by the 15th seed Lester Cook of USA, 76(3) 63 today in the 3rd round .. Lester is the same US top-20 kid who beat Vinod Sewa last week at the Philadelphia QFs .. Vinod Sewa, who had a couple of very good weeks with eight wins, was the 8th seed this week, but he was upset in the first round in a close match, 75 36 67 by Steven Kane (USA) .. Sunil gets a few points, but otherwise, not a godo week for either .. They are the 4th seeds together in doubles, and had a first round bye .. Sewa-Sipaeya will be playing Scott Brown and David Gopsten in the PQF .. Stephen Amritraj (USA) was also in the singles draw, and lost in the second round to the 11th seed .. Prakash is not playing there.

Aug 22 Note-1

The qualifying draw at US Open for Nirupama is,

 1 Daja Bedanova (CZE,89)          vs Sabine Klaschka (GER,249)     \
   Nirupama Vaidyanathan (IND,164) vs Sybille Bammer (AUT,229)      / \ _ Main Draw
   Elena Bovina (RUS,149)          vs Kristina Kraszewski (USA,312) \ /
20 Louise Latimer (GBR,130)        vs Karolina Jagieniak (FRA,233)  /
Oh boy .. That is a tough, tough route to the main draw for Niru .. The first round should be fine (I don't think Niru has played Bammer before, but I do remember Archana Venkatraman beating her to qualify into the Dubai challenger in 1998 when Bammer was ranked in the 400s, one of the bigger wins of Archana's career) .. If she gets to the second round Niru will probably get Bedanova who is perhaps the hottest young player out there, period! .. This 17 year old is 5th in the ITF junior rankings, though she has basically stopped playing the juniors and has been playing the big tour .. I noticed her first when she won the Illinois challenger in February this year, where she had to qualify, as she was not even in the top-200 then .. Her biggest jump came just two weeks back at the Manhattan Beach WTA where she beat Petrova (#52), Habsudova (#95) and Drake (#112) and the upset the 6th seed Tauziat, the 8th ranked player in the world! .. Bedanova's ranking came up from near 150 a couple of months back to #89 now - the only reason she is in the qualies is that she was ranked about 25 spots lower 6 weeks back when the entries closed for the main draw .. But anyway, first things first -- Niru needs to get past Bammer before she can worry about Bebanova ..

The first round for men and women are played over two days at the USO, and Niru's match is not on the schedule for today .. She will be playing tomorrow.

At the Hamlet Cup in Long Island, the reason for Tillstrom retiring yesterday in the 3rd set of singles was blisters on his hand .. Kulti-Tillstrom are not in the schedule for today - they should be playing the first round tomorrow, and so LP-MB will get another day off before the quarterfinal, which will now probably be on Thursday ..

Aug 21 Note-2

The reunion tour has started off with a straight sets win, though in somewhat of a tougher match than I expected - L.Paes/ M.Bhupathi d. (wc) J.Cerda/ R.Grille, 64 75 .. The good news is that the 7-5 second set shows them to have come through by raising their game when they needed to close out the match .. That is a good indication .. Close matches are good for practice for them right now - as long as they win! .. Only a couple of first round doubles matches were on schedule today, and their potential second round opponents, top seeds Kulti-Tillstrom, have not played; so LP-MB will get a day or two to rest .. Actually Tillstrom retired today in the 3rd set of his singles match, and I am not sure is he is injured or something.

In the latest doubles rankings today, Leander fell out of the top 50 for the first time in over three years .. He is at #63 this week with 931 points, as he has only played 10 events in the last 12 months .. Certainly a good time to get going again! .. LP has 515 points for the USO final and 26 for R2 at Shanghai with MB last year, 175 and 85 for the Orlando and Bermuda titles with Siemerink, 75 for the R2 at Indian Wells with Arthurs, and 40 for R2 in Chennai with Byron Black - 931 points and that is it! ..  Mahesh has played a few more events (15) and has 1467 pts - he is at #31 this week, as he didn't have many points falling off this week from Indianapolis-99 where LP was a finalist with Delaitre .. That was the first week where they played with others due to mutual misunderstandings, though they played till the end of the year, pushing things under the rug ..  After all the injuries and surgeries and heartburn for all of us, here they are, exactly a year later, back out there together again, with the ties seemingly strong again .. Go Indian Express!!

The US Open qualies start tomorrow (22nd) at New York .. The draw is not out yet, but Niru will be playing there .. The draw normally gets posted only on the first day of the qualies normally, and so we may not know till the last minute about when she would be playing.

I think the Indian women (Manisha, Sai, Rushmi) may be off the tour this week, as they will all be going to the three weeks of $10K events in India starting next week at Jaipur.  No news yet on when Fazal and Sri will be playing again.

Aug 21 Note-1

Yes! .. The Indian Express just picked up their first win and points this year together! .. The tournament office just told me that they have won the match against Cerda/Grille, but they didn't have the score yet .. Will report that soon.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Aug 21 ..

I am getting some enquiries from US college coaches who are interested in Indian junior players .. I would like to be able to contact Indian players (some of the coaches are enquiring about specific names) .. If any of the junior players are reading this, please contact me .. Or if any of the other readers know the contact emails/address for any junior player, let me know .. I would like to have a mailing list where I can post general announcements and enquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.