Notes for week ending on 09/1/97

9/1 Morning Notes

Heartbreaking loss to Wimbledon runner-up Cedric Pioline (#23) yeterday, 3-6, 6-7(5-7), 6-1, 3-6, 4-6.

Leander would have finished off the match in 3 sets had one or two points gone the other way in the second set tiebreaker. With Pioline serving at 125 mph+, it is tough to win a tiebreak from him. The 3rd set was a breeze for leander, and things were looking good, till Pioline came up with some magic late in the 4th set for a quick break to wrap up the set. He continued for two quick breaks in the 5th, and LP looked totally down and out at 0-4. Then leander shows what he is made off, at 1-5 by winning three games in a row, including a comeback from 0-40 (triple match points) down at 3-5 to make it 4-5. He saved FIVE matchpoints in that game. He fought off one more matchpoint in the next game, but couldn't do it prolong it any longer... Great show of heart, Leander!!.

Anyway, the Match Stats are: Total time of 2 hr 50 minutes. Paes won 151 points, to Pioline's 146. 62 winners to 49 by Pioline. 70% first serves in for Paes, 69% for Pioline; Winning percentage of 67, to Pioline's 70 on first serves; 55 to 53 winning percentage on second serves. 13 aces by Paes, to 11 by Pioline..136 net approaches by Paes (winning 64%), 106 by Pioline (70%). 2 doubles faults by Paes, 6 by Pioline. 31 unforced errors, to 26 by Pioline. 5 of 8 breakpoint conversions to 4 of 12 by Pioline (4 of 6 actually, till the last gasp heroics by Leander).

In other words, Leander has better numbers in most catagories. The fact was that Pioline's numbers were very bad till the middle of the 4th set and he came up with a bunch of aces and winners and improved his numbers at the net significantly. Leander's numbers were very steady throughout the match, and he played a super match. About 5 to 6 unforced errors per set is actually pretty good for his style of tennis. What catches the eye is really the first serve percentage for both guys staying up around 70 throughout the match (ATP's top-10 accurate servers serve only around 60 percent normally !). Paes numbers dipped a bit at the end of the 4th quarter (especially the number of winners) and the beginning of the 5th set, but he really came on strong with some 15+ winners in the final set. Still was not enough to beat the Wimbledon runner-up who just refused to lose.

Positives to consider: Just about 3 months back when Leander was going through first round losses in 8 of 9 tournaments in a row, did we imagine he would be able to defend the 150 odd points in summer ?.. Did we think there was any way he could pull two upsets at the US Open ?.. What he has done is really thrilling...He will be ranked in the top-100, with the 71 points he got here (+47). He is healthy again, and is playing some smashmouth tennis. He has about 110 points (Madras challenger finals and Mauritius challenger title, from last year) to defend for the rest of the year... Shall we upgrade our expectations to a top-75 finish at the end of the year ?...

Now, on to doubles. 4 of the quarterfinals teams have already been decided..The way is really clear till the semis where they could face the 4th seeds Kafelnikov/Vacek, the highest seed remaining (who play #13 seeds today). On the lower half of the draw, only these guys and LP/MB remain as seeded teams. On the upper half of the draw there is only 1 seeded team in the quarterfinals, as #7 seeds Damm-Olhovskiy lost, along with Kronemann-McPherson(#14 seed) and Connel-Nestor (#15 seed); so there is #5 (Philippoussis-Rafter) and #11 (they play each other today) left in the upper half. That means Leander/Mahesh will be one of only 3 seeded teams in the quarterfinals, if they win today. Unseeded Ivanisevik-Suk have looked excellent in their matches so far, says the fan club correspondent (:-)) Kim Das from US Open. Watch out for them.

8/31 Mornbing Notes

Leander is playing Cedric Pioline for the first time. Pioline looked good in the first two rounds, especially against Nicolas Lapentti in the second round 3-set win... Leander is playing with a lot of confidence right now, though... This could be the biggest win of his ATP career if he pulls it out. Leander is now one of only three players remaining in both the singles and doubles draw. Go Leander !!.

Finally found out what exactly was the reason for Boetsch to retire in the 3rd set on Friday. He had a minor foot injury. That was not the reason why he was losing so badly at that time.. It was just Leander playing a superb match (just to set the record straight.. :-))

With that doubles win yesterday, Leander and Mahesh have now won an incredible 31 of the last 35 doubles matches they have played (14 wins in the last 15) together. During that time they have 2 challenger titles, 2 world series ATP titles, 1 championship series title and one Super 9 title. The streak started at Chennai (Madras) ATP tournament in April. That's about as hot as a team can be.

8/30 Notes

That was anything but an easy win for LP/MB in the second round of doubles against Kilderry/Lapentti. Traded breaks once in the first set and twice in the 3rd set. Had to fight off 4 break points in a game in the second set, as well. It got scary when it reached deuce on LP/MB's serve at 4-5 in the 3rd set. I guess the true champions rise up at crunch time, and they pulled through. The match took 2 hours and 20 minutes, perhaps the longest doubles match they have played in a while.. Anyway, their winning streak is now 7 matches. They are an amazing 14-1 in the summer US hardcourt season so far, with the only loss being a 3 setter to the Woodies. Now that Eltingh/Haarhuis (#2 seed) have lost, the way is really clear till the semifinals, if they can keep winning. Their next opponent, Tarango(doubles rank #50) and Raoux(#108) have not played together this year and looks to be eminently beatable (though they have looked good and pulled some upsets in their first 2 matches).. Tarango has played two 4 hour, 5-setter, singles matches in a row.. lost today, so he should be rested by Monday when the next doubles match should be.. Hope Leander won't have to play singles and doubles tomorrow.. We'll see...The updated doubles draw (bottom half of the round of 16.. winners as of 8/31 in bold) is:

                                                               QF SF  F
Randall-Waite       vs DeJager-Koenig                           \
Johnson-Montana(13) vs Kafelnikov-Vacek(4)                      /  \  _
Raoux-Tarango       vs Bhupathi/Paes(10)                        \  /
Berasategui-Roditi  vs Adams-Ferreira                           /

Actually, 6 of the top 10 seeds will not be in the doubles round of 16... 3rd seeds Lareau/Obrien also lost today. 5th seeds Philippoussis/Rafter and 7th seeds Damm/Olhovskiy are into the round of 16. The 4th seeds Kafelnikov/Vacek are yet to play round 2... Hope LP/MB can take advantage of all this!

8/29 Evening Notes

Wow! what a win!  Leander is now in the first grand slam final-32 of his career. 71 total points so far. He is the second lowest ranked player in the final 32 which has all been decided (John Van Lottum at #192 is the lowest). Pioline is perhaps a beatable player on hardcourt with just a 6-6 record so far this year (he looked good in his match today though). Other than the final at Wimbledon and the championship at Prague (clay), he has only one quarterfinal apperance and has lost to a ton of people in other tournaments.....

Since reaching career highs in points and rank (451 and 102) in February, it has taken Leander six months to move up, but he will, with 461 total points as of now (he will move into the top-100 too). Prize money this year is at $330K and climbing..

Bad news is that he lost a tough 3-setter on final-set tiebreaker in the nightcap mixed doubles match with Dragomir. Considering his main focus needs to be on singles and doubles and now that he is alive in both, it is probably better that he lost.. (Bhupathi also lost his doubles first round match with Rika Hiraki).

The Woodies lost in the first round to virtual unknowns (Kempers and Oosting ?? are you kidding me ?) today.  Probably because both the Woodies had tough singles matches earlier today. The updated immediate doubles draw is (winners as of 8/29 in bold):

  Behrens-McEnroe     vs  Raoux-Tarango         \ 
  Kilderry-Lapentti   vs  Bhupathi-Paes (10)    /  \
  Berasategui-Roditi  vs  Noteboom-Wibier       \  /
  Adams-Ferreira      vs  Eltingh-Haarhuis (2)  /

8/29 Morning Note

Leander plays the singles match against Arnaud Boetsch on Court 10 and comes back in a couple of hours to play the doubles today. He won't be at any disadvantage however, because other three players (Dragomir, Guse and MacPherson) would also have played an earlier match today in doubles... LP gets to come back to the same court where he played singles, so a very minor advantage there..

If you are in the USA, you *may* get to see bits and pieces of the LP/Boetsch match on USA Network Cable TV, since court 10 is a televised court.. Their TV coverage ends at 4pm, and the match may not start till 4.30pm (the singles match there is taking too long..), though.

8/28 Note

The bottom half of the Mixed doubles draw (32 teams) is as below.. Leander and Mahesh could play each other in the semis... Paes plays doubles on thursday, and probably two matches on Friday: singles (round 2) and mixed doubles (round 1).. Looks like Paes(#23) and Dragomir (#26) just missed being seeded, as Bhupathi (#19) and Hiraki (#29) are seeded 8th. Bhupathi plays 2 matches today (thursday): first round doubles and first round mixed doubles with a couple of hours of rest in between.

   Bollegraf-Leach (5) vs.  Frazier-Kronemann       \
   Guse-Macpherson     vs.  Dragomir-Paes           / \
   Vis-Wibier          vs.  Po-Waite                \ / \
   Jensen-Jensen       vs.  Tauziat-Nestor     (4)  /    \
   Hiraki-Bhupathi (8) vs.  Adams-Florent           \    /
   Stubbs-Talbot       vs.  Schultz-McCarthy-Jensen / \ /
   Tarabini-Pimek      vs.  Callens-Norval          \ /
   Rubin-Gimelstob     vs.  Fernandez-Ferreira (2)  /

A little food for thought: Of the 105 mixed doubles champion teams at the US Open, 45 have had at least one member with a first name or last name starting with "MA" (about 14 different people Marty Riessen, Matt Lucena, Mark Woodford, Margaret Smith, Manuela Maleeva, Alice Mable, etc).. More than coincidence ?.. Perhaps.. Anyway, it is something Mahesh can keep in mind.. :-)

8/27 Note

It is not good that Leander/Mahesh are having to wait till Thursday for their first round match.. Today (Wednesday) would have been a good day to get that match out of the way. Leander may have to also play second round singles on Thursday, which is a problem.. It looks now, though, that the singles match may be on Friday.. If so, no problem.

8/26/97 Notes

The doubles draw till the quarterfinals for Mahesh/Leander is as below (winners as of 8/28 updated in bold).

  Ferreira-Galbraith (8) vs Behrens-McEnroe      \
  Brandi-Messori         vs Raoux-Tarango        /   \
  Braasch-Shelton        vs Kilderry-Lapentti    \   /   \
  Arthurs-Kitinov        vs Bhupathi-Paes (10)   /        \
  Delaitre-Santoro (16)  vs Berasategui-Roditi   \        /
  Noteboom-Wibier        vs Blenkiron-Smith      /   \   /
  Adams-Ferreira         vs Kuerten-Meligeni     \   /
  Black-Steven           vs Eltingh-Haarhuis (2) /

Arthurs(#131)/Kitinov(#61) do not seem to have played together this year. Kilderry (#136) and Lapentti (#89) have played together and are the #60 ATP team. As was (kind of) expected based on recent form, the 8th seeds Ferreira/Galbraith have lost, which means Leander/Mahesh won't have to play a seeded team till the quarterfinal if they win the first 3 games. Brandi/Messori is the really troubling team for now, as one of only 3 teams to beat Leander/Mahesh in the last 35 matches (at Wimbledon, when Leander was suffering groin and back injuries)...... 8/28 update: Brandi/Messori have lost..