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Indian-Tennis: Daily News for the 2 weeks ending on Sep 22, 2008
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Sep 22 Notes

At the $576K Bangkok ATP qualies, Rphan Bopanna had a good upset win in the first round over the 7th seed, but could not get past the 3rd seed in the second and final qualies .. [Q1] Rohan Bopanna (IND,355) d. (7) Mikhail Ledovskikh (RUS,263) 76(5) 67(2) 75 .. [Q2] l. (3) Lukas Dlouhy (CZE,166) 26 62 64 .. Rohan and Aisam Qureshi face Leander and Dlouhy in the first round of doubles .. Rohan's singles career has really been getting affected by his playing doubles at the ATP level, as his singles rank is much lower than his #51 doubles rank.

There were two ITF junior grade-5 (the entry level grade) events in India the last two weekss - at Chennai and at Hyderbad .. Both the titles on the girls' side were won by Nimisha Mohan of Karnataka, who has shown terrific consistency .. Nimisha has always been hurt a bit by the fact thats she was born on Dec 30th and was up to a year younger than others at all age levels .. Hope these events helps her make a late push in her junior career .. The boys' events were won by Saurabh Singh in the Chennai week and Digvijay S. Mehta in the Hyderabad week .. Saurabh is our #2 in the u16 junior Davis Cup team behind Yuki and Digvijay is our #2 behind Ronit Bisht in the u14 team that finished #3 in the world .. Great to see these two boys making their first moves in the junior ranks .. Saurabh had to leave for Mexico late last week to join the junior Davis Cup team in the world finals, and so he only played the Chennai week .. Digvijay had to play three rounds of qualies and 6 rounds of main draw for 9 wins in a row - which is tremendous for a boy of his age! .. With the 60 pts from the two events, 16 year old Nimisha has raised her point total to 71 pts and her ranking from somewhere below 1400 to #560 .. 15 year old Saurabh has moved up to #431 and 13 year old Digvijay who turned 14 only last month, gets his first points and ranking to move to #909 .. Good job by them all ..

Sep 21 Notes

Here are the scores of the Davis Cup tie ..

Prakash Amritraj (IND,222) l. Victor Crivoi (ROU,158), 57 75 26 26
Somdev K Dev Varman (IND,242) l. Victor Hanescu (ROU,67) 36 16 06
Leander Paes/ Mahesh Bhupathi d. Adrian Cruciat/ Horia Tecau, 64 76(0) 64
Victor Hanescu (ROU) d. Prakash Amritraj (IND) 62 63 61
Victor Crivoi (ROU) d. Somdev K. Dev Varman (IND) 46 75 63

The first day went with Prakash showing that his out and out serve and volley was not all that ineffective on the red clay .. He later said that he himself was surprised at that, and now wants to use the experience to help himself prepare for Roland Garris next year.   That actually made me wonder why he did not listen to all of us in the fan club (including some who text him, etc) who had asked him for such a long time to get on the clay and play some .. Kash was up a break in the first set and then let Crivoi come back from 2-5 down to take the set, thanks to a whole bunch of errors as he got over aggressive to close the set .. Just when we thought P$ had been figured out by Crovoi and his aggressive style had been negated, Kash made a comeback from a break down in the second to to even things up.  Unfortunately, Prakash could not comtinue that any further, as a small cramps problem also hampered him in the final two sets ..

The second match between Hanescu and Somdev was a bit of surprise.  From all accounts, Somdev played his heart out and stayed in many a rallies, but invariably losing the points against a Hanescu who played "simply unvelievable" tennis to hit winners left and right that a scrambling Somdev could not handle.  Obviously, Hanescu had done his homework after seeing Somdev last week in Bucharest and knew that the only way to beat him would be to go for your winners and hit them because he won't do too many things to beat himself if you keep sparring with him.   This is something Somdev needs to work on - that is, how to stay in the game when the players get deteremined not to allow his own frusntratingly accurate game to get into their heads and decide to go after him aggressively .. SKD will learn that transition game and about adding more aggressio in his own game (in terms of mixing things up and moving to the net etc) after some more matches on the pro tour, especially on surfaces like grass.  Anyway, the bottom line in the second match was that Hanescu was ready and not missing his winners.  He hit an astonishiing 50 odd winners.  In fact SKD only took less that 7 or 8 points on Hanescu's serve too - Hanescu is some 6 ft 6 inches tall.  Chalk up that loss to an extreme "match-up" disadvantage for Somdev, in terms of Hanescu's strengths on clay.  A win was not expected, though we thought SKD had a 30% chance .. But we did not expect Hanescu to get on top of Somdev so well.

The doubles on day-2 was done in troutine fashion with LP-MB doing their thing, doing just enough to raise their game to take the sets, and as usual toying with the opponents and letting them take a few games etc ..  And we were now in a final day with hrdly much of a chance but a flicker of a hope that perhaps Kash's "other extreme" style might trouble Hanescu.  No chance there either.  Kash was able to take a few more point than Buji against Hanescu with his serve-volley chip-charge game which disrupted Hanescu's rhythm more than SKD's game, and he managed to hold serve a couple more times, but the tie was gone as everybody expected.

The final match against Crovoi was one that Somdev could have taken, and he was up 64 54 and serving for the match.   His one and only double fault of the match and a couple of net points by Crivoi who changed up strategies on him, changed the whole thing .. Somdev was again unable to handle an opponent who suddenly got a second wind of confidence (or simply the "I have nothing to lose, I am going to go after him" attitude, which is what Somdev sometimes find tough to counter with a treansition game of aggression from himself - something he has to learn on the tour soon) .. This is what is particualrly troublesome in Davis Cup - in that, the players simply do not give up easily, with the team and captain egging them on - while the success of Somdev's style of tennis often requires people to mentally doubt themselves! .. Anyway, SKJD was down 0-5 in the third with Crivoi playing some good aggressive tennis (he came to the next about 18 times in match and won a majority of those points, as he figured out it was difficult to get aggressive from the baseline against Somdev) .. Somdev did not give up either .. The game fighter that he is, he broke Crivoi and made it interesting in the end, but the match was over soon.  

On the one hand, we feel sad for Somdev for having put his heart and soul into the tie, for having done all preparation like a professional doing his duty for the country - but not coming out with enough to show for it.  Don't worry, Somi, we appreciate all you did.  It is just that a few more things need to be done in your game, which we are confident you will do with a bit more experience at the higher levels of the tour, and we hope you will become the Davis Cup player for whom we have been waiting, for a long time - somebody who can consistently beat top-100 players.

I could comment on other things like captain SP Mishra, perhaps his expected lack of effectiveness, as he was in his first tie as captain, etc etc ... but let us  not waste anymore time on all that.  The comments from him in the post-game interview show him as one who handled his job fine - calm and dignified - though without showing anything extra that a "shrwed captain" could have shown .. Sadly, that may have been needed to win this tie.  Can't blaem SPM though - after all, it was AITA who selected him to prevent all the factional issues breaking out again, and he did not make any situation worse.   Let us get back home and work on getting back to the playoff from the Asian region next year.  With Somdev also with us, with Prakash now established as a top-notch grass player at home, and RB always there for the right surface and match ups - I will expect things to be a bit easier in Asia now.

Sep 19 Note-1

The Davis Cup matches start at 12 noon in Bucharest with Prakash taking on Adrian Cruciat (Edit - well, the davis cup site and news organizations said this when the draw came out but it was later changed to Crivoi.  Some mistake, I assume) .. The matches are being telecast on Neo Sports in India ..  We will be meeting in our chatroom during the matches and there will be running commentary too .. Come on in, everybody!!

Sep 18 Note-2

In tour news, Sunitha Rao gave a massive fight to the third seed
Mariana Duque-Marino (COL,108) but fell 36 64 46 today at the $75K Albuquerque challenger .. At the $50K Todi challenger in Italy, Harsh Mankad and Purav Raja fell in the doubles QF to the 4th seeds Paolo Lorenzi and Giancarlo Petrazzuolo of Italy, 62 46 (4-10).

Quite a few of our girls were at the $25K Karshi challenger in Uzbekistan and picked up a win or two and some good points this week .. Ankita Bhambri made the quarterfinal, which was nice to see .. Here are the scores - [R1] (3) Isha Lakhani (IND,333) d. (Q) Diana Narzikulova (UZB,NR) 61 62 .. Ankita Bhambri (IND,566) d. Ima Bohush (BLR,516) 63 75 .. Sanaa Bhambri (IND, 523) d. Sabina Sharipova (UZB,NR) 60 63 ..(Q) Parija Maloo (IND,708) d. (Q) Shahdozaxon Hatamova
(UZB,NR) 64 26 64 .. Prerana Mythri (IND) l. Nicole Clerico (ITA,503) 46 36 .. [R2] (3) Isha Lakhani (IND,333) l. Lesya Tsurenko (UKR,458) 26 36 .. Ankita Bhambri (IND,563) d. Ekaterina Dranets (RUS,512) 36 61 63 .. Sanaa Bhambri (IND, 523) l. Nicole Clerico (ITA,503) 36 16 .. (Q) Parija Maloo (IND,708) l. (2) Pemra Ozgen (TUR,326) 57 16 .. [QF] Ankita Bhambri (IND,563) l. Lesya Tsurenko (UKR,458) 46 67(2) .. See our thread on the tournament for all scores.

Sep 18 Note-1

The draw was done at Bucharest today .. #1 Kash vs #2 Cruciat in the first match,  #2 Somi vs #1 Hanescu .. Then Cruciat/ Tecau vs IndianExpress on day-2 ..

In other news, the Indian women #2 Sunitha Rao (IND,176) is back in action this week at the $75K Albuquerque challenger in New Mexico (USA) .. She started with a good win yesterday - 76(6) 64 over Betina Jozami (ARG,184) .. Up next is the third seed Mariana Duque-Marino (COL,108) - a talented 19 year old who is ather career high ranking after making it to the US Open mai draw as a lucky loser and upsetting Tamarine Tanasugarn to reach the second round.  Sunitha did not do that well in doubles this week in the company of a new partner Tetiana Luzhanska (UKR) - they went down in a close match 46 67(4) to Maria-Fernanda Alves (BRA) and Augustina Lepore (ARG) .. SR plays the singles R2 today at about 1.30 pm.

Harsh Mankad and Purav Raja are in the main draw of doubles at the $50K Todi challenger in Italy .. They won the first round in a comeback, 26 75 (10-6), over Farrukh Dustov (UZB) and Nicko Karagiannis (GRE) on Tuesday and play the QF today against the 4th seeded Italians Paolo Lorenzi and Giancarlo Petrazzuolo .. Earler this weekend, Purav lost in the singles qualies first round and Harsh retired at 3-3 in the Q1 due to an ankle injury which looked worse at first .. It turned out to be just a sprain and he was able to play doubles after a couple of days of rest.  Both had gone down in the Q2 of singles qualies at the Orleans challenger in France last week and had missed the doubles draw narrowly.

A late update on what happened at the $15K India F7 last week .. One good young player - Prajnesh Gunneswaran - did enough to catch everyone's attention in an otherwise lackluster event for indian players ..Only GP Prajnesh reached the SF .. 18 year old Prajnesh had actually caught our attention 4 weeks back as he qualified into a futures in Spain on clay with three wins and then pulled an upset to reach the QF and pick up his first 3 ATP points .. Now he has picked up 6 more pts and will crack the top-1000 next week .. Prajnesh upset the 5th seeded Ashutosh Singh in a 76 57 76 match in the first round and had an even bigger upset in the QF where he got past the 2nd seed Yuichi Sugita  (JPN,469) 76(4) 64 before falling to the 7th seed Aqeel Khan in the SF .. Prajnesh was always considered a talented player but he had not created any big waves in the juniors though he was often in the AITA top-10 rankings .. He seems to have taken a noticeable "next step" lately .. I believe he is showing the fruits of some help from the Tamil Nadu Tennis Assoiciation which has sponsored some good TN players to go to Spain for coaching/ training .. Rupesh Roy and Sunil Kumar reached the QF along with PC Vignesh and went down - and that was about it, for other Indians.  I really hope that the ultra-talented Sunil Kumar, still not too old at 25, to somehow break out of the worst funk and slump of his career - but we have to wait more for that it seems.

Sep 17 Note-2

The Davis Cup draw comes out today and we have been having some long discussions on strategies in our Davis Cup thread .. Most of the "strategizing" revolves around the fact Prakash has played just one claycourt match in his whole career and none at all on European red clay even in his junior days! .. He lost 46 46 to #267 Alex Kuznetsov on clay at the San Luis Potosi challenger in Mexico in March this year .. Before that his only pro clay match was a 06 36 loss when he was a kid in 2001 and playing a satellite round - his third match as a pro - at, of all places, Thiruvananthapuram .. Well, that was just some funny sandy stuff we call clay in India - far from the red dirt in Europe .. Wewere all aghast in march as he decided to play in Mexico .. One of our forumites, Arun (amr090) even messaged Kash in Mexico and he said he went there because he had nothing else to do that week and needed to pay somewhere as he was coming back from a long injury break .. So he went and had fun "slippig and sliding oall over the place" as he said (check out our forum discussion on this, with some of us about to keel over and die of shock at P$ getting his feet "dirty") ..

On the other hand, our #2 player, ranked 20 spots behind Kash at #242, the "prince of tripura" Somdev Dev Varman, is the best clay court player we have had since Ramesh Krishnan .. He already has top-50 and a few top-100 wins on clay, as recently as his win 10 days back against #87 Volandri at the Bucharest ATP qualies ... And he had lost 76(2) 26 57 in the Bucharest first round, fighting all the way to the wire to #18 Almagro of Spain, who is this year's French Open quarterfinalist and a legitimate top-8 quality claycourter in the world .. He forced the Romanian newspapers to write articles on him, as they were understandably concerned that India may not be the usual clay worms after all ..

On top of that, Romanian tennis itself is in a bit of a mess right now, as their backbone player, 34 year old Andrei Pavel is too old and injured to play now (he has effectively retired as of a couple of months back) .. As though that wasn't enough, their top doubles player, Florin Mergea (incidentally somebody Somdev took to the woodshed in a 62 61 murder in last week's qualies) twisted his ankle badly in a doubles match last week and is out .. They are left with #67 Victor Hanescu, #158 Victor Crivoi and #170 Adrian Cruciat for singles and doubles specialist Horia Tecau (#93 doubles) in their team.  In yet another twist, Hanescu himself lost in the first round in last week's Bucharest ATP and complained of being "strangely very tired" and unsure why he was tired etc.

Now the question is on how to optimize our chance to win this tie ..  In my view, the best option would be to hold back Prakash on day-1 and try to get Somdev to play #1 for us, which would mean he will play Hanescu only on day-3 with a better chance to upset him when he is more tired ..  Even if SKD fails to upset Hanescu and only beats their #2 (which has a 75% chance in my view), I feel that there was a better chance for Kash or even LP to try to upset their #2 on day-3 with a lot more pressure on them (and Kash also known to raise his game a lot more when he is counted on to produce something) .. So to make this all happen, we will need somebody other than Kash to go and tank a match as our #2 on day-1 .. Who better than Mahesh to do this? .. I would send in Mahesh and SKD on day-1, get the tie at 1-1, then win the doubles to go ahead 2-1 and finally have Somdev
go after Hanescu and Kash (or LP) have a go at their #2 on the final day when the pressure really mounts on Romania.    Can our new captain SP Mishra show the guts to pull this off ..  No chance :) ... May be he would do it in a later tie but not in his very first outing as captain .. But we can always discuss, no? -- after all that is waht we armchair sports analysts do!

By the way, captain Ramesh Krishnan has indeed done this once .. In Australia in 2002, he pulled back our #1 player Rohan and got Leander, who happened to be justahead of Harsh in ranking just that week, to play #1 .. So he sent in Harsh to play Hewitt, hoping for LP to try and upset their #2 Arthurs.  It didn't work, as we lost 0-5 in the tie, but the gamble to maximize our chances was indeed worth trying.

I am just sayin ... But no, it won't happen.  We will ask Kash to simply go out and try to beat their #2 on day-1.    Who knows - Kash might justtuirn out to be pretty good after a whole week of practice on clay out there.  Let us hope for that.

Sep 17 Note-1

Ooh ... Sorry to disappear for a few days .. I thought I had updated a quick two-liner that I would be gone for a few days after SKD lost an impressive 2.5 hour threesetter against one of the top-10 claycourtersin the world, at the Bucharest R2 last monday, and not much tennis was going on with virtually all the players off the tour for a few days .. It seems like I did not upload that note to the right place for you to see that I would be gone!! .. Yeek.  Sorry.

Anyway, no damage done, as I will give a round up on what happened .. and let us start with the Davis Cup starting Friday in Romania!!

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.

.. Previous news are at 
Notes for the weeks ending on Sep 08, 2008 ..

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