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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Sep 24, 2001
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Sep 23 Notes

Need to be away for a couple of days - the next update may be as late as on wednesday morning in the US .. The news from the Mumbai ITF juniors will be delayed ..

Nothing much to report today .. Not sure who all will be playing next week .. I have not been in touch with hesh or Lee for a few days to know if they made any quick plans to play anywhere (they were supposed to take the week off after Davis Cup in the original schedule)  - I don't think so .. Niru may be playing at the Albuquerque challenger, but I have not seen any news or draws yet .. Manisha will get back to action only the week after next (at the Fresno challenger) .. The grade-4 ITF junior event in Mumbai starts from tomorrow.

Sep 22 Notes

The "wunderkid" picks ups his first ITF title!! .. 14 yr old 4th seed Karan Rastogi (#208) upset the top seed Rohan Gajjar (#142) today 76(6) 64 .. Isha Lakhani won the girls title, Rebecca Dandeniya of Britian retired ill at 6-7(0-3) .. Isha picked a double crown, following her double title with Megha yesterday .. Here is the match report from Jana (Vijay Kannan's dad - thanks a lot, sir!), who saw the match between Karan and Rohan - both from Mumbai.

The match that lasted almost two hours all through the match Rohan struggled to put his first serves and struggled through out the match committing too many unforced errors.  With the brake in third game Karan marched ahead in the first set for a 4-2 lead, then Rohan with some inspired play was able to even it at 5 all.  From there both held their serve for 6-all and to the tie breaker.  Rohan was comfortably placed in the tiebreaker leading 6-3 with three set points at first.  From then on Rohan's game nose-dived, he lost the first set in the tie breaker and was trailing 1-5 in the second set with some erratic stroke play often hitting the ball long in and attempt to generate more pace.  He seemed to be throwing in the towel when someone in the stands yelled Rohan to make a match of it by fighting.  It must have stirred Rohan a bit - he changed his tactics and started playing rallies with Karan by reducing the pace.  Young Karan was holding a match point in the ninth game at 40-30 on his serve, and another match point on the advantage.  But putting lot of pressure on Karan,  Rohan was able to brake his serve and make it 5-4.  With lot of rallies developing, young Karan was tiring fast.  Finally on Rohan's serve Karan held on grimly with deuce and advantage and finally on his fourth match point he relieved himself the agony of wating for his first major title when Rohan's shot went long over the base line.

Karan's parents were there to watch his sons first major title.  The strong point for Karan as I see it, is his ability to understand the court angles very well and play well within himself whereas Rohan in order to overpower his opponent often erred in overhitting his shots.  Another thing that impressed me most was both of them fought the match in the true sprit of the game.  No questioning of calls in spite of many bad service line calls.  And both of them were chatting with each other as soon as the match was over and Rohan even acknowledged and bowed to his opponents skills in the end.  As I am reporting from my memory, some of the statistics and scores may be wrong.

It seems like these two showed good fight, both making comebacks at various points and fighting at set points and match points .. Rohan seemed to have paid for his mistakes from aggression .. I am fine with that .. It's becoming tentative and timid while losing is what we should be concerned of .. The ones who make mistakes due to aggression normally start getting those shots in, the more and more they play and the more they work hard .. As for Karan, what can we say .. Just 14 years old and he is already up there in ranking.  Karan picks up 40 points and Rohan 30 .. Karan will increases his 6-best point total by 25 to go up to about #125 from #142 - but he has a title and 40 points to defend next week at the grade-4 event in Mumbai .. As for Karan, he will go up to about #150 now .. He has three more years, like Sania, to play in the juniors and hopefully will go up inside top-60 by next year after the Indian sub-continental circuit in Jan-Feb and the eastern circuit in Asia .. He needs to be playing in the grade-1 and grand slam type events for at least 2 years against top-100 and top-50 players .. What his dad said in the interview (link in yesterday's notes) about aiming for top-10 in Juniors before considering pro events is every bit right .. Hopefully by the time he is 17 and 18 he will be ready with proper mental toughness and phyical abilities .. This is all really good news -- Indian tennis is not dead, just yet, folks!

Sep 21 Notes

The last few days I was getting a little cheesed off at seeing the newspaper reports which seemed to be giving the title already to the Swedish kid playing the ITF junior event in Chennai, probably because he was tall and had a power game .. So I was extremely happy to see Rohan Gajjar showing why he was the top seed and beating the 16th seeded Stockler (SWE) today in the semifinals in three sets .. More importantly, Karam Rastogi, who is only about to turn 15 has reached his second consecutive final!.. In the grade-5 final in Syria last month he lost to Anuwat Dalodom (THA,197) .. This time he got revenge, upsetting the second seed in two sets .. He was actually down 2-5 in the first set but came back from there to win 11 of the next 13 games .. In fact, when he lost the final in Damascus to Dalodom, he had said that Dalodom was older with more experience, but that he will win such matches in the futures .. I guess he lived up to his words pretty soon after! .. That is the kind of stuff we always like to see .. The win gives him 30 points and will raise his ranking from #208 to about #160 .. Impressive .. But he will have to get past Rohan Gajjar who is 17 - and he has reportedly never beaten Rohan .. On the girls' side, the player that I have been talking about quite a bit despite her not having played much ITF events (this is only her 3rd event), Isha Lakhani, took out the 2nd seeded Pichaya Laosirichon (THA,119) to reach the final - actually she won in an easy match with "excellent shot-making" (says The Hindu)  .. The top seed Megha went down to Rebecca Dandeniya (GBR) though ..  Megha and Isha won the doubles title upsetting the top seeds Laosirichon and Julianto .. See the Chennai juniors page .. Four Maharashtra kids were in the semis and three of them made the final - not bad eh ?

At around #160, Karan Rastogi will be the only 14 yr old in the world top-200 .. He has come up from near #450 in the last three months .. It will start getting tougher from now on, but a few months back Sania Mirza, who was in a similar situation seemed to keep on going up in ranking while I kept thinking that she might not be able to keep her "nobody younger is ranked above me" status  all the way to #37 .. There are a lot of positive signs about Karan too .. Take a look at this article in the Mid-Day, Mumbai, just last week .. He now has some sort of a deal with IMG and has been to Nick Bollitieri's tennis academy in the US once .. Going to Bollitieri's is not a big deal - quite a few Indians have done that - many just go and see the place, spend some money on some namesake coaching and come back (after all, Bollitier's is a commercial establishment too) -- it's only the good ones whom the coaches there notice - and they seem to have got impressed by him there .. The most important thing that caught my eye was what his dad said about any ideas of aiming for college scholarships - "that would mean cutting down on tennis and making place for academics .. When he has the tennis talent, why not go for it?!!" .. Wow !!!!! .. I hope more parents in India (at least the few well off ones for whom the sky won't come down if the kids' studies are delayed a couple of years) would say something like that .. Hey, times - they are a-changing in India too, though very slowly on this matter.

Amanjot Singh and Nishank Mishra will join for the Mumbai grade-4 event next week .. Here are the seeds according to the PTI today - Boys: Amanjot Singh 1; Rohan Gajjar 2; Nishank Mishra 3; Anuwat Dalodom (THA) 4; Karan Rastogi 5; Jaco Mathew 6; Al Imron (INA) 7; Saurabh Singh 8 .. Girls: Afreen Jahan 1; Anuja Parekh 2; Ashananda Kumar 3; V Bhavna 4; Diana Julianto 5; Divya Gopal 6; Iciri Rai 7; Isha Lakhani 8 .. Those girls seedings looked totally weird .. I was going to frantically look around to see how all those girls suddenly got ranked so high -- then I realized that it was nothing but the alphabetical order of entries .. The last name on that list may actually be Vakharia, who I think is the actual top seed! .. PTI just goofed up! .. News agencies around the world seem to do this kind of stuff (AP and AFP are just as bad!).

Sep 20 Notes

The two guys I hoped would be in the semifinals - 17 yr old Rohan Gajjar and 14 yr old Karan Rastogi - did reach the SFs at Chennai grade-4 ITF event today (thursday) .. They will face Dominic Stockler (SUI) and Auwat Dalodom (THA) in the semis .. Actually, the second seeded Anuwat is the one that Karan lost to, in the final at the Damascus (SYR) grade-5 ITF event 6 weeks back .. On the girls side, I expected Diana Julianto (INA) to give a bit more trouble to Isha Lakhani .. Not really .. The 11th seeded Isha easily upset the 4th seed Diana .. Megha beat Sasha to reach the SF to .. Megha and Isha will face Rebeca Dandeniya (GBR) and Pichaya Laosirichon (THA) respectively .. I think all four Indians in the semis have realtively tough matches in the SFs .. See the Chennai juniors page.

Sep 19 Note-2

Nothing too exciting at the ITF Grade-4 event in Chennai today - most of the top seeds are all alive and it will get interesting from now on, as we have reached the QFs .. 4th seed Jacco Mathew got upset by the very tall (6 ft 5 in) Swiss player Dominic Stockler - who is ranked low in ITF but is reportedly #4 in Switzerland .. Big, tall, foreign power players still seem to give trouble to our kids .. R. Arun Prakash (7th seed) got upset by an unseeded Thai player, Natapong Ponkunsub who seems to be looking good there - Natapong will face 3rd seed Karan Rastogi next .. The Deccan Herald says that Somdev Dev Varman upset the 2nd seed Anuwat Dalodom (THA), but The Hindu gives some details on Dalodom winning - I will confirm tomorrow who won .. Somdev, who has done well recently in the domestic junior events, had troubled Dalodom in a 3-set loss earlier this year at Delhi too .. On the girls' side, Isha Lakhani upset the 8th seed Nandita Chandrasekhar, which is not really an upset - 16 yr old Isha is reportedly quite talented with a very fired-up fist-pumping energetic style of play .. My favorite player (purely because she is from my home state - anybody who comes out of the tennis wasteland that Kerala has been, deserves credit!), Sandra Sasidharan has reached the QF .. 13 yr old Sanaa Bhambri gave Diana Julianto (4th seed) of Indonesia, a pretty good player, a run for the money in a three-set loss .. Isha against Diana tomorrow should be a good match .. Megha and Sasha have quietly reached QF too .. Incidentally, I just realized that Nishank Mishra, one of our top-ranked juniors for next year (he will turn 18 next year) is not playing this event - not sure why .. See the Chennai Juniors page.

Sep 19 Note-1

Nothing much happening in tennis, except for the ITF grade-4 event in Chennai .. So far, no big surprises there .. Check the Chennai juniors page, where I update the scores first as soon as I find out .. Yesterday, Sandra Sashidharan pulled a big upset of the 6th seed in the grild draw, Maya Rosa of Indonesia who is a pretty talented player .. On the boy's side the draw has reached the final-16 stage with all top seeds doing fine so far .. Top seed Rohan Gajjar had a tougher than expected second round match.

The Davis Cup dates are fixed - so there is nothing to the confusing reports over the weekend in the Indian newspapers .. ITF had another press release today that the draw for next year will have to be delayed till after the IND-USA tie on Oct 12-14 .. The Coliseum ticket office in Winston-Salem also told me that it will be during Oct 12-14th and that they will honor the current tickets (also that they will refund those tickets returned by October 1st - hopefully there won't be too many Indians cancelling!).

Sep 18 Notes

I am still catching up on some of the newspaper stories from the last week .. Actually the Deccan Herald had a couple of good articles on the World Doubles Championship matter -- here are all the details on where things were, as of Saturday - KSLTA ponder over dates .. It describes all the work put in by Bhupathi Sr and Vijay Amritraj to get the original dates (Nov 7-11) postponed to by a week (Nov 14-18), including even agreeing to forgo ATP's $150K subsidy for the event (that sounds brutal, but hats off to the organizers for going the extra mile for even that!) .. Also, players like Bjorkman and Woodbridge were supposedly not happy about the change of dates .. Now it seems possible to move it back to the original dates after the postponement (cancellation?) of the AA-Games, but according the Sunday's Deccan Herald, KSLTA has to get Dordarshan's TV coverage changed to the earlier dates as well .. KSLTA secretary Sunder Raju said they were in the process of finding the sponsors too .. Anyway, ATP was waiting for a final word by Sunday but Krishna Bhupathi was hoping for two more days (till today) to decide things .. Hopefully everything is working out well.

The AA-Games was a bad idea and I don't know how the Indian government decided to do it with just some 5 months of planning - the sports politicians royally botched it up with no planning and went crying to the Prime Minister when all hell broke loose, and he was forced to make the final decision that we had to go forward with it ..  Once again the WDC organizers deserve kudos for all the hardwork they put in to help the AAG plans by getting WDC postponed .. It helps that AAG is off the calendar now, and hopefully WDC will be conducted during the earlier dates without any penalty from ATP.

Sep 17 Notes

Not much happening as LP, MB, Niru, Fazal, and everybody else are basically taking this week off .. Karishma Patel was at the $25K Glasgow challenger qualies in UK and won a round over Katie Miles (UK), 64 60, before losing in Q2 to the 6th seed Caroline Raba (GER) 36 16.

Though the postponed Davis Cup dates were announced on Thursday evening in the US to be Oct 12-14, there was an interesting news report in Saturday's Telegraph (Calcutta) talking about some confusion about the dates .. That surprises me, as ITF London had a press release which said that Oct 12-14 were the date, on Friday afternoon in London .. Perhaps the newspaper filed the article before that .. The article said, "AITA secretary Anil Khanna, who is in Cancun to attend the ITF annual general meeting, will get back to his American counterparts after consulting the Indian players about their choice" ... The article said this - According to Leander, the most suitable dates would be November 9-11 .. “The Afro-Asian Games (November 3-11) are off, so that would be a perfect date,” said the Indian No. 1 from Mumbai ... Something seems odd about all this - as I know that Mahesh was also unsure, as of late Thursday evening in the US what the new dates would be .. I was surprised to find the dates announced as final by USTA and ITF by thursday night and Friday .. Oct 12-14 are the worst date they could have picked from the players' standpoint .. US players like Roddick are required to play the Stuttgart Masters within 2 days after the Davis Cup too - and that will be tough for him as well .. Did somebody mess up, or did the USTA jump the guns and announce the dates even before the Indian players could give their input? --- I will try to find out, but I think the dates are final.

The Telegraph article also said that ATP had announced on thursday (this missed my attention in the middle of the terrorist events) that the World Doubles Championship had just been postponed by a week to Nov 14-18 but that the tournament director Bhupathi might probably like original dates itself, if possible - now that the A-A games are postponed .. This is the first time in a while that I have heard anything about the WDC -- for a while I was fearing that some sponsorship problem might be leading to cancellation of the event or something .. Good to see that things are still on track .. AITA took some ridicule when they said somewhat confidently that they will try to get ATP to change the WDC dates - when Afro-Asian games came into the picture, with dates clashing with WDC .. There were worries that ATP wouldn't change the calendar which is supposedly "set so far in advance" (that is all boloney .. we all give these "international" organizations way too much credit sometimes!) .. I guess if we are the only ones who can conduct the event, we are the kings and what we say goes -- it's time India started dealing with things with that kind of self-assurance .. So I give AITA, Bhupathi Sr, etc credit for standing up and asking for a date-change, standing by the national decision to hold the A-A-Games .. But I am sure Bhupathi Sr lost some sleep over the whole issue, though .. Will find out soon how things are shaping up for the WDC.

The ITF grade-4 junior event has started in Chennai .. A few foreign kids did arrive .. Top seed Amanjot Singh was unable to leave from the US and reach for this though .. No big surprises today and most seeds advanced - see the Chennai juniors page.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Sep 17 ..

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.