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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Sep 16, 2002
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Sep 16 Notes

Saw Prakash Amritraj (USA) in the final qualies at the $15K Costa Mesa (California) futures today .. Tough match, but he came through 57 62 64 against Sam Webster of USA .. His intensity level was a bit up and down in the first set but he steadied himself afterwards .. I do enjoy watching Prakash's brand of tennis .. Solid these days from the backcourt and does not overdo serve and volley, but he can come up with some very creative stuff that is fun to see .. I like that .. Good temperament as well, occasionally getting himself pumped up with some Tamil and Hindi screams that are funny! .. Was on the verge of getting broken at 4-4 in the final set after an unfortunate slip and fall, but played mistake-free tennis for the last few points to get a break and finish it .. After four rounds of qualies he now gets a day off before the first round on wednesday against Willem-Petrus Meyer (RSA) .. Also qualifying in today was Rajeev Ram (USA) with a 75 62 win over the 11th seed Luke Shields (USA) .. I couldn't see his match which got over soon after I got there .. He plays K.J. Hippensteel (USA) in the R1 on wednesday .. In doubles Prakash and Rajeev are playing together .. Actually I don't remember these two playing together before, but I would expect them to be a formidable pair - they face the top seeds  Zack Fleishman (USA) and Andrew Nisker (CAN), who better watch out!

Vijay Amritraj was there and said that there is some procedure to go through for ITF approval for Prakash to play for India, and it doesn't seem to be as quick as he thought it was .. I asked him about that because AITA had said that they had tried to find out about Prakash's availability for Davis Cup recently .. Vijay mentioned that Leander had earlier talked to him about PA for Asiad as well .. VA said he doesn't expect any objection from US about Prakash representing India (especially since he has not represented US in any international events, which I think would have caused a three year wait period and all that) .. But the ITF procedures are a bit stricter these days after all the confusion with the new Europen countries, etc .. VA is of course very happy about how well Prakash is doing these days - "let him enjoy playing, that is the most important thing", he said.

Manosha Malhotra was in qualifying action this weekend at the $75K Columbus challenger in Ohio .. She beat Amy Dillingham (USA) 61 60 in the first round but went down in the second round to the 4th seed Shenay Perry (USA,301), 26 63 26 .. She should be playing doubles with Leanne Baker who has been doing well in the qulies - she is in the final qualies with an upset of the top seed.

Manoj Mahadevan is at the $10K Jamaica F14 futures .. He is unseeded this time and faces talented young qualifier Ytai Abougzir (USA) in the R1 .. He is the doubles draw with Kyle Kliegerman (USA) and they play Keith From and Jean-Julien Rojer in the R1.

At the Hyderabad $10K satellite, there were no big surprises today - Shruti, Sonal, Sheetal, etc have reached the R2 .. Megha Vakharia is playing doubles with her successful partner in Nigeria - Prariyawan Ratanakrong (THA), who did not make it for last week's event but has come for this week .. They must be playing some pretty good doubles - they beat the Venkatraman sisters in easy straight sets today .. See the Hyderabad satellite page.

The ITF grade-4 junior event started in Delhi today .. Somdev, Rupesh, VishnuVardhan, etc won today .. Nihal Advani beat 13 yr old Sumeet Gupta .. On the girls' side, Sandra Sasidharan, Krushmi Chedda etc advanced .. Sanaa, etc have not played yet .. See the Delhi juniors page.

Sep 15 Notes

Here is an article today from S.Kannan in the Hindustan Times on the appointment of Anand Amritraj and Enrico Piperno to handle the men's and women's teams for the Asiad .. Kannan is right that it is nice of Anand to take up the the job "on the rebound" .. It is well known that Anand was a contendor for the Davis Cup captain's position when RK got it .. On the other hand, I do wonder how well he knows the youngsters in the team and their capabilities - but I am sure he will be able to manage it .. And it gives a chance for him to get back into the swing of things - Indian tennis can always use input from more stalwarts with international tennis experience like Anand .. As for Enrico Piperno, as Kannan says, it was rather natural to go to him for this job - after all he was never fired from the Fed Cup captaincy, though he was at the helm when we had one of the more uninspired Fed Cup campaigns in recent memory this year, India getting relegated to the second tier in Asia (but then again, he was not the one playing for us, and with Niru unavailable and all our players basically in bad form at that time, there was probably nothing much he could do) .. Nice of Rico also to not complain and take up the job .. OK, so let's put to rest all the unnecessary confusion about Asiad coaches, and start with a positive outlook towards Asiad .. Go India!

Ramesh Krishnan and the Davis Cup team has arrived in Australia .. RK said we are big underdogs, but that goes without saying .. I am sure we have the lowest ATP-ranked players EVER to play a world group playoff tie! .. That doesn't mean we are going to let the Aussies just walk all over us .. As always, anything can happen in Davis Cup, and India's Davis Cup success has always been a proof of that.

In other news, there was a PTI news item with some comments from Mahesh .. The title caught my eye, and it was nothing but press mischief - "I'm good even without Paes: Bhupathi" .. That sounded like MB was thumping his chest, but he was saying noithing of that sort  .. The press has made it an art form to twist things that MB says .. What he actually said was, as in the article, "It only goes to show that both of us (him and Paes) are good players even without each other. And I am happy I could prove myself," said Bhupathi of his fourth Grand Slam doubles title .. That's all he said! .. I don't know why our press has this penchant to make it all sound unpleasant .. Mahesh also said, "It is only a dip in form; everyone goes through these ups and downs. He (Paes) is a good player, and will come back definitely," according to the article .. That is the first time MB has actually mentioned that LP has indeed had a dip in form .. Based on LP's results, it does seem possible that he is not playing like he used to, though his partners have not helped a whole lot either .. LP has never really admitted to any sort of dip in form though .. My personal opinion has always been that LP was a singles player first at heart, and that once he stopped taking singles seriously, his doubles was also going to go down (I don't really know the logic in this, but I always felt so) .. Whether his form has dipped or not, I don't know - because I have not seen an LP doubles match in person or on TV in a very long time .. Some who have seen him play lately tell me about how LP just does not seem to have that fire and the cocky confidence he had in the past, which one could always see in his eyes, and was something to see too.

We continue to see some sort of an attempt by various people to crown Mahesh as the best ever, etc, etc .. It was surprising to see even the Kolkata newspaper Telegraph printing something to that effect (check the last paragraph of this article) .. This is all unnecessary .. No need to say that one is better than the other .. LP is a glorious player, who has accomplished so much, both in singles and doubles .. In my humble opinion, very few in recent memory have played doubles at the level LP was playing in the 1999 summer (when he won titles with Siemerink and Arthurs also) .. Having seen the USOpen matches, I also feel that Mahesh is certainly playing his best doubles too, and he is quite probably the best doubles player on tour now .. Just because MB stopped playing with LP and because LP has not had great results lately in doubles, nothing should be taken away from Leander as a great doubles player, and I am sure Mahesh would be the first one to say that too .. In my mind, for some time I have been considering LP to be getting closer and closer to the end of his career, which after all started a good 4-5 years before Mahesh came into the international scene .. MB has many years left in him, and LP probably doesn't (though I have always said that LP started talking about growing old much earlier than I would have preferred him to) .. This is all a natural progression in tennis careers .. It is very unfair for anybody to talk about LP's greatness to be anything less than it is .. On the other hand, I do dearly hope that LP is not done and that there are still some big hurrahs left in him .. That he himself has never said anything about retirement gives us hope .. Heck, why not LP shutting some mouths up at the Davis Cup in 4-5 days? ..

The qualies got completed at the $10K satellite in Hyderabad today .. K.Pooja, Preeti Rao and Marutha Devi qualified in along with five foreigners - those like Julianto, Amanmuradova, Dvornikova, etc, who did well last week in the main draw .. See the Hyderabad satellite page.

Prakash Amritraj and Rajeev Ram have reached the final round of qualies at the USA F24 futures today at Costa Mesa (actually a few kilometeres from where I live -- if I can find some time I will check them out tomorrow morning in the finals of the four-round qualies; the US futures qualies are the toughest ones out there and both have cruised so far).

There is a two-week junior ITF circuit that starts in India tomorrow .. Delhi first and then Mumbai, both of the grade-4 level .. Isha and Sania will not be there as they stand to gain no points in their best-six tally even with titles (which gives 40 points) .. Ankita Bhambri has never played the ITF junior circuit consistently and has played the pro satellites more .. So the top seeds in the girls' side include Sanaa Bhambri and Kartiki Bhat .. The boys' side is very interesting as a whole lot of very young talented kids who have rarely played graded ITF junior events start their junior international circuit with these two events .. These include Sumeet Gupta, Rupesh Roy, Anshuman Dutta, J.Vishnuvardhan, M.Jeevan, etc .. The top seeds will include Somdev Dev Varman, Chatwinder Singh and Tushar Liberhan, I believe .. I am looking forward to these events .. The two late year events are always the most interesting ones as they throw up new names into the mix .. You might remember the Chennai and Mumbai events late last year which were where Isha Lakhani started her big year with consecutive titles .. We knew about how good she was, already; so it was not a big surprise .. Those who are hoping to make grand slam draws next year by May should be looking at these two grade-4 events and the events in Jan-Feb next year (normally 3-4 grade-4 events and a couple of grade-3 events in the subcontinent) and hoping to pick up about 200+ points from them .. One player who I would have liked to see get some cheaper points from the next two weeks' events was Karan Rastogi, but he is currently in the US using some funds from ITF for travel .. All the rest of the talented ones would be in display the next two weeks ..

Sep 14 Note-2

Anand Amritraj and Enrico Piperno will be the captains for the men and women teams at Asiad, as announced by AITA! .. More on that later ..  Rushmi beat Sai at the Mysore satellite finals .. See the Mysore satellite page .. I have started the Hyderabad satellite page, with today's qualifying Q1 scores .. Later..

Sep 14 Note-1

All right!  Our girls won their final tie, this time beating Hungary to go 4-1 in their ties at France and finish #5 in the standings! .. Here is the email to the press from Sunil Yajaman - "Our team is returning home being the 5th best Jr. Fed Cup team in the World! This is indeed a very proud feling .... Our girls showed their class today as they beat the stronger Hungary in a tough tie. I am not sure but I believe Hungary had finished 3rd last year in the World Youth Cup ..... Ankita did not have a good start as she found trouble in her racket strings. No excuses but all her rackets which were just strung had a lot of difference in the tension what she ususlly uses. The stringer had made a terrible mistake. She was down 36 & 25 (15 40). She fought back well (using Kartki's racket)then & was won 4 games in a row to go up 65. It was just that she didnt have enough time to hang in the match & win it in the tie break which she lost in 3 ....  Sania again came up with one of her best performances to win the match 76(3) 75. Sania knew that everything depended on her & did not show any fear to display some stunning Tennis. She went to take a lead 42 (up 40 0). The Hungarian fought back well to lead 54 with a set point. May be some pressure was on Sania as she lost points. But she again raised her game at the right time being a set point down to take the set in tie break at 3 .. Sania again started off in her usual fashion of aggressive Tennis. IT wasnt long before she went up 41. I always believe that it is easier to play when a player is down rather than being up with a comfortable lead. Even before she could realise what was starting to happen, she was down 45 & a set point. But it took an extra inch of effort from Saniia who ran through the set taking it 75. I always believe that Sania is a class apart from many others in her mind. She is so confident that she doesn't believe that she could lose a match. With a slight improvement & work on her serves, she is a player who is capable of beating any player in the juniors .... I think the combination of Sania & Ankita is clearly the best in the ongoing Championship. They showed their class when they beat the Hungarian pair 62 61. They struck a perfect combination to keep India at the 5th position in the Jr. Fed CUp Competition 2002. It is the first time our team has qualified for a world finals & finishing at No. 5 is a real proud feling.

Interesting comments on Sania's confidence by Sunil .. This is one thing we have always heard of -- the supreme fearless attitude she has, a requirement for champions ..  As Sunil says, with a little bit more of technical coaching, she would go places .. Also nice to see how well Sania and Ankita played in doubles - they are one of the two women's doubles teams we have nominated for the Asiad -- two 15 year olds!

Belarus beat CZE to win the championship today .. Russia, the only team we lost to, in our first pool tie, beat China 2-0 to finish #3 .. HUN, ARG, URU, CAN, USA, GER, BRA, FRA, KOR, TPE, RSA are 6th thru 16th in the final standings.

India, Russia and USA and Argentina had three teams in the final-8 (none had four teams doing it) .. Note also that only our boys u14 team which was seeded #8 was expected to finish in the top eight by ITF .. All three did better than expected in the finals .. Here are the final junior standings in the world in a competition that started with about between 75 and 100 countries in regional qualifying a few months back.

u16 boys ---- ESP, USA, URU, AUS, FRA, GER, BLR, RSA
u16 girls ----- BLR, CZE, RUS, CHN, IND, HUN, ARG, URU
u14 boys ---- USA, ESP, ARG, CAN, FRA, MAR, IND, RUS
u14 girls ----- NED, POL, CZE, USA, RUS, CHN, IND, ARG

Unquestionably we have the best under-16 junior talent on the girls side that we have ever had .. Look at this list of youngsters - with Isha (16), Sania (15), Ankita (15), Kartiki (15), Sanaa (14), Tara (14) etc, we have is a terrific gorup of players who have all shown the worth in international competitions .. We have really never had it this good .. But now the work is to get them to reach the kind of levels at least some of them deserve to reach .. The boys' side is not too shabby either with Karan (15), Tushar (15), Sumeet (13), Rupesh (13), Jeevan (13) all looking very good; actually if Karan had been playing at his best level which he seems to be slowly getting back to, we would have possibly had a good team at the u16 boys world finals too ..

According to Sunil Yajaman, Fransesco Ricci Bitti (President of ITF) told him -- "India is a great Nation & it is amazing to see 3 of the Indian Teams qualifying for World Finals this year. Getting the 5th position in the Jr. Fed Cup is no mean achievement. Congratulations to your nation & we hope to see India emerging as a powerful Tennis Nation." .. That is nice! .. India's show in placing three teams in the junior final-16 fields and all three teams finishing in the top-8 was certainly noticed .. Sunil himself deserves a lot of credit for all this, as a minimum for just being on top of things and being an encouraging and passionate AITA junior development officer.

I hope somebody will be there at the Hyderabad airport to give the girls a grand welcome .. They deserve it .. As I said Sania and Ankita were both in the entry list (Ankita as the 8ths eed and Sania as the very final entry in the main draw).. I assume they would be getting in sometime on Sunday.

Sep 13 Note-2

Vishal Uppal has just replaced Mahesh in the Davis Cup team in Australia next weekend, as announced today .. I assume this is not as the 5th member but in the official 4-member team nominated to ITF, replacing MB  .. I guess the old pairing of LP-Uppal, that won one Davis Cup match (though against a much worse team) could get resurrected ..  I had thought that LP would be playing with his own protege, Sunil Kumar, but this gives another option .. The team now is  LP, Bopanna, Sipaeya and Uppal .. Harsh will travel as the fifth member and would be available for practice, though I assume that he could proceed to the qualies of the Australian satellites during the next weekend, as only the nominated four would be eligible to play, if I am not mistaken .. Well, it's all a confusing scenario again.

I sometimes feel for our captain, Ramesh Krishnan .. First of all, he has had to travel abroad for 6 ties in a row now, facing some of the toughest teams out there thanks to extreme bad luck in the draws, and he just never seems to get any sort of continuity in the team either.  Tough job.  Hang in there, RK! :-)

Sep 13 Note-1

India had an off day today, as the playoff continued only for the bottom 10 out of the 16 teams at the Junior Fed Cup finals in La Baule, France .. The final four semifinals (CZE vs CHN, RUS vs BEL) and the tie for the 5th spot (IND vs HUN) are scheduled for tomorrow .. It's quite amazing to see India finishing ahead of so many normal powerhouses like USA, GER, BRA, ARG, etc .. What a show! .. By the way, Sania and Ankita are in the entry list for next week's $10K satellite in Hyderabad, and I think they will be coming home rightaway after tomorrow ..

The top two seeds, Sai Jayalakshmi and Rushmi Chakravarthi reached the final of the Mysore satellite with easy straight sets wins today -- See the Mysore satellite page .. They are in the doubles final together, as well .. Both finals are tomorrow.

Good to see Sai and Rushmi in fine form .. Unfortunate that Sai will not be in the Indian Asiad team, though in fairness to the selection committee, her form was up and down for such a long time before picking up recently .. On the other hand, I am still quite upset at all the strange teams we are sending up there to Busan .. Not forming a  Niru-Manisha doubles team does not make any sense, them being our best two doubles players (and they have also won a challenger title together) .. By the way, Manisha just informed me that she was taking a few weeks of rest after a good 6 months on the tour .. She will be at the $75K Columbus challenger next week, followed by the $75K Albuquerque (New Mexico) challenger the week after to get ready for Asiad .. She says she too was puzzled about the Asiad individal doubles pairings - but she is looking forward to doing well at Busan .. Same from Nirupama as well - she will be at the Asiad and then the Asian Championships in Uzbekistan, returning to the US to start with the challenger circuit (no, she has not retured folks! -- and that is great news; many were beginning to worry is wedding was the end for Niru :-))

Speaking of Asiad, I am just not getting a comfortable feeling -- here is an article from S.Kannan today in the Hindustan Times, about Ramesh Krishnan and CGK Bhupathi expressing their inability to be the coaches for the men and women teams at Asiad .. AITA says things will get sorted out quickly but it is pretty much panic time for AITA too, I think! .. The players seem to be all set though, with Mahesh being very serious about it and saying he will be ready by then with a rested shoulder, and Leander always being someone we can trust to come through when he suits up for India .. I like some of the youngsters in the team, such as Sania, Ankita, Sunil, etc, getting the experience but I'm still having trouble figuring out the individual doubles pairings we announced two weeks back (LP-MB, Ghouse-Uppal for MD, Niru-Rushmi, Sania-Ankita for WD, and Manisha-MB, Sania-LP for MXD) .. Ghouse-Uppal simply does not make sense over Harsh-Ajay, or Bopanna-Ajay, or Bopanna-Sunil on current form, though they had some good success a while back .. Actually with all the success Ajay has had in doubles, he deserved a look for Asiad .. I guess LP and Bopanna would be our singles players in the team events in the first week, with LP-MB in doubles .. Niru and Manisha/Rushmi would do singles in the team events, I think ..  I think Niru/Manisha could pair up for the team events .. There are 7 Gold medals - one each in team events in the first week (which I think is a straight knockout draw of 3 or 4 ties each), two each in singles and doubles individually in the second week, and one in mixed doubles in the second week ..  LP-MB is the most probable gold, with MB-Manisha as the next most probable right now, in my view .. We had 4 bronze medals in tennis in the last Asiad (LP could not go due to injury), and we would certainly hope to do better.

At the Grade-1 Kentucky International ITF juniors, Karan Rastogi and Miles Kasiri (GBR) lost to the 4th seeds Tai-Wei Liu (TPE) and Vahid Mirzadeh (USA), 67(1) 16 in the quarterfinals yesterday.

Sep 12 Notes

Good news from Mysore .. All three Indians in the QFs, top two seeds Rushmi and Sai and unseeded Geeta Manohar have reached the semis of the ITF $10K satellite .. Geeta must be really coming on strong .. Another indication that the level of competition among Indian women is steadily going up .. She beat Wilawan Choptang who had earlier upset the 8th seed Diana Costa and also Archana Venkatraman .. Geeta is not yet 19 and is from Hyderabad .. She never quite reached the national top-10 levels in the juniors that she played till last year, but has always been a competitive player and must be playing even better now .. See the Mysore satellite page.

The u16 girls contiue to do well in La Baule, France, at the world final-16 of the Junior Fed Cup .. India won the first playoff tie within the 5-8 spots with a 2-1 score against Argentina, and will now play for the 5th spot tomorrow against Hungary .. With at least a 6th spot assured, this is the highest finish ever by an Indian junior team in the world finals! .. Captain Sunil Yajaman's email to the press today - "Till yesterday I had depend on 1 of the girls Sania / Ankita to play betterwhen the other was down. Today it was just the oposite as both came up with terriffic perfomances to win their Singles matches against Argentina ...... Ankita gave a superb start by playing an attacking game right from the 1st Point & winning the match 63 63 against Andrea Banitez.  Sania was even better when she just ran through the match 62 60 against Virginia Donda. She never gave any chance to Virginia to even make an effort of fighting it out Kartiki Bhat & Sania Mirza were just unlucky to lose the doubles 67 (3) 57 ....  It was one the best performances by Indian Girls in International Tennis .. Both also proved they have the stuff to go a long way with slight modifications in their game. They are peaking just fntastic in the tournament with every tie & match. For a team which has qualified for the World Finals for the first time in history, playing for the 5th position tomorrow is really a great feeling ...  As Ankita had a slight pain in the right muscle just above the right knee, I decided to rest her keeping in mind tomorrow's tie against Hungary (who beat Uruguay 2-1)& also her next week Women's tournament in Hyderabad. She shoud be fine for tomorrow's tie & we hope to play he best in our last tie against Hungary & get the 5th Position .... Sure we will keep the Indian Tri Colour flying high".

Chinese Taipei, the second seeds have been laying the biggest eggs out there, losing most of their ties, and now playing for the 15-16th spot! .. Though 5th seed China got upset in their first tie, they managed to advance with some luck within their group, and will be playing the semifinals tomorrow within the top four spots .. Korea from our region also did not do much in the end, though they played some tough matches, both against Russia and against us in the group pool.

Manoj Mahadevan and Steven Kane (USA) put up a fight before going down 75 36 36 to the 4th seeded Americans Brandon Kramer and Nathan Zeder, at the $10K Jamaica F13 futures doubles first round.

Sep 11 Note-4

It took a long time to see the scores for two days from Mysore - and it really is not very good, as none of the contendors other than Sai and Rushmi from India has made it even into the quarterfinal, though we had 5 seeded players .. There does seem to be a handful of talented foreign players in the field though .. Megha Vakharia who had done well in Nigeria for two weeks did get in but went down in the first round (correction from earlier - it seems her doubles partner Ratanakrong from Thailand did not come due to flight problems from Nigeria and was fined for that - she was replaced by T.Yamini in the draw) .. Qualifier Diana Julianto (INA) who upset Megha in the first round surprises me a little bit - the junior ITF results from the Indonesian have not been all that great, but she has been playing quite well in a few pro events .. Hee-Sun Lyoo-Suh (KOR), Agkul Amanmuradova (UZB) and Anastasia Dvornikova (RUS) are three other qualifiers who have all looked to be playing the best out there so far, along with Wilawan Choptang (THA) .. Geeta Manohar upset Radhika Tulpule and reached the QF in somewhat of a surprise too .. Sai and Rushmi have not been tested much, and they have tougher matches tomorrow .. See the Mysore satellite page.

Karan Rastogi went down 36 36 to 12th seed Andis Juska (LAT) today in the pre-quarterfinals of the grade-1 Kentucky International juniors in the US .. Karan was at the Nick Bollitieri's for a few weeks (he had a bit of funding from the ITF grand slam junior development scheme for travel) .. I have never been a big believer in these big-name Academies' ability to make much of a difference in a few weeks of camp (not particularly talking about Bollitieri's - just a general comment -- I have always felt that they are all money-making businesses and that the short-term camps do not always help much, from the experience of many) .. Anyway, Karan does seem to have got a bit of a confidence boost, having gone there, as reflected by his first top-60 upset win yesterday in the first event he has played in the US .. Karan is in the doubles QF after a walkover in the final-16, which followed a bye in the first round .. Karan and Miles Kasiri (GBR) face the 4th seeds Tai-Wei Liu (TPE) and Vahid Mirzadeh (USA) a very talented pair of players next.

Sep 11 Note-3

Good news from the junior Fed Cup (u16) final-16 in France -- India just beat Korea 2-1 and finished #2 in the group, thus qualifying for the playoff for the 5th through 8th spots! .. Ankita lost the #2 vs #2 match 46 57, but after two losses in the first two ties, when it counted most Sania came through this time, winning the #1 spot in style, 62 62 .. In doubles, Sania and Ankita did the job 61 64 .. We needed Russia to beat Germany because a three-way tie between #4 Russia, #6 Germany and us would have seen us dropping to the 3rd spot on tiebreaker (matches won/lost) .. Russia beat germany and so we are through .. It seems we will play Argentina first in the 5-8 playoffs ..  Sunil Yajaman had some nice words about the 3rd member of the team, Kartiki Bhat who has not played this time but should be leading our u16 team next year .. He says, "though Kartiki hasnt played any match until now, she is a girl who I can depend on when necessary. She is a good team member and has been playing an important role in keeping good spirits" .. Good show, girls! .. How about that?  We had three teams go to the world finals (u14 boys and girls and u16 girls), and all three have done better than their seedings .. The 8th seeded boys u14 finished #7, the unseeded u14 girls team finished #7 and now the unseeded u16 team also has done better than expected .. Go India! ..

Sep 11 Note-2

Awaiting news from France and Mysore .. Good news from Kentucky -- 212th ranked Karan Rastogi, still only 15 years old and finally playing well again, has had the best win of his junior career, upsetting the 6th seed Alex Miotto (GBR,53) in the second round of the grade-1 Kentucky junior international to reach the final-16 .. Karan had beaten Robert Gallman (USA) 57 76(2) 62 in a fighting comeback in the first round and was on song yesterday, beating Miotto 64 61 .. When Karan plays with focus and confidence (two things he has had trouble with ever since losing a few months due to an injury from late last year when he got up all the way inside top-100), the wonderfully talented boy is a force to reckon with .. Yeah, he is back! .. Karan plays the PQF against the 12th seed Andis Juska (LAT) .. He is also playing doubles with Miles Kasiri (GBR) and they have a bye into the round of 16 .. 14 yr old young powerhouse Tara Iyer, ranked #172, had a 36 64 62 win over Krysty Marcio (USA) in the first round before falling after a fight, 57 75 16 to the 15th seed Mary Gambale (USA,170) .. Tara is not playing doubles there.

Vas Param alerted me to Sunitha Rao's great show down in Brasil at the big $650K Tier-II WTA event .. The 314th ranked Indian-American qualified into the main draw with a 46 61 62 comeback upset of the qualifying top seed #49 Vera Zvonareva (RUS), a 6-2 (retd) win over Sabrina Eisenberg (ARG,458) and a 63 63 win over Caroline Dhenin (FRA,421) .. She then beat fellow qualifier Vanessa Henke (GER,208) in the first round for the first WTA event singles win by an Indian name since Nirupama's win over Pizzichini at the AO in 1998 .. She just went down 46 26 to the 3rd seed Anastasia Myskina (RUS,15) today, but the terrific run gives Sunitha 43 WTA points, including 14 quality points (10 for beating a top-50 player, the first such win by any Indian player that I remember) .. Sunitha Rao, who does not turn 17 till next month, had just moved up about 40 spots to #314 for this week and will be shooting up to about #240 next week .. Go Sunitha!

Sep 11 Note-1

Both the newspapers with news on the Mysore satellite (The Hindu and The Decan Herald) have no wednesday editions due to Ganesh Chaturthi, and the AITA's website is not being updated for a little while as I believe they are waiting for a new webmaster .. None of the other sources of info have come through yet either, and so I have no news on how the Tuesday matches went at Mysore .. We will see how soon some info reaches me...

8th seeded Manoj Mahadevan went down 46 26 to qualifier Christian Groh (GER) at the Jamaica F13 futures yesterday .. Manoj and Steven Kane (USA) are in the doubles draw, facing the 4th seeded American pair, Brandon Kramer and Nathan Zeder in the R1.

Sep 10 Note-2

Terrific news from France .. Our unseeded u16 girls upset the 6th seed Germany today! .. Here it is from the horse's mouth (coach Sunil Yajaman's email to the press) -- "It was a great day for all of us at La Baule today as our team upset the 6th seeded Germany in the league ... Ankita played some superb tennis to win her first singles 64, 62 against Melanie Hafner to give India a 1-0 lead ... Sania after losing the first set 46 being up 31 lost her concenration & rythm before losing out the match 64 61 ... Doubles was crucial & we were hungry to win it. Sania & Ankita teamed up superbly to take a 41 & 52 lead in the first set. There were some anxious moments when the Germans levelled at 55. Our girls really raised their game to win the next 8 games in a row. Final Score:75 60  ... Tomorow we play Korea in the last match of the league. We had beaten them 30 in the regional qualifying at Jakarta but it will not be an esy match at all. We are hopeful of winning this. Our group is interestingly poised as right now Russia & Korea are tied 1 - 1 & the deciding doubles is underway ... We hope to play even better tomorrow for sure".

Good show by the girls! .. By the way, 2nd seed Taiwan and 5th seed China got upset yesterday by Belarus and Hungary respectively .. Chinese Taipei lost 0-3 in somewhat of a shocker .. As for India, the chances are quite low for us to top the group, as we are 2-4 in the "win-loss" stat after the 0-3 loss yesterday against 4th seed Russia (that is, if there happens to be a three-way tie with 2-1 records) .. Too early to say .. Chances are bright however for a second place finish in the group and to play for the 4th through 8th spots in the playoffs - and that would be great!

Australia has announced their Davis Cup team for the relegation tie (World group playoff) against India .. There are eight playoff ties, as you know - among the eight first round losers of World Group 2002 and eight teams advancing from the regional group-1 .. They try to make the eight spots out of the world group 16 in 2003 .. The Aussie team is, Lleyton Hewitt, Wayne Arthurs, Scott Draper and Todd Woodbridge .. The doubles team would be Wayne-Todd, it would seem,a nd their #2 would probably be Arthurs, I guess .. Tough team .. They also have talented Peter Luczak and youngster Ryan Henry called in as practice players for the team in Adelaide .. Philippoussis injured his knee at the US Open and is out, but Hewitt is raring to go .. LP has never played Hewitt, who was once coached by LP's erstwhile coach "Nails" Carmichael - they have played in practice against each other then .. He has one win against Scott Draper (on grass in Newport, 1998, on the way to his only title) against two earlier losses on hardcourts .. He is 0-1 against Arthurs, the loss coming in a 76 67 36 match at Newport in 1999 - that was LP's last QF appearance in any ATP tour event, and basically I have awlays felt that was the last match LP played with the mental attitude of a full-time tour event singles player (he has had a few wins since then, till the win at Wimbledon last year, but that was all in some sort of a start-and-stop mode as far as singles was concerned) .. But Davis Cup is different, and one can never count out LP - and all he seems to need is 5 days of practice and a whole bunch of tricolors around him! .. The only other win for us against those Australian players is the upset that Bopanna pulled off late last year against Peter Luczak in an Australian futures event - and that I think is still Bopanna's most impressive win; what put him in my mind as a formidable player .. With Mahesh seemingly unavailable for doubles due to a tender shoulder (no final word on this yet, as MB had taken off to India a couple of days back and was to decide soon), our chances are still slim/none, barring miracles ..  But then stranger things have happened in Davis Cup .. Heck, whoever thought Australia would lose in the first round and would be playing a world-group relegation tie this year anyway? .. Go India!

Sep 10 Note-1

Slightly delayed news -- Megha Vakharia and Prariyawan Ratanakrong did win their second consecutive doubles titles last week at the $10K Lagos-2 satellite in Nigeria .. Here are the scores for their matches: [R1] d. Megan Emmett (GBR)/ Annabel Youthed (GBR), 61 61 .. [R2] d. Femi Odeymi-Musa (NGR)/ Jessica Weyreuter (ARG), 60 61 .. [QF] d. #1 Yomna Farid (EGY)/ Amany Khalifa (EGY), 60 75 .. [F] d. #2 Nicoleta Ratiu (ROM)/ Alexandra Zotta (ROM), 62 60 .. They must have been combining very well, to win so easily in straight sets in all the matches, including against the top seeds and the second seeds .. Not sure why they are not playing together at the Mysore satellite this week  - Prariyawan and Megha were both in the schedule for today in singles, but Megha is playing doubles with Samrita Sekar .. I have added all the draws at the Mysore satellite page [courtesy: Alain Vincent] at the Mysore satellite page.

Manoj Mahadevan, who was playing in US and Jamaica three weeks back and probably decided not to take the trip to India for the futures gets back in action this week at the $10K Jamaica F13 futures .. He is in the draw as the 8th seed, playing qualifier Christian Groh (GER) in the first round.

Sep 09 Notes

MB has now moved to the #4 spot in the doubles rankings, behind Knowles, Nestor and Mirnyi .. His highest ranking in over two years ..

No big surprises at Mysore today at the $10K ITF women's satellites, except for Wilawan Choptang upsetting the 8th seed Diana Costa of Portugal .. Rushmi, Sai and Radhika, the top three seeds, all advanced .. Shruti Dhawan, who has troubled Rushmi and beaten her in the past, could not do much today on the wet clay courts .. See the Mysore satellite page.

The unseeded Indian u16 girls faced the 4th seeds Russia and went down 0-3 today in the Junior Fed Cup finals round robin first tie at Le Baule, France .. Sania only got there last night from the US Open and only had an hour of practice on the wet clay courts before playing the tie this morning - that is tough .. There are a couple of other teams also having some travel troubles, due to the bad scheduling by ITF right after the US Open, and also because of the Air France strike which left some teams stranded/delayed.  Russia was ready and so no such luck for us (:-)) .. Scores - #2 Ankita Bhambri l. Ektarina Kirianova 63 46 36, #1 Sania Mirza l. Elena Vesnina 57 46 and Sania/Ankita l. Elena/ Olga Panova 26 61 06 .. The matches were all close though .. We face the 6th seeds Germany tomorrow - an upset would be terrific, but difficult.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the three weeks ending on Sep 9 ..

I am getting some inquiries 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 inquiring 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 inquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.