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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Sep 11, 2000

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Sep 11 Note-1

Talked to Leander this morning - he is taking off to Sydney today from New York .. Will reach there on wednesday, and will get settled in for the flag ceremony on the Friday .. Mahesh also leaves soon for Sydney and will get there by Friday morning, before the flag ceremony ..  Leander said they had a nice week of practice, and he too feels pretty good .. He said Mahesh's shoulder is looking fine .. Kim Das of the fanclub (our roving reporter normally at US Open, whose plans got shot this time with our pair losing early, and didn't get to do much at USO), caught them practising a couple of days back on an outer court, and had a nice chat with the duo .. Kim says they looked to be in good nick with "both of them stroking the ball pretty well" .. By the way, when LP and MB are doing well, it's really good fun to see them practice - I have had some reports in the past about their lighting fast volley exchange routines, etc .. Looks like they are getting there .. The key to confidence is always practice .. I am glad to see that they wasted no time at all in putting everything behind after Lee was rady to play, and have been putting in the hard work towards Olympics .. Oh yeah -- Sydney, here they come !!

But I shudder to look at the ATP doubles ranks today -- as their 550 odd points have fallen off, LP and MB would have fallen a lot in the rankings .. I believe MB will be inside the top-60 or so, but LP will fall off the top-100.

I saw the ranks of the players in the qualifying draw for the $25K Hopewell Junction challenger in New York, and it seems like Niru has made the main draw comfortably .. Will await the main draw info .. Also awaiting the draw at the East Hampton (New York) USA F22 futures where Fazal may be playing this week.

The $10K ITF Bangalore satellite has started .. The draw is considerably weakened from the last two weeks with a bunch of talented players missing -- Manisha, Monique, Suchanan and Orawan  are not there this time .. It will give a better chance for Sonal, Sai, Rushmi and Shruti to do some damage .. I-Ting Wang becomes a favorite, though Sai is the top seed (she has not looked her best in this series yet) .. In today's matches, Shruti Dhawan and Sheetal played a good match (once again, poor girl Sheetal cannot get an easy matchup - her bad luck with the draw continues ..) .. Good to see Shruti continuing her good run -- she beat Sheetal in a close three setter, 64 36 64 .. See the Bangalore satellite page.

Sep 10 Notes

Got an update from Mahesh on how things are going .. Leander and Mahesah have been practicing hard for the last few days in New York .. Mahesh said that he has been feeling great in the last few practices they had .. Hesh says the shoulder was actually feeling the best it has felt in a while (I believe he took about 4-5 days off to rest the shoulder after the loss at USO last Thursday) .. He tells me that he let his shoulder go at full force during practice and it was looking good .. He hopes for it to stay that way for the next three weeks ..  About the practice, he said that both of them are "feeling it already" !! .. That is good news, as everyone was a bit concerned after Hesh had a bit of shoulder pain during the USO match.

Venus won the women's title at the USO and it's a Sampras-Safin final for men's today, if you haven't heard yet.

Kamala Kannan won the India Pistons under-18 AITA tournament in Chennai yesterday over younger Arun Prakash .. I will try to see if I can get hold of results from the tournament .. It was not covered much by the online newspaper editions.

That about it today for news.  May have some preview news later on the Bangalore women's satellite starting tomorrow, for which the qualies were today.

Sep 9 Notes

Manisha won her fourth satellite title today --  At the Delhi $10K satellite final,  Manisha Malhotra d. Veronika Raimrova (CZE), 46 63 61 .. She was a bit slow at the start and dropped serve in the first game with a couple of double faults, but after that things were even in the first set .. As the match progressed, she started dominating Raimrova .. Manisha had a few double-faults which she attributed to a tired shoulder [sources: PTI and] .. Sai and Rushmi had won the doubles title yesterday, and so this turned out to be a clean sweep for India - not bad, considering that this event had a pretty decent draw of talented players, compared to earlier satellites in India .. See the Delhi satellite page .. Funny that Manisha won her first three titles abroad (two in US and one in UK) and this is only her first title in India - but then we have not had too many $10K events till this year - and she has not played any of the smaller 4-week circuits in India .. She is reportedly skipping next week's satellite at Bangalore and is proceeding to Paris for some events there .. I am not sure where she will be playing because there are no challengers or satellites in France in the next 4 weeks, except for the $75K Bordeaux challenger starting this monday (I have seen the qualifying and main draw entry list which does not show Manisha - I doubt she would be flying to Paris today to reach there for qualies tomorrow, especially after playing 10 matches in two weeks, but one can never be sure about Manisha, one of the hardest-working women on the tour, who just hates to take time off away from the courts! :-))

Niru is expected at the Hopewell Junction challenger in New York starting on Monday - I have not seen the draw .. Fazal should be at the USA F22 futures in New York as well next week.

At the US Open, the doubles champions are unseeded Max Mirnyi and Lleyton Hewitt .. They beat the 4th seeds Ferreira-Leach, 64 57 76(5) yesterday .. Hey, my crystal ball was not too bad once again .. When I saw the draw I said Hewitt-Mirnyi could give Woodies trouble .. As it turned out, they gave everyone trouble, upsetting the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 7th seeds on the way to the title .. Wow! .. By the way, Mirnyi seems to be one of the best doubles players out there, and he has done well in the company of several different players .. If he ever picks up a regular partner, he can be quite force - but he is still concentrating mostly on his singles career .. As for Hewitt, I saw him play as an 18 yr old last year at the LA tournament partnering Mark Woodforde; I was quite impressed with a lot of things he did despite the relative inexperience in doubles .. Don't expect him either to concentrate much on doubles for the time being, though .. He certainly got no time to celebrate the doubles title yesterday, as he has to be out there today to play the singles semifinal against Pete Sampras .. Lleyton is making some serious money at Flushing Meadows!

Sep 8 Notes

Lleyton Hewitt's terrific run continued yesterday at the US Open .. Hewitt/ Mirnyi took out the last remaining Olympics pair, 3rd seeds O'Brien-Palmer yesterday in the semifinal - in a 3rd set tiebreaker, 64 36 76(7) ! .. Hewitt is also in the singles semifinal .. Unseeded Hewitt-Mirnyi had beaten out Woodies and Lareau/Nestor in earlier rounds .. The other two of the top 5 contenders at Sydney, LP-MB had of course lost to Oncins-Orsanic (also beaten later by Hewitt-Mirnyi), and Kulti-Tillstrom had lost to Lareau/Nestor - this has not been a great US Open for any of the Sydney teams except perhaps O'Brien-Palmer .. H/M face the 4th seeds E.Ferreira/ R.Leach in the final .. Ferreira-Leach will be gunning for their 2nd grand slam title of the year - they had won the Australian Open .. Is old man Rick Leach amazing or what ? ..  Rajeev Ram (USA) and Jonathan Stokke (USA) lost in the boys doubles QF in three sets yesterday.

The draw came out yesterday for the 2001 Davis Cup .. To remind you, in 2001 we will be trying to qualify into the world group 16 of 2002 .. In the Asia-Oceania region, for some strange reason ITF has seeded India as second with Uzbekistan at the top .. I am not sure how Thailand ended up not being seeded and why Japan and Korea are seeded behind us, considering the ranking of the top players .. Japan and Korea are the other two seeds ..  The first round matchups for Feb 9-11 are,   Uzbekistan v. Indonesia or Taiwan,   Korea  v. New Zealand,  Thailand v.  Japan,  India vs Lebanon or China ..  One more round is yet to be played this year to decide the two teams being relegated to the (lower) group-II for next year .. We will know after that whether it will be China or Lebanon that we will be playing in the first round .. In either case, we will be traveling abroad for that .. If we advance, we will face Thailand or Japan in the second round and will probably be traveling abroad for that too .. Two teams will advance to the qualifying round for the 2002 world group in Sep next year (that tie will be against a first round loser team from the world group 16 of 2001) ..

At the Delhi satellite today, Manisha Malhotra reached a final once again, beating the 4th seed I-Ting Wang (#487), 64 62 .. Manisha has reportedly been serving very well in the last two matches .. Service is one of her strengths, but she was having some trouble ever since she had some tired-shoulder problems with too much of playing a while back .. It is a good thing that she has not been playing doubles in these satellites .. Manisha will face unseeded Veronika Raimrova (CZE) in the final tomorrow .. The finals in consecutive weeks have given Manisha 10 WTA points (two bonus) to add to the 45.50 she has now - this will take her ranking up from near 350 to near 320 in a couple of weeks .. I would imagine that once she goes through the three more remaining satellites in India and the Delhi challenger following that, she will be ranked inside at least #275 with a decent chance to make it into some challengers etc afterwards .. At 23, Manisha does not have a whole lot of time left, but seeing the way she works hard at it, the way she has steadily improved over the last 2-3 years and how she has been extremely consistent at the satellite level, we should expect her to go up quite a bit higher in the next two years .. See the Delhi satellite page for results.

Sep 7 Notes

One more Olympics-bound team fell by the quarterfinals at the US Open, and now only the 4th seeds O'Brien-Palmer remains in the run .. The doubles semis are between Hewitt-Mirnyi vs O'Brien-Palmer and W.Ferreira-Kafalnikov vs E.Ferreira-Leach ..

At the Delhi satellite, Manisha reached the semi beating Sonal in straight sets .. Shruti could not pull another upset and went down to Veronika Raimrova (CZE)  - I have not seen the score of that match .. I will update that and the doubles scores from today, at the Delhi satellite page, later .. The semis tomorrow will be Manisha vs I-Ting and Suchanan vs Veronika.

At the US Open juniors, unseeded US pair Rajeev Ram and Jonathan Stokke upset the the 3rd seeded Taiwanese pair, Yen-Hsun Lu and Yeu-Tzuo Wang in straight sets to reach the quarterfinals of doubles ..

That's about all the news to report!

Sep 6 Notes

At the US Open doubles, only two teams in the Olympics doubles field reached even the quarterfinals - 3rd seeds O'Brien/ Palmer of USA and 7th seeds Lareau/ Nestor (Canada) .. They both play the QF matches today .. In the bottom half of the draw, the semifinalists are determined - 8th seeds W.Ferreira/ Kafelnikov upset the 2nd seeds Haarhuis/Stolle, and 4th seeds E.Ferreira/ Leach reached the semi over USA's Bryan twins.

At the Delhi satellites today, the 5th seed Rushmi fell back to her on-for-a-match- and-off-next form, and lost to Raimrova of CZE .. The big news was Shruti Dhawan .. One more indication on 18 yr old Shruti roaring back into the scene, as she upset the 2nd seed Sai Jayalakshmi in three sets today, including a 6-0 whitewash in the first set .. How about that ? .. Manisha and Sonal advanced and will face each other tomorrow .. Sonal simply took out Radhika Tulpule 60 61, establishing once again that she has gone ahead of Radhika in the junior pecking order .. See the Delhi satellite page.

13 year old Sania Mirza has moved up this week from near #220 to #186 in the ITF junior world rankings .. I have not seen results from the European junior events in the last two weeks, but I assume that the 15 extra points she got means that she reached the quarterfinal of the Grade-4 event in Belgium (Aug 21-26) .. Even winning a couple of matches in a European event against players up to 5 years older and bigger, is quite an accomplishment for any 13 year old .. I will wait to find out details .. I think everyone needs to take a pretty serious look at Sania Mirza from Hyderabad, the highest ranked 13 year old in the world  .. There are about 6 girls born in 1986 who are ahead of her in the junior rankings (including the Asian sensations in the top-100, Su-Wei Hsieh, Peng-Shai, and Da-Jung Hong of Taiwan, China and Korea respectively), but they have all turned 14 and Sania does not even turn 14 till November .. There are only about 10 players younger than Sania in the 900 odd players ranked by ITF in the world, and only two or three are even in the top-500 .. Sania is clearly one of the best in the world at that age and somebody ought to come up with some sponsorship plans for this girl RIGHT NOW ..  The most important thing is to make sure that she works on her physical development well - a lot of our junior players fall further and further behind as they age because they do not develop the physical and mental strength, athleticism, and stamina like they should, to complement the great inborn talent and mind that many of them have .. AITA etc, should be thinking hard about what to do about Sania Mirza - rather than leave it all to her parents to agonize over (actually The Hindu had carried this article about Sania where her parents were asking for help - also see my comments in the June 3 note-3 here) ..  In fact, 12 yr old Sanaa Bhambri of Delhi is also not too far behind Sania in domestic events, though she has not played many international events for us to judge her well yet .. I will bring this back again for discussion ..

Incidentally, did anybody notice the US Open site listing Renata Voracova, the 6th seed in the girls' draw, to be an Indian national ? (Thanks, Danny Rosario for catching that!) .. I assume it's a mistake, but I have no idea how the mistake happened .. She is from Czech republic and I have never heard of any Indian connections ..  She is a top-10 junior player in the world.

Sep 5 Note-2

Forgot to write this earlier .. One of my predictions when I saw the draw, that Mirnyi/Hewitt could turn out to be bad news for the Woodies came true at the US Open .. In the second round, they upset the top seeded Woodies, 61 46 76(4) .. Hey, it won't be just our team who will be going to Sydney with a couple of losses in their previous matches .. Woodies have now lost two of their last three matches .. Oncins/Orsanic, who beat the Indian Express have reached the 3rd round and will play Hewitt/ Mirnyi .. As I type, they have just lost the first set to H/M ..  9th seeds Kulti/ Tillstrom lost to 7th seeds Lareau/ Nestor in the 3rd round .. Lareau/ Nestor are one of those teams right up there in the medal hunt at Sydney.

In the boys' doubles first round, the 6th seeded big-name USA combo of Prakash Amritraj and Andy Roddick went down just now to unseeded Raven Klassen and Peter Jon-Nomdo of South Africa, 67(5) 46 .. Roddick is of course the top junior player in the world and one of US' big hopes for the future - I am no sure how Prakash and him ended up playing together; I am not sure if they have played together before .. Adam Kennedy, who played with Prakash last week for the big title at the Canadian Open has a different partner this week.

Sep 5 Note-1

A status update on the players -- LP, MB, Niru, Fazal and Sri are all off the tour this week .. Women players except Niru are all at the Delhi satellite .. Second tier men players (Vijay Kannan, Vishal Uppal, Mustafa Ghouse, Vinod Sridhar, Rishi Sridshar, Manoj Mahadevan, etc) are all back in India and probably will be in action only at the DSCL nationals next month .. Harsh Mankad has returned to the US and the new college years starts soon .. Harsh got opinions from some in India that he could consider skipping college and hitting the tour full-time, with all the men's events coming up in India starting from late this year till June next year .. He gave it a thought and decided to get back to Univ of Minnesota, as he realizes that he still has work to do to improve his game .. Ajay Ramaswamy will also be back in college soon .. Fazal is training in Philadelphia and should be back playing starting with a futures in the US next week .. No update on where Srinath is right now.

Nirupama is expected to be playing three challengers in the next three weeks - $25K at Hopewell Junction (New York) next week, followed by $75K at Kirkland (near Seattle) and $75K in Santa Clara (California) .. She will have no problem making the direct entry at Hopewell Junction .. I just saw the Kirkland entry and the draw closed just two spots above Niru's ranking, which means she will make the entry without much problems by the time in starts.

At Delhi today, Rushmi Chakravarti finally came through big against Monique Adamczak, who was on a big winning streak with the double crown last week .. Rushmi had not had a quality win in ages, and I was beginning to lose hope -- and so this was great news today! .. Sonal proved once again that at 18, she is one who is fast reaching the top parts of the senior list already .. She had a tremendous comeback win against Archana Venkatraman, 67(2) 76(3) 62  - apparently she showed great poise and slowly took apart and wore down veteran Archana after the first set .. See the Delhi satellite page, where I will add a couple more Tuesday results later.

The Indian Americans did not do to well at the US Open juniors first round .. Prakash  Amritraj lost to Roko Karanusic of Croatia, 36 67(5) and Rajeev Ram lost to Darko Madjarovski  (YUG), 64 67(5) 26 .. Sunitha Rao lost Stephanie Cohen Aloro (FRA), 63 64 .. Rajeev Ram's loss was perhaps the more disappointing one - actually he was up 41 in the second set but could hardly move after that due to serious cramp problems ..

Sunil Kumar and Vinod Sewa may probably be going to the Sugar Bowl ITF junior tournament in New Orleans next week.

Sep 4 Notes

Funny story about confusion at Delhi today at the $10K satellite .. The draw had to be redone after the "withdrawal" of the top seed Leanne Baker who faxed today that she had never sent an entry form to ITF for this in the first place! .. It looks like somebody goofed up - probably at ITF London .. I had noticed that Leanne was in the entry list for just this leg and not for the one before or the one after - and her name has been in the list for at least three weeks .. Nobody ever comes to India for just one week of a satellite, and I had thought that perhaps she had found some ticket that would allow a one-week layoff on the way from Europe to New Zealand or something! .. Anyway, as it turned out, her good friend Manisha, who knew that Leanne was in England and not in any playing shape due to fever right now, called her up and told that everyone was expecting her at Delhi .. That was when she knew about her name mysteriously being in the Delhi entry list!! .. Anyway, she becomes a "withdrawal", as she informed them just before the matches were about to start (otherwise it would be a "no show" with a lucky loser taking up the spot of the top seed) - so the draw had to be redone with the 2 thru 5 seeds moving up to the higher seeds' positions (the remaining three seeds would stay at the same spot with the new 8th seed Sonal Phadke taking up the 5th seeds's spot - that is the ITF rule for re-draws) .. On top of that, the 7th seed Joland Mens (NED) was a no-show clearing up a second spot in the draw .. Other than all that excitement, not too much happened on the first day .. The new #2 seed Sai Jayalakshmi, who had expected to play only Tuesday had to play today on short notice and dropped her first set, recovering after that .. The one interesting match was the convincing 62 62 win by Shruti Dhawan over Sheetal Goutham, who is not an easy foe .. Shruti's comeback is a nice story so far .. On the other hand, Sheetal never seems to get an easy opponent (there are a few such players at the Indian satellites, who are relatively easier preys who rarely go past the first round - but Sheetal never seems to draw any of them!) -- Sheetal rarely loses to anybody but the top 5 or 6 players, but the 1998 junior #1 has not been able to take that next step to beat the top players yet, however .. There was also one notable upset in doubles where Shruti and Radhika beat the seeded veteran pair, the Venkatraman sisters .. See the Delhi satellites page.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Sep 4 ..

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.