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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Sep 25, 2000

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Sep 25 Notes

The Woodies and 4th seeds Lareau/Nestor are in the final .. Cool - just as I predicted in my Sep 15th notes ..

Here is an article by Leander from Sydney, in the India-Today Online yesterday - It Was Tough To Have Come So Far And Lost .. LP talks about Athens again - sounds like pretty much a promise that they will be there .. In a way I think this loss at Olympics has done something good - which is that LP will now stop talking about getting old and about how long he will be playing, etc etc .. After all, he just turned 27 and MB turned 26 .. Playing at 31 and 30 is by no means such a rare thing in doubles .. Woodforde is retiring at age 35 (Saturday was his brithday by the way!) .. Haarhuis is 34 .. Rick Leach is 35 .. Woodbridge is 29 right now (he has been at it since age 19 too) and plans to continue at least another 2-3 years .. True that Leander has had a tough career with close a to a decade of wear and tear, but so has had Woodforde, Woodbridge, Haarhuis etc, who have each had a decade of singles career (top-20 as well) before they became basically full time in doubles for a few years - though they all continued in the top-100 of singles for a while after that too .. But they all planned well, kept their physical fitness up, took breaks when needed and had goals in their career .. One thing that was bothering me for the last year or so was some of what Leander was saying which almost sounded like he expected not to be around for more than a couple more years .. Yes, there is wear on his body, especially die to the style of play he has, but it is tough to say that the beating his body has taken is all that unusual compared to the above players .. In reality though, age is often a mental thing .. If one feels young and wants to continue towards some goals, one can do that for a quite a bit longer .. There clearly seems to be a new set of goals for LP right now .. That includes at least 4 more years! .. LP writes - "I am of course greatly motivated to go to Athens for the 2004 Olympics .. Mahesh and I need each other to be in good physical condition to get there.  So we have to plan both our present and our future carefully. It’s too early to say for sure that we’ll be there in Athens. But that's our goal". The boys are not mincing their words lately either, about being together for that period .. And that is all good news.

Manisha Malhotra is in the main draw entry list for the $25K Saga challenger in Japan .. Niru seems to be not going there .. I will check on whether  she will make it to this week's Santa Clara challenger in California.

Good news from the Setauket USA F22B futures! .. Fazal and Georgio Galimberti won the doubles title there! .. 18 more points to Fazal in doubles .. They beat Joel MacGregor and Nenad Toroman of RSA, 67(5) 75 64 .. Congrats!

The Grade-4 ITF international in Mumbai started today .. Will have score later .. Isha Lakhani and Lata Asudani have pulled upsets of seeds today .. The Maharashtra girls keep on doing it, I guess!

Sep 24 Notes

OK, time to get back to normal tennis news reporting, after a day off for mouning :-) .. The Woodies beat a tough Kucera-Hrbaty team in straight sets to reach the semis at Sydney .. Lareau-Nestor and Adams-DeJager are also in the semis ..

Some good news from Fazal - seeded second, Fazal and Georgio Galimbert have reached the final of the USA 22B futures in Setauket, New York .. In the QF on Friday, they beat Anh Liu and Nicholas Quattrochi of USA 61 62, and then they got a walkover in the semifinals yesterday .. The other semifinal was also not played because the 3rd seeds Ayala-Hirigoyen withdrew with an injury .. So in today's final Fazal-Galimberti play the South African pair, Joel MacGregor and Nenad Toroman .. That pair had upset the top seeds in the first round and beaten Vishal Uppal and Steven Burke in the quarterfinal.

At the Grade-5 ITF international in Chennai, Megha Vakharia won the tile ! .. Here are the news from yesterday -  Girls Final: Megha Vakaria (Ind) bt Pitchaya Laosirichon (Tha) 62 62 .. Boys Semifinal: Ananth Sitaram (Ind) bt R. Arun Prakash (Ind) 61 46 62; Benjamin Xavier (Ind) bt Jaco T. Mathew (Ind) 75 64 .. Doubles: Boys Final: Vinod Kumar Sewa and Harshit Sharma bt Rohan Gajjar and Tejeshwar 75 62; Girls Final: Sasha Abraham and Isha Lakhani bt Samrita Sekar and Preeti Rao 46 64 76(4).

At the US Collegiate claycourts tournament, the first of four tournaments called the "collegiate grand slams", Ajay Ramaswami has reached the final of the consolation bracket (basically those who lose in the first round are put into a draw and play a parallel tournament) .. Pretty good job by Ajay .. Harsh Mankad won the first round, and so did not play the consolation bracket, but he went down in the round of 32 .. On the girls' side, Jahnavi Parekh of Baylor was actually the second seed, but lost in the second round.

Sep 22 Note-3

I was really not in a mood to write much today, but just saw this article by Rohit Brijnath in India Today Online -- what caught my attention was the ending -- .. "And so as the night wore on, and the crowd disappeared, and the empty arena looked ghostly under the neon lights, I asked Leander one final question. Does it pain you, that this is in a sense of your (and Mahesh’s) own making, that this is not a Grand Slam title that will come after another few months, but an Olympics that comes every four years, for which you probably won’t be around for next time in 2004 ... He said nothing. Then he lifted his head and said, “When we returned to the locker room after the match, the first thing we said to each other was, ‘We better stick on together for four more years’. That’s how much we want an Olympic medal”.  They were a great team once. They weren’t today. But it’s gratifying to know they’re willing to run the distance to be a great team again" ...  Well, that's good to hear.

Right now, we will all have to reset, restart, rethink, and get rejuvenated .. Not that this loss was so terribly unexpected .. Just that none of us wanted to believe it would actually happen .. It has happened, and all the dreams have come tumbling down .. Need to move on .. LP's line on four more years gives us something to look forward to .. Well, what needs to be done is pretty clear - they need to regain their erstwhile standing, put this year behind and start all over again .. Starting from becoming 100% healthy first, then planning carefully to keep themselves from burnout and fatigue injuries, regaining what they lost by way of affection and respect from some people, etc .. Then they have to start winning grand slam titles again, and certainly they have to do something to bring India back into the Davis Cup world group by the end of next year, etc, etc .. A lot of what they started have all got prematurely halted and Indian Tennis has taken a lot of steps back this year .. The key is to stay positive .. There is time for righting everything and restart the momentum in Indian tennis .. LP and MB have no time to feel sorry for themselves - if they ever had any ideas of retiring any time soon, that have all gone out the window .. A four year plan till Athens has to be started right now! .. Let us get going.

Sep 22 Note-2

Whichever team could kick it up a notch sometime, was going to win this match .. That is exactly what happened .. There was ONE break point in the whole match, and the Woodies converted that on the Indian Express .. Then they did what was needed in the tiebreaker .. Woodbridge-Woodforde d. Paes-Bhupathi, 63 76(2)

In the first set, India faced a deuce but no break points in game 2 .. It went with serve till the 8th game, when India dropped serve at 30-40 .. .. In the last three games of the set, the Woodies won 12 points to LP-MB's 4 .. In the second set, both teams seemed to be serving well in the first 5 games giving the other team only one point in each game .. In the 6th game, the Woodies had to go through one deuce, but still there was no break chance for our boys .. In the next game, MB slammed down an ace and held serve at love .. In the next game, the Indian Express kept the pressure up, getting the Woodies to 15-30, but once again the Woodies stayed away from trouble and held serve without going to a break point. This set seemed to be a classic duel between these two great teams. At 5-5, each pair had won eactly 26 points each in the set, neither had made a double fault and both had about 12 service winners each .. In the tiebreaker, the Woodies took over, winning 6 points in a row after being down 1-2.

In the final analysis, the Woodies raised the game a notch for two stretches in the match (one for the break in the 8th game of the first set, the other in the tiebreaker), and our pair was unable to do that - it made all the difference .. It took 33 minutes for the first set and 40 for the second .. The Woodies had an incredible 89% first serve percentage in the second set, which was probably a big reason why our pair could not force a break point, despite getting close a couple of times .. We have to tip our hats to the legends for coming in ready to do the best - they were not going to let their career end with a loss to the Indians, and they did exactly what was needed.

By the way, based on some comments in the chatroom after the match, I want to say something .. It will be a very shallow analysis for anybody to claim that this loss was the result of the "split", and "differences". It simply WAS NOT .. Consider this -- IF THEY HAD NEVER SPLIT UP, they would have only played an extra 4-5 weeks together in May-June and perhaps picked up an extra 300 points or so .. Both the layoffs, MB's 5-6 months and LP's 3-4 months layoff were due to injuries (and LP's injury happened in an Mx-D match, which could have happened whether he was playing with MB or not). They would have been in exactly the same situation, unseeded and a bit short on matches, even if they never split up .. The only slight possibility was for them to have done well at French Open together, but that was doubtful as MB was not fully back in shape then (and they would have withdrawn after two rounds due to LP's injury anyway) .. I would blame them (and I had said I would) had they not got back together at the first opportunity after LP recovered .. But they of course got back together .. Chalk this up on two things -- one LP's unfortunate injury at FO, and two, their misfortune in ending up against the Woodies in the draw. Had they been on the other side of the draw, I wouldn't be surprised if they had played this match for the Gold (of course, based on current form, I would think the Woodies would probably still win) .. That is how it goes .. I wanted to write this rightway, because I know there will be "shallow" analyses by everybody that "they dug their graves with ego problems and differences", "they messed it all up for nothing", etc .. When you look at things carefully, you will see that they were helpless about it all -- once again, India is snake-bitten when it comes to Olympics .. Otherwise, why would LP get injured at FO ? [Now, one can make the argument that they would have stayed apart even if LP had NOT got injured, but it is not fair to blame them based on what we think they would have done!]

You know what ? .. Athens comes up in 4 years .. Our pair will not to be too old to win a medal there, by the way! .. They would be roughly Woodies' age by then - let us hope that they would have won 30 more titles and would perhaps be doing what Woodies are trying to do now - retire with a Gold !

Sep 22 Note-1

In retrospect, it was too much for us to expect anything much from the first two Indian women to ever make it to Olympics tennis, and it was of course bad luck that they ended up with the home country's team, who were 6th seeded as well, as though the cards stacked against us had to be any heavier .. Dokic-Stubbs d. Malhotra-Vaidyanathan, 60 60 .. The match took 35 minutes .. Our pair won 18 points to 50 by the opponents .. It seemed like there was nothing MM-NV could do .. The only chance for holding serve even once was in the first game of the second set when Niru was up 30-0 on her serve and then 40-15 .. It still did not happen .. It wasn't like the other pair was serving so many aces or anything (none by them; the only ace was by India at 06 05, trying desperately to hold serve once) .. Our pair also fought off one match point .. That was about all they could do .. 4 Doubles faults in the first set and 1 in the second by India .. This seemed like a total domination job from beginning to end.

Knowing Niru and Manisha, I have no doubt that they are not the ones who would go there to just show up - and I would surely believe that this was a case where they just got totally overmatched. This is definitely the highest ranked team either has ever played .. In fact I wonder if Manisha has ever faced a top-50 doubles player .. I hope they would not let the loss leave themselves badly shattered .. After all, they are the first two women who were ranked high enough to merit an entry .. Some day when our women win a medal in Olympics tennis, we will look back to this match and still say that Nirupama and Manisha were the first to play at Olympics.

Let us hope that revenge on Aussies is the mood in the Indian camp right now .. Our men get a chance to do just that .. In a couple of hours .. Go India !

Sep 21 Note-3

It took a long time for me to find the order of play for Friday .. It's time for the match of this Olympics, folks!  .. Unlike I expected, LP-MB are actually playing Friday there and not Saturday, as I had expected .. That is early morning Friday in the US ..  LP-MB play the last match on center court, which starts at about 9 pm at night (3.30 pm India .. 11 am London, 6 am New York), against ofcourse the #1 seeds Woodies .. But first we have Niru-Manisha playing the 4th and final match on show court 2, at about 5.00 pm (11.30 am India .. 7 am London .. 2 am NY) against the #6 seeds Dokic-Stubbs .. Go Ladies!! .. The chatrooms will be open as usual, and the Olympics.com official site has ball-by-ball score updates for us to follow! .. I guess that gives me a sleepless night .. But this will be fun!

Sep 21 Note-2

At the USA F22B in East Setauket, NY, Fazal lost in the singles first round yesterday, to wildcard Simone Amorico (USA) 26 36 .. This is the same guy who beat Vikrant Chadha in the qualies last week and went on to win a couple of rounds in the main draw as well .. Fazal did win the first round of doubles with Georgio Galimberti of Italy - they beat Marc Silva and Ry Tarpley of USA, 75 63, to reach the QF where they will play wildcards Anh Liu and Nicholad Quatrocchi of USA .. Vishal Uppal has also won the first rund of doubles there, in the company of Steven Berke of USA - they beat Will Farrah and Mike Griesser of USA 64 62 and face 3rd seeds Diego Ayala (USA) and Igancio Hirigoyen (ARG) next .. I am not sure why Vikrant and James Shortall, who won the doubles title in last week's USA F22A futures are not in the draw this week, though.

Sep 21 Note-1

I have not seen the schedule for Friday at Sydney yet, as of 11 pm thursday there .. I assume Niru-Manisha will be playing on Friday.

Hey, my darkhorse team at Sydney, Mirnyi-Voltchkov, whom I had picked to upset the 4th seeds Kulti-Tillstrom (check out my Sep 15 Note-1 below!) did exactly that today .. Straight sets upset of the 4th seeds ..

Finally some scores from the ITF junior grade-5 international at Chennai (courtesy: Deccan Herald -- other newspapers' online editions don't seem to cover this event due to all the Olympics news) .. Results from wednesday -- Girls QF:  Pichaiyah Laosirichon (Tha) bt Ridhina Parekh 76(2) 61, Sania Mirza bt Isha Lakhani 61 36 64, Megha Vakaria bt #4 C Nandita 67(5) 61 61, Liza Pereira bt Lata Asudani 62 46 63 .. Boys PQF: #1 Vinod Kumar Sewa bt Siddarth Sudhakar 60 64, Anant Sitaram bt Chatwinder Singh 61 62, R Arun Prakash bt Deeraj Shetty 63 63, #6 C.S.Mohanty bt C Tejeshwar 64 64, Tara Thanta Sunaniert (Tha) bt #5 Harshit Sharma 36 64 60, Jaco T Mathew bt #3 Amanjot Singh 06 63 63, Benjamin Xavier bt #8 P Ravikrishna 63 75, Somdev Varman bt Nipun Gupta 76(4) 62 .. No big surprises in the QF results in the girls draw .. C.Nandita's results continue to be unpredictable as always, but Megha's win over the 4th seeded Nandita cannot be called an upset - just that Megha has not played as many ITF events to be ranked and seeded .. On the boys' side, Jacco Matthew's upset of 3rd seed Amanjot Singh is notable .. Amanjot also has not had good ITF results for a while actually.   Unseeded Arun Prakash is in the QF now, but I need to find out which seed lost to him in the earlier round .. Will start a page for this event soon in our archives ..

No news yet on how Fazal did in the first round at East Setauket futures (USA F22B) yesterday .. Later today with that and more.

Sep 20 Note-2

Envy Eminem are not scheduled to play on day-7 (thursday) either .. They are getting a few good days to practice there .. They are sure to be playing their first round on Friday .. LP-MB will get two days off and play Woodies on Saturday.

Here is a wonderful article at India-Today Online by the none other than Rohit Brijnath from Sydney, about LP-MB's match .. Our pair was not playing the kind of tennis they used to play, but they were fine when it counted .. There were a few communication mistakes, but mostly their coordination is back in place ..  Their serve has a lost a bit of sting ("it's harder to hold serve for both if us," said Hesh), and the volleys have a shade less of punch ("Lee’s volleys, that once punctuated points like full stops, now are like commas," says Rohit :-)) .. Some excerpts from Rohit - "They may have had 9 break points against them but allowed none to be converted; they had four break points and converted two, confirming they don’t just recognize opportunities, they take them. And for moments here and there, like the sun breaking occasionally through a cloudy sky, they shone brightly, playing well enough to merit a gasp. They also played as well as they needed to. They didn’t have to showboat, or win 6-0, 6-0, or put on a tennis clinic. To beat Pavel and Trifu they brought their B game, A wasn’t required.  Two days later, when the Woodies walk in, it will be tough and they know it.  Said Hesh, “When you’re playing a world class team you better produce a world class game”. Every day they practice, every day, even by a microscopic percentage, they improve. The dancers are finding their steps again. Now the biggest piece in the jigsaw is left. Confidence. To beat the Woodies they must know they are ready to do so. Are they? Said Ramesh Krishnan, “They’ll be on a show court, it will be a big occasion and it will be different”. Meaning, they’ll be a different team" ..

Here is another good article , this by Amit Sharma of Wahindia.com, from Sydney .. He says that MB's shoulder looked fine, but he was struggling a bit fir rhythm .. Actually in the final game, MB had two match points, and then went through a couple of break attempts before finally hitting an ace to finish the match! .. (excerpts) "Yet, despite the form fluctuating, the body language of the two Indians was great. They looked in good spirits, communicated well, and were quick to tell each other who had to rush to the ball. When Mahesh yelled "you", Leander knew he had to go for the lunge at the net ... And if it was Mahesh who had to go for the patent backhand pile drive winner, Leander was loud and clear in conveying it to him. And when the break points were faced, Leander and Mahesh were there, patting each other on the back, or exchanging words to keep each other going. And in better moments when a winner was whacked or an interception made, they either shook hands or did the high fives ... The chemistry is intact and perhaps playing the Woodies in the next round is the catalyst they need. There's nothing like a tough pair across the net, which gets the Indians going. Watch out Woodies!" ..

Here is yet another article on the match, Desire to win drives them to excel, in Kheladi.com by Viswamitra.

LP-MB have been getting some good world press coverage too this time .. Here is an Agencie France Presse (AFP) a couple of days back -- Indians Sound Warning to Woodies/ Crashing the Woodies Party. at CNNSi.com .. Here is one by Marie McInerney that came up at Yahoo.com today, after the doubles first round win -- Indian pair say stage set for Woodies upset .. Actually the Williams sisters, Indian Express and the Woodies are the only teams to get any press coverage so far by the World press.

In other news, At the $15K USA F22B futures at Setauket, New York, Fazaluddin made it into the main draw through qualies .. On Monday, he beat Brendon Gaentner of USA in the final qualifying round (I don't have the score yet) .. In the main draw, he is drawn to face the wildcard Simone Amorico of US in the first round .. Actually Fazal would have made the main draw directly, and I think he had to play qualies probably because he had not entered on time or something .. Vishal Uppal was in the main draw, but lost to Tim Crichton of Australia 36 16 ..

Sep 20 Note-1

The Dynamic Duo had a rather easy win in the first round this evening at Sydney .. M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes d. A.Pavel/ G.Trifu, 63 64 .. I could not follow the match online, but it appears to have been a ho-hum affair, with our guys converting one of two break opportunities each in both sets, and the other guys wasting a few chances .. The first serve percentage for LP-MB was fairly high at about 70 .. The match took an hour and 9 minutes .. This win was expected, but a straight sets win is always nice .. That they did not go through any struggles is a good sign too .. But the big test awaits now .. The match of the doubles draw at this Olympics anyway .. Against the top seeds Woodies in the round of 16 .. I believe that match will be only on Saturday .. So our pair will get some more time for rest and practice .. Watch out Aussies !

Sep 19 Note-2

No repeat of singles heroics from Leander this time, but everybody expected that - considering that he had not played singles for over 4 months .. I too expected a loss, though I always keep hope alive whenever it is Leander we are talking about -- but there are only so many miracles in any man, even in Leander! ..  Tillstrom d. Paes 62 64 just now in the first match on court 5on wednesday 20th .. Basically the rust showed in the first set, as LP got in only an incredibly low 26% of his first serves in .. Add to that 4 doubles faults and just 2 forehand winners, and we had to expect that he wasn't going to get anywhere .. He did force a break on Tillstrom's serve in the only chance he got, but he also got broken three times in 4 of his service game .. Things actually improved very significantly in the second set though, when LP put up a much better fight .. His first serve percentage went up from 26 to 59,  he hit 7 forehand winners and made only a couple of doubles fault .. He broke Tillstrom once, but was still broken two times .. He hit a few more volley winners as well in the second set .. Since the IBM online scoreboard was down, I don't have the break sequence right now .. The match took 59 minutes (24 for first set and 35 for the second)

In about 3 to 4 hours, LP and MB will be out there for doubles .. How they play in this match will be a big indication of what is to come later ..

Sep 19 Note-1

First of all, how about Karnam Malleswari ??  First Indian woman to land a medal at Olympics .. She made the bronze in weightlifting if you haven't heard yet .. Wonderful news from Tuesday at Sydney!

Leander's first round singles match is scheduled for 11 am Wednesday at Sydney (5.30 am India .. 1 am London .. 8 pm Tuesday New York) on court no. 4 .. The first round doubles is also on wednesday - LP and MB play Pavel-Trifu, in the 4th and final match on court 5 .. The doubles match should be starting by 5.30 pm Sydney (12 noon India .. 7.30 am London .. 2.30 am New York), plus or minus an hour .. We will be online in our chatroom - We will hopefully have some score updates during the matches ..

Here is an article by Mahesh Bhupathi at Indya.Com - The chemistry is still there .. He says, "Assuming we get past that (first) match — and I am confident we will — its then the biggest test of all as we will come face to face with the top seeds, Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde. That is a huge hurdle. Obviously as we are unseeded we can have no complaints against the draw. But I really feel all the pressure will be on the Woodies and not on us" .. Yeah, Go Guys ! .. He also says, "A lot of tennis fans have been asking me if the chemistry between Leander and me is what it was before our temporary split .. I can assure you the chemistry is fine; what is needed is more practice. It is really all a matter of confidence" .. I too feel, after talking to both over the last few weeks, that this is not a case of them getting back together out of necessity, as some fans seem to think .. They seem to have truly reconciled their differences after heart-to-heart talks and are fully on the same page .. I knew all along that it was just a metter of time before they would fall back to that basic bond they have with each other - it just took a bit too long for my comfort, that's all .. So don't worry about that at all .. What Hesh says next is important though - "As for the injuries to both of us, let’s face it, we will never be the same again .. Both my shoulder problem, which necessitated surgery and the injury to Leander’s wrist were pretty serious" .. Basically, both have lost a bit of sting on their shots after the injury - and both have admitted this .. They also seemed pretty confident (to me) and not bothered too much abut it, though .. They know all the weapons they have with them, and that comes from strategy and understanding ..  Winning doubles is much more than pure physical power .. Just take a look at Woodies for proof - they have never overpowered anybody .. Don't worry a bit - Lee and Hesh needed some practice to adjust things .. They seem ready now!

Here are a couple of pictures (courtesy - Reuters) from the opening ceremony last friday --- I thought everybody had seen them, but since Bhushan asked in the readers' forum, here they are .. Leander looks cool with that turban and all, eh ?

LP with Indian Flag, Sydney Olympics, Sep15, 2000LP with Indian Flag, Sydney Olympics, Sep15, 2000

The ITF Grade-5 junior international has started in Chennai yesterday .. So far, in the middle of Olympics, no newspaper seems to be covering it .. I will have to try to get results in other ways.

I have not found the score for Fazal's final round qualifying match yesterday at the East Setauket futures in New York yet.

Sep 18 Notes

Leander Paes' singles match is not on the schedule for Sep 19th Tuesday day at Sydney ..

At the $15K USA F22B futures in East Setauket, New York, Fazluddin advanced to the 3rd round of qualies with a 64 61 win over unranked Taric El-Bassiouni of USA .. Fazal had a first round bye in the qualies .. He faces unranked Brendon Gaentner of USA in the qualifying round today.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Sep 18 ..

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.