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Indian-Tennis: Daily News for the week ending on Sep 8, 2008
(Previous weeks' notes) (Next 2 week's notes) (Daily Notes Index 1997 thru 2007)

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Sep 8 Notes

Man, what an unbelievable match by Somdev Dev Varman today, the best any Indian has played against a top-20 claycourter on clay in over 15 years for sure .. It ended as a loss, but he

How about Somdev DevVarman ??? .. He has reached the main draw of the Bucharest Open ATP, pulling off the first top-100 clay court win by an Indian in over 10 years! .. [Q3] (8) Somdev K. Dev Varman (IND) d. (2) Filippo Volandri (ITA,91) 63 46 63 .. Earlier, [Q2] d. Florin Mergea (ROU,582) 61 62 .. [Q1] d. (WC)Bogdan Andrii (ROU) 60 61 ..

As bad luck would have it though, the guy who was to play the third seed in the first round withdrew and one more spot was opened up for qualifiers and lucky losers .. And Somdev ended up with the worst of the 5 spots .. He faces the tough third seed Nicolas Alamgro (ESP,18), french open quarterfinalists and one of the vert best clay court players in the world! .. A grreat chance to get top-notch match practice before our Davis Cup next week .. What the heck, let us go for an upset Buji !!!!

For the match today, Somi started with a slight advantage in points till early in the second set, winning 37-33 in the first 60 points .. Volandri picked up the pace a bit, winning 40-30 in the next points, as he took the second set .. From early in the third set, Somdev again stepped on the pedal and went 25-16 to pull off a fabulous win .. The last top-100  ITF/ATP win on clay by an Indian was at the Davis Cup in Italy in 1998 April, when Mahesh Bhupathi upset the 87th ranked Sanguinetti .. The last ATP win on clay against a top-100 payer was opver 11 years back, at the French Open first round where Leander Paes upset 76th ranked Grant Stafford (RSA) .. Volandri has been playing extremely well on clay with a couple of very recent clay challenger titles in Europe ..  Volandri was ranked as high as #25 in the world just last year, and so this is actually a better clay court win that Volandri's current ranking would suggest (he is coming back from some injury problems and playing well again) .. Somdev is unbelievable!

Harsh Mankad and Purav Raja are at the Orleans Challenger near Paris .. Both went down in the second round of qualies this weekend but will try to play doubles in the main draw.  Harsh beat Mohammed Affes (TUN) 64 62 and was upset in a close match, 46 63 67(6) by Jean-Kome Loglo (TOG) in the Q2 .. Purav beat Kenny de Scheeper (FRA) 63 64 and fell to the second seed Vladimir Obradovic (SRB) 46 46.

Sep 7 Notes

Sorry for being away for 2-3 days .. Had a busy weekend .. I am sure you all know that Leander and Lukas Dlouhy went down on friday at the US Open doubles against the Bryans, 67 67 .. That was a terrific match - one of the best doubles matches Ihave ever seen - that stayed close all through, with the Bryans somehow coming up with a little extra on a couple of points in the tiebreakers .. In fact LP/LD had as many as three set points in the second tiebreaker to extend it but Bryans answered every one of Leander's unbelievable shots with their own flair .. I think Lukas was a tad bit off color compared to the other three, but he played very well too ..

Our "phenom" is back out on court this weekend, at the qualifying rounds of the Bucharest Open ATP, as the 8th seed ..

Sep 4 Notes

It has been a while since LP won a grand slam title .. It was over 5 years back that he won his 6th title - at Wimbledon in mixed doubles with Martina Navratilova.. Since then he only had the US Open doubles title with Martin Damm in 2006 .. Well the 8th title came today in a really good quality final at the US Open .. [F] (5) L.Paes/ Cara Black (ZIM) d. Liezel Huber (USA)/ Jamie Murray (GBR), 76(6) 64 .. The title did not come all that easily .. In fact it was a toss up all through the first set, with neither side able to force a break and with hardly a coupe of break points .. LP-CB were don 2-5 in the tiebreaker and had to claw back with 2 strong serves from Leander and then a couple of incredible reflex volleys by Cara - they saved two set points there before converting their first set point with a well-executed Lee smash down the middle .. In the second set, LP saved a couple of break points in the first game - one with an ace - and basically our pair seemed to be a tad bit more in control of the proceedings .. A couple of double faults from Jamie, a lob from LP that seemed to have laser guidance on it to fall an inch inside at the backline, and an acute angled volley to no-man's land from Cara were what caused the break in the 5th game .. From then on, both sides held serve and our pair emerged winners .. For the 1 hour 36 minutes match, LP-CB won 73 points and JM-LH won 68, which shows how close the match was ..

I was an absolute joy to watch Leander all pumped up and running around like he is still just 25 .. Heck who cares if he is 35, and has his 2 year old daughter ready to run around with him - the man still plays like nothing has changed .. At 29 years of age, Cara Black, ranked #1 in women's doubles, is no spring chicken either - but the chick (sorry Cara!) has enough spring in her legs too! .. Both of them seemed to really trust each other's doubles prowess and seemed really thrilled to play with each other - that is what you need to win these titles! ..  Congratulations, Lee and Cara!

(Photo courtesy: US Open)

This is Leander's 8th title (4 in doubles, 4 in MxD) in 16 finals in grand slams .. Tomorrow he plays the 17th final - in doubles ..  Here is the complete record of Leander's grand slam finals --

Mixed Doubles
Wimbledon   1999 w/ L.RAYMOND (USA)          d. BJORKMAN (SWE)/ KOURNIKOVA (RUS)  64 36 63
U.S. Open    2001 w/ L.RAYMOND (USA)          l. WOODBRIDGE (AUS)/ STUBBS (AUS)    46 75 [9-11]
Australian     2003 w/ M.NAVRATILOVA (USA)   d. WOODBRIDGE (AUS)/ DANIILIDOU (GRE)  64 75
Wimbledon   2003 w/ M.NAVRATILOVA (USA)   d. RAM (ISR)/ RODIONOVA (RUS)  63 63
Australian     2004 w/ M.NAVRATILOVA (USA)   l. ZIMONJIC (SCG)/ BOVINA (RUS)  16 67(3)
French Open 2005 w/ M.NAVRATILOVA (USA)   l. SANTORO (FRA)/ HANTUCHOVA (SVK)  63 36 26
U.S. Open    2007 w/ M.SHAUGHNESSY (USA) l. MIRNYI (BLR)/ AZARENKA (BLR)  46 67(6)
U.S. Open    2008 w/ C.BLACK (ZIM)                d. MURRAY (GBR)/ HUBER (USA) 76(6) 64

Australian     1999 w/ M.BHUPATHI (IND)   l. BJORKMAN (SWE)/ RAFTER (AUS)  36 64 46 76(10) 46
French Open 1999 w/ M.BHUPATHI (IND)  d. IVANISEVIC (CRO)/ TARANGO (USA)  62 75
Wimbledon   1999 w/ M.BHUPATHI (IND)   d. HAARHUIS (NED)/ PALMER (USA)  67 63 64 76
U.S. Open    1999 w/ M.BHUPATHI (IND)   l. LAREAU (CAN)/ O'BRIEN (USA)  67 46
French Open 2001 w/ M.BHUPATHI (IND)  d. PALA (CZE)/ VIZNER (CZE)  76(5) 63
U.S. Open    2004 w/ D.RIKL (CZE)            l. KNOWLES (BAH)/ NESTOR (CAN)  36 36
Australian    2006 w/ M.DAMM (CZE)         l. BRYAN (USA)/ BRYAN (USA)  64 36 46
U.S. Open   2006 w/ M.DAMM (CZE)         d. BJORKMAN (SWE)/ MIRNYI (BLR)  67(5) 64 63
U.S. Open   2008 w/ L.DLOUHY (CZE)      vs BRYAN (USA)/ BRYAN (USA)

In other news, the two remaining Indians went down today in the QFs and the top four seeds are in the SFs in the $15K ITFfutures in Chennai ..You can find
the scores in our forum thread ..

Sep 3 Notes

A shellack job of the kind that I have hardly seen in a grand slam semi!! ..
Leander and Dlouhy won 62 60 over Maximo Gonzales and Juan Monaco in 40 minutes flat, pulling off 5 breaks and winning 11 games in a row from 1-2 in the first set .. 54 points to our guys and just 24 to the other guys.  Did not face a single break point and converted 5 of 8 on the other dudes.  WOW! .. These guys are totally cooking dal out there at Flushing Meadows .. The final is against the top seeds Bryans, who also had an easy 62 61 semifinal win - won't be easy, as those guys are also on a hot streak!

Leander and Cara Black (ZIM) play the mixed doubles final on Thursday against Liezel Huber (USA) and Jamie Murray (GBR).

In the junior singles second round, Yuki Bhambri (IND,18) was up against his friend from NBTA and doubles patner, Filip Krajinovic (SRB,26) .. Filip has been playing very well over the last few months - reaching the Wimbledon semifinal and all.  This was expected to be a tough one and it was .. Many breaks back and forth, but Yuki fell in the end 67(5) 46 in a very close match .. Yuki showed some character in coming back twice from being down breaks .. He was also down 1-4 in the tiebreaker before evening it at 5-5 and then dropping a point on serve etc .. It is fair to say that Yuki is playing top-20 quality junior tennis.  Though he was ranked as high as #5 in April this year, with an Australian Open junior semi and some good wins in the Asian tour, he had gone through losses to #38, #7, #37 and #51 since that .. The Wimbledon loss to #51 Trombeta and the loss here to #26 Filip have come in close matches by 67 46 scores .. I think Yuki needs to play a lot more matches than he has done lately - though he has played enough events, and surely wasn't expecting to be playing as few matches as he did.  In the last 4 months he has played 5 junior events and 4 pro challengers .. 1-5 in the juniors and 3-4 in the seniors for a 4-9 record.   Need to find the right events and make sure that he gets his matches - both the tough ones to test one's game, and the easier ones where one can experiment and improve the game - the latter part has been totally missing lately, and I hope Team Bhambri will take steps to correct that ..  His impressive wins during the last four months were all at Delhi a month back - over Aqeel Khan, Srirambalaji and Jeevan in a challenger qualies (he had WCs for the other three challengers and lost in the R1) .. But playing just one Grade-1 as prep and then the grand slam at FO and Wimbledon and then playing just the USO juniors, hardly gives you any matches in the juniors to work on ones game and get any winning rhythm going .. I guess he did not plan to go 1-5 in the five junior events though.  But that is when one needs to get some plan-B schedule going ..  The bottom line is this - it is not such a bad idea to go play some grade 1 and grade-2 juniors or some $10K futures here and there once in a while, even if you are ranked in the junior top-20 .. It helps you to pick up some wins, work on things to improve, and keep yourself from losing that winning edge and confidence.

At the $50K Alphen challenger, Netherlands on red clay, Harsh Mankad and Purav Raja lost in the first round to Michel Koning (NED) and Martijn van Haasteren (AHO) 46 57 .. I was a little surprised to see them go to that challenger ..  Perhaps it is a stop-over in Europe on some air-ticket to UK or USA and it was not expensive for them to do it.

VM Ranjeet and PC Vignesh, two good payers who did their best, but on whom not much money would have been bet, are the only Indians in the QFs at the $15K Chennai futures - as those considered to have more potential, could not play to their abilities .. To be fair, some like Jeevan and Vishnu Vardhan did go down only in tough matches earlier - so there were some quirks of the draw too ..  Please see
scores in our forum thread ..

Sep 2 Note-2

Leander keeps on going at the US Open .. Into the doubles SF and MxD finals!! .. Go Lee, Go!! [QF] (7) L.Paes/ Lukas Dlouhy (CZE) d. Robert Lindstedt (SWE)/ Jarkko Nieminen (FIN), 63 67(2) 63 .. They went ahead with a break on Nieminen's serve and held on for the set despite facing break points on Lee's and Lukas' serves late in the set .. Our guys went ahead on Lindstedt's serve to start the second set but dropped serve twice to fall behind 3-5 .. They broke Lindstedt while serving for the set and then sent it to a tiebreaker .. Both Lukas and Lee dropped one minibreak each on their serves and it was all even on the first set point the other guys got ..  In the third set, once again LD-LP took the lead to 3-0 with a second game break off Nieminen and held on till 5-3 for Leander to serve for the match .. There was a bit of a drama there, as LP was down 15-40 and had to play through four break points and six deuces before converting the 4th match point .. The best was a 120 mph serve from LP to save the 4th break point though.  So, Leander is in yet another doubles semifinal, after a whole 15 years since the first time he reached a grand slam doubles semi .. Would you believe it was in 1993 that Lee and Sebastien Lareau of Canada reached the semi of US Open? ..  LD-LP now goes up against Maximo Gonzales and Juan Monaco in the SF tomorrow ..

To top it off, Leander came back with Cara Black (ZIM) a couple of hours later and won the Mixed doubles SF with a good 64 64 win over Jonas Bjorkman (SWE) and Nadia Petrova (RUS) .. The final is against Liezel Huber and Jamie Murray on Thursday.

In the first round of the clay challenger in Brasov, Romania, Somdev DevVarman, playing on red clay for the first time in five years, came close to upsetting the 8th seed David Marrero (ESP,199) but fell 46 61 46 .. Pretty good match, actually .. Somdev has had some of his best wins, against players like Sam Querry (USA,55) on the grey Har-Tru clay at the Kennedy Invitational - and most people consider clay to be his best surface ..  The European red clay is a little different but I am sure SKD will be up to speed on it soon .. I assume he will play the qualifying rounds for the Bucharest Open ATP this weekend, and hopefully will get a few more matches to get ready on the surface for the Davis Cup that follows week after next at Bucharest .. He has also entered the Bucharest-2 challenger on clay in the week following Davis Cup - so he is staying put in Romania for a month.

The scores from the Chennai $15K ITF futures is in our forum thread .. Pretty discouraging to see those like Sunil Kumar and Ashutosh Sngh going down .. Nine Indians are in the second round though ..

Sep 2 Note-1

LP plays both the doubles QF and MxD SF at the USO today .. Yuki's singles R2 is tomorrow .. Somdev plays the R1 at the Brasov challenger today.

There were some important developments revealed yesterday after the AITA general body meeting on 29th/30th in Goa, where the current office-bearers got re-elected .. A good round-up of what all transpired is in this article in The Hindu .. A few interesting observations and analysis on what all could have been behind it, are in this article by Sukhwant Basra in the DNA ..

Basically, AITA has placed themselves fully in the loop of organizing the ATP and WTA events .. I am not sure if the ruccus we kicked up here a week back about the cancellation of the Bengaluru WTA was instrumental in getting some exposure to the issue or if the wheels were already spinning before I started screaming here .. Probably the latter, as AITA top-brass seems to have fully used that issue to justify the new arrangements.  Now, the AITA sanction is needed before anybody can organize such events .. I knew that there has been a tussle going between Mahesh Bhupathi/ Globosport and AITA, as the former has certainly become quite powerful in Indian sports (rightly so, for a lot of good work he has been doing, of you ask me!) .. I am not sure Hesh had anything to do with the recent Bengaluru fiasco, though Sukhwant mentions some involvement of Vijay Amritraj (also of a "rival" power group in AITA's view, I assume - especially after the Davis Cup "mutiny" against LP) .. Globosport cancelled the Mumbai WTA recently on account of some venue problem but AITA seems to have placed the Begaluru ATP issue and the Mumbai WTA issue together into one basket and gone after them all .. Even specifically mentioining that they have no problem with the WTA Bangalore (run by KSLTA) and the Chennai ATP (run by IMG, though Vijay is the chief mover and shaker there) ..

Well, we complained about the Bengaluru ATP cancellation purely on the basis of how nobody from India should be allowed to make use of a city's or country's name so easily and pull out of an event without anybody from questioning! .. I was not bothered about who was involved in this, and all of us fans who follow these things at TennisIndia/ Sports-India do not have any sides in all these power struggles that goes on in Indian sports.

On the face of it though, I agree with AITA (or somebody with some authority) being there for some checks and balances in these things.  As per Sukhwant, "checks and balance" of the money kind also was part of all this .. Starting from what exactly were the money equations that caused the Sania fiasco at the Bengalurru WTA earlier this year .. AITA says the "foreign exchange agreements were not shown, despite repeated requests" by Globosport on the Mumbai WTA now .. I personally do not know if I agree with AITA's having to know the accounts of running an event by a private party, as long as they do it within the parameters set by the "oversight agency" whether it is AITA or even the Indian sports ministry.

I am also not sure how much legal or official teeth AITA has, to say that private organizers should get their sanction while ATP and WTA are not within the IOC or ITF structure, and are themselves private commercial entities .. In fact, the last time I remember a struggle on this matter was back in 1997 when a challenger was put on the ATP calendar by PL Reddy, the AITA objected to it and it went back and forth.  I believe the challenger did not happen in the end, but I remember Krishna Bhupathi blasting both sides then - "guys like Mahesh are living out of suitcases, travelling around the world to try to make a career, and petty fights are taking away opportunities for Indians" ..  In the end, I think AITA got their way, I think .. Even now, I will assume that ATP and WTA may steer clear of trouble and may not challenge
(even if they technically could) AITA's authority to put themselves within the sanctioning hierarchy for pro tournaments ..

As far as I am concerned, I am right on the fence on all these things going on in Indian tennis .. On the one hand, I do not like private commercial interests having a total free hand with nobody to question them (like what "BIg Live" seems to have done in cancelling Bengaluru) .. On the other hand, the ones who question them, are often not capable of doing what the private enterprises can do (like the kind of things Mahesh has been doing in Indian sports, which are GOOD things!) .. As long as both sides do what is best in their interest and not go by ego equations that help neither party's objectives, I believe that things will work out well for everybody .. I guess these are all necessary in modern society .. Just my philosophical view.

But the timing of this all sucks (for want of a better word!) .. We have the best talent since Leander Paes about to emerge, and Somdev Dev Varman has lost a chance to be in an ATP tour event, where I would have put serious money on his reaching at least the SF, if not winning the title ..  He would instead have to waste a few more weeks on the challenger circuit, to grab smaller points and raise the rankings.

Yet another decision was about the Asian Championships now moving from Tashkent to India (Pune, apparently) later this year .. Unfortunately, I believe the Australian Open has dropped their offer of a wildcard to the winner .. That means we are back to doing the waste of an event we used to conduct, when we started off Asian championships in India several years back .. Not even the top Indian players showed up for that, though the idea was a pioneering one and had some promise .. Then the AO offerred the WC and the event was gone to UZB .. Now the AO has probably decided that they are not yet getting much mileage by calling themselves the "grand slam of Asia" and has dropped the idea, and Tashkent knows that nobody from the top-350 men or top-200 women will go there .. Tashkent doesn't want it now, and the baby is back with us .. I guess Asian Tennis Federation wants somebody to take it up, and AITA has stepped in, probably to establish their own influence in Asia .. That is not a bad thing, but it is of no immediate help for Indians now .. The Hindu says that arrangements for WCs to Dubai or Qatar events are considered, but that is of no use because the top players can as well play 2 or 3 rounds of qualies there rather than 5 rounds in Pune for a main draw entry .. As long as AITA does not touch a single wildcard at the Chennai ATP or Bengaluru WTA for this purpose, I am OK with it .. Once again though, the sad thing is that we have a player - Somdev - who would almost certainly have won the Asian championship this year (assuming that Nishikori of JPN would not play), and he doesn't have a chance to get a grand slam main draw entry thanks to the AO decision .. Looks like Buji will have to do everything on his own, playing qualies at wherever he has to .. Indian sports have always had impeccable timing for bad luck!

Sep 1 Notes

Leander reached the MxD semifinals, on the heels of reaching the doubles QF yesterday, but Mahesh is done at the US Open after a close loss in the doubles PQF .. Hesh's partner Mark Knowles was bothered by a knee injury and had withdrawn from his MxD match yesterday - so the PQF in doubles was expected to be iffy anyway .. Bad break for Hesh .. Also going down in an upset today was Yuki Bhambri, seeded 5th in doubles with his fellow-trainee at the Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida, Filip Krajinovic, who is set to face Yuki in the singles R2.  Today's scores:

[QF] (5) Cara Black (ZIM)/ L.Paes d. Vladimir Ulihrova (CZE)/ Martin Damm (CZE), 75 62
[R3] (4) M.Bhupathi/ Mark Knowles (BAH) l. Maximo Gonzalez (ARG)/ Juan Monaco (ARG), 62 46 46
[R1] (5) Y.Bhambri/ Filip Krajinovic (SRB) l. Takanyi Garanganga (ZIM)/ Karim-Md Maamoun (EGY), 16 64 [7]

Interestingly, the mixed doubles R2 match for leander and Cara never appeared in any day's schedule, and there is no official score anywhere in the draws at the US Open web site .. Just a blank space everywhere .. I assume it was a walkover from Wozniacki and Matkowski, but no idea .. In fact I was surprised to suddenly see their QF in the schedule for today while no R2 was ever played or scheduled.  Well, good to see them in the SF, and they are the only seeded team left now .. In fact, the seeds have all had a tough time in the men's doubles draw too - the 2nd seed Bryans in the lower half and the 7th seeds LP-Dlouhy in the upper half are the only seeds left in the QFs .. By the way, the top seeds Nestor/Zimonjic, sort of a nemesis for LP lately, got upset today by Robert Lindstedt and Jarkko Nieminen - who will run into LP-Dlouhy tomorrow in the QF.

At the € 30,000 challenger in Romania on red clay, Somdev Dev Varman faces the 8th seed David Marrero in the first round .. It is one of the first two matches tomorrow at 10 am, as the main draw starts only Tuesday there .. Somi is not playing doubles, and generally seems to be not focusing on doubles for a little while till the singles plans are all well in place.

Not much action at the $15K futures at Chennai, with only 4 main draw singles matches today, along with a good bit of doubles .. Check out our forum thread for Jaydeep's score round up ..

.. Previous news are at 
Notes for the weeks ending on Sep 01, 2008 ..

.. Please email questions/comments/criticism to me email me - R.Jayakrishnan