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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Oct 1, 2001
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Oct 1 Notes

Mahesh is playing with Jeff Tarango (USA) this week, at the $1M Kremlin Cup ATP in Moscow .. They play Eagle-Florent in the first round .. Unusually strong doubles field at Moscow actually, with Johnson-Palmer, Novak-Rikl, Mirnyi-Stolle and Black-Ullyett seeded 1 through 4th .. Teams like Bryan-Bryan, Pala-Vizner, Eagle-Florent, Freeira-Kafelnikov, Damm-Prinosil, Hill-Knowles, Nestor-Zimojic, Adams-Garcia, etc, are also there - as strong a field as a Masters series event .. I think Mahesh will be playing on wednesday - actually I think Tarango and Hesh would be a pretty tough team.

Fazal and Manisha were in action over the weekend in challenger qualies .. Manisha had won one round on Saturday, over Kati Kocsis (USA), 64 62, and was to face Annica Cooper yesterday .. Manisha is still being borthered a bit by her shoulder, though she had taken a few weeks off - hopefully she will get better soon .. Fazal won one round at the $50K chellanger in Tulsa (Oklahoma) beating Josh Cohen (USA), 64 63, before falling to the 6th seed in the qualies, Jeff Coetzee (RSA,395), 67(5) 57 .. In the doubles main draw, Fazal is playing with Andrew Painter of Australia, and they are drawn against the second seeds, Mardy Fish and Jeff Morrison (USA) ..

Sep 30 Notes

The college tennis season started this weekend officially, in the US .. Harsh Mankad has started on a very promising note, upsetting the #8 player in college, Andrew Park of the USC (Univ of Southern California) in a 67 63 62 comeback yesterday .. He had also beaten the #36 player Balacz Veress of Cal-Berkeley on Friday .. Harsh is ranked #22 in the preseason rankings and he looks to move up into the top-20 now .. Prakash Amritraj has also started playing for USC, and was at the same invitational .. Mankad had originally thought of taking this semester off and testing the pro circuit full-time, after he won the Canadian futures this summer .. He later decided against it, as he felt that he still had some more things to improve on which he can do, playing college tenis .. In my view, he has enough now to go up into the ATP top-400 if he plays full-time, but the 3 or 4 losses he had in the summer in close matches against certain kinds of players showed him that he has some specific items to work on before he is ready to look for top-250 or higher ranking - primarily developing some more accuracy in "money shots" he can go to, to win close matches against the grinders he faces in the 300-500 range of ATP .. Of course he still needed to lift weights and generally improve a bit more on the power department .. He has been doing some focused training at Minnesota over the last few weeks .. Looking at the results this weekend, things look good .. Harsh's best quality is that he analyzes his tennis carefully and is dead-serious about improving, with focussed goals .. He is one of the few Indian players who do not take things lightly (you know, the "chalta hai" attitude) and he does not let anything distract him once he sets his mind on some goals .. His only "problem" is that he does not know how to take academics lightly to get by (:-)), either .. He is a 3.8 GPA student as well - and that is no mean achievement in a good academic school like Minnesota, majoring in economics!.. Harsh said that he will be going to North Carolina next Saturday to prepare with the team.

Harsh also said that Leander will be getting to Florida sometime this week and will be practising for 3-4 days before going to North Carolina next weekend .. Fazal and MB will join there .. I believe Mustafa is also on his way to Orlando - he will be with LP for a couple of days before going to NC next weekend.

No updates on the Roddick injury situation .. I think his leg injury is perhaps not serious enough to keep him out of the Davis Cup lineup.

Sep 29 Notes

At Mumbai, 11th seed Isha Lakhani won her second grade-4 ITF title in a row, beating the 3rd seed Rebecca Dandeniya (GBR,147) in straight sets .. See the Mumbai juniors page .. Isha picked up 40 more points for 80 total which will raise her rank to about #250 .. She had not played any other ITF events this year, since playing the Mumbai and Chennai events last year and reaching the QFs .. Actually I think she is the only one in the ITF top-300 rank list who has played only two events in a year! .. Had she played the subconstinental circuit early this year, she may have been much higher ranked and would have been selected to travel with the Indian junior team to the Asian circuit (probably instead of Ankita Bhambri then) - I believe she had to take care of some school exams .. She has two more years in the juniors and seems to be going all out these days .. She said she will be going on the Asian circuit in the next couple of months.

On the boys side, Karan Rastogi was overmached against Dominic Stockler of Switzerland .. Dominic reportedly was not allowing any rallies to develop, at the instructions of his coach, as everybody knows by now that Karan will simply not make mistakes in retrieving and returning - overpowering him before he can get any rallies going, would be the only way to beat him .. Incidentally Rohan Gajjar (who beat Dominic in the semis last week, before falling to Karan in the final) may have been the only one with the shots and powers to beat Dominic according to the news reports, but Karan had beaten him in the semis .. In Karan's case, he needs to develop a bit more power in the next 3 years of junior play when he grows up (he turns 15 only next week!) - but he has the proper fundamentals, court craft and temperament and is starting the right way ..

The last two weeks of junior tennis has been quite promising, and it is good to see that Isha, Kartiki, Karan and Rohan are all moving along nicely with the program .. The only disappointment was Megha Vakharia not doing much (actually her results this whole year have not shown much imporvement from last year) and Nishank Mishra not being able to play the two events ..  Rohan, Isha, etc are all planning to travel to the Asian circuit in Malaysia, Thailand, and Brunei for grade-3 and grade-4 events starting October 15th, before playing at the big grade B2 Asian closed event in Delhi in early December .. There seems to be very good understanding among the current group of Indian kids about starting early on the junior circuit and getting as much of international exposure into modern tennis early, before moving to the pro circuits .. That's the right way to go .. Isha, Karan, Kartiki, etc, have a lot of time - but Rohan may need to hurry up a bit, as he will be in his last year of juniors next year .. 17 yr old Rohan has been playing the junior circuit seriously for over a year now and may be ready to move to the next level inside the top-100 (hopefully much higher) .. All he may need is to improve his shot accuracy and learn to play error-free while being aggressive - all reports about his "tools" are positive.

Sep 28 Note-2

I think Mahesh and Navarra lost the QF today at Palermo, 26 36 to the 4th seeds, Hood-Prieto at the Palermo (Sicily, Italy) ATP in a late night match .. Did not expect much at Palermo, and it's good that MB got some match practice to stay in shape .. He may be going to Moscow this coming week before coming to the US next weekend to practice for the Davis Cup.

Also, a correction from the earlier report - the PTI news report from the Mumbai junior ITF event, which was reported by a couple of newspapers seems to have been a mistake .. Karan Rastogi actually beat Rohan Gajjar by the score of 64 36 62, and did not lose to him - as I reported based on PTI .. As the match details are in The Hindu, I will go by that .. Here is what they said, "Second seed Gajjar called the shots for a major part of the first set, only to fritter away big points through unforced errors. Fourth seed Rastogi cashed in on two service breaks to start off on a positive note ... Gajjar is a gifted player, possessing a far better range of weapons than his smaller rival. The difference in class was evident as the second set progressed, the lanky second seed setting up winners at will, picking up points with forceful crosscourt forehands winners. However, the battle between these two players of contrasting styles evened out in the decider with Rastogi retrieving everything coming across the net ... A disturbed Gajjar tried all sorts of things to throw his determined rival off track, mixing up shots, changing the pace of rallies and even resorted to hit his way out of trouble, but Rastogi's faith in his returning abilities was unshakeable. The match lasted one hour, 53 minutes" ... Hmmm, these two played another good match .. I am sure Rohan is a bit rattled now, but the important thing for a player is to not let it affect the confidence and to keep doing what you are doing -- Rohan is a solid, tall, well-built 17 yr old with a powerful all-court game; getting battle-toughened through such matches is what will make him a player .. As for Karan, what can we say - the kind of stuff that he does has to be coming from inborn talent; to make stronger, older and more experienced players get frustrated like this requires tremendous court sense and craft that must be a natural gift .. Nonetheless, reportedly he may need to work on physical strength .. He is only 14 and will grow a bit more - right now he is not a big-built player .. He has time to focus on brutal hardwork (absolutely nothing else will work!) to make himself into the kind of physical player he needs to become in 3-4 years .. The tennis talent and the mental strengths are there for everybody to see .. It's quite something to reach three finals in a row at his age! 

Sep 28 Note-1

Mahesh and Mose Navarra play a late night QF match today on the center court at the Palermo ATP .. The official site, has a webcam that shows the centre court scoreboard .. Check that out for scores - the match starts at about 10 pm (4 pm New York, 1.30 am India).

Manisha Malhotra and Samantha Reeves lost in the first round of doubles at the $75K Albuquerque challenger to Jennifer Hopkins and Allison Bradshaw, 36 16 .. She will be playing at the Fresno challenger in California next week.

At Mumbai, there were some competitive semifinals today .. Rohan Gajjar got revenge on the younger Karan Rastogi for the loss in the final last week .. Rohan won 46 36 62 today to reach the final against Dominic Stockler .. Isha Lakhani finally dropped a set, but advanced upsetting the 4th seed Diana Julianto of Indonesia .. Young Kartiki Bhat's nice run in her first ITF event ended in a well-played and hard-fought match that went the distance - 75 46 46 loss to Rebecca Dandeniya of Britain .. See the Mumbai juniors page.

Sep 27 Note-2

I guess Mahesh wanted to get away from all the doom and gloom in New York and hit the courts .. I just found out that he is actually playing at the $400K ATP in Palermo, Sicily, in Italy [Thanks, Kim Das, for alerting me - I had glanced at the Palermo draw earlier this week, but did not catch MB's name, as I was just not expecting him there!]  .. Mahesh is playing doubles with his old pal, Mose Navarra of Italy .. They got a wildcard and won their first round today! .. [R1] (wc) M.Bhupathi/ M.Navarra d. (wc) Frederico Luzzi (ITA)/ Andreas Vinciguerra (SWE), 64 63 .. In the quarterfinals tomorrow, they play the 4th seeds Mariano Hood and Sebastian Prieto of Argentina .. Good that he will get some match practice this week and next, before Davis Cup .. I wish Leander had also played a bit before Davis Cup, especially singles - the qualies at some place like Moscow or Japan next week, or Hong Kong or Palermo this week would have been good, but LP just hates playing qualies these days .. As for Davis Cup, Leander is the boss and he knows all the calculations .. And nothing is impossible with him in Davis Cups - whether he has played or not .. Four days of hitting practice is probably all he needs to get into a Davis Cup tie - and then his adrenaline is all that matters, it seems! .. But I am a bit worried, nonetheless.

By the way, Andy Roddick, expected to be the #1 player for the US in Davis Cup, retired with a foot injury on Tuesday at the Hong Kong ATP in the 3rd set of his first round match against Andre Sa .. He is reportedly day-to-day as far as his foot is concerned ..

Sep 27 Note-1

The Davis Cup is only 15 days away!! .. I have no idea how it is all going to go, with all the preparations messed up, and with Leander sitting in India without any match practice in singles, for about three months .. Mahesh may be playing at Moscow (doubles) next week .. It was decided before the Davis Cup postponement that LP would be skipping these two weeks and that Mahesh would be playing with somebody else for a week at Moscow (LP was to join him the week after at Vienna - but that is now the Davis Cup week) .. So, no change in plans yet - travel hassles is also probably a reason for LP staying home.

After coming through tough qualifying rounds, Manisha Malhotra played Marissa Irvin (USA,75), one of the highest ranked players she had ever played, pretty closely yesterday in the first round of the $75K challenger in Albuquerque .. She went down 46 46 .. Manisha picked up 4.5 WTA points for qualifying in and playing one round (including 1 bonus) .. Manisha and Samantha Reeves will play the doubles first round today.

The news from Mumbai is pretty good again today - the Maharashtra kids keep on rolling - four of them reaching the semifinals at the grade-4 ITF junior international .. Kartiki Bhat is the one making waves this week - that's only because the other three, Isha, Rohan and Karan are established performers already and do not surprise us any more :-) .. Kartiki upset the 8th seed Nandita Chandrasekhar (remember, she was always considered pretty talented, having won grade-4 events a couple of years back itself!) ..  That the 14 yr old was able to take out Nandita 61 63 is an indication of how far she has come - and that too in her very first ITF event .. The Mumbai kids seem to be giving a lesson to everybody else about how to play confidently, based on all news reports .. Isha, though seeded 11th, is clearly the best player so far in this circuit, and she easily upset the 2nd seed Pichaya Laosirichon of Thailand, as expected - 61 64 .. Rohan did not give an inch to Jaco Matthew in a 61 60 win and Karan cruised to a 61 61 win over Rishi .. Unseeded Stockler from Switzerland had no problem against the 8th seed Arun Prakash .. 3rd seed Anuwat Dalodom (THA) is also in the semi against him next .. Karan and Rohan meet in the semi, in a replay of last week's final .. Kartiki plays Rebecca Dandeniya and Isha plays 4th seed Diana Julianto (INA) .. See the Mumbai juniors results.

Sep 26 Note-2

Good news today - it was announced that the World Doubles Championships is indeed on - from November 7th .. KSLTA has still not officially announced the title sponsor, but the Hindustan Times reports that they have indeed found sponsors .. Great work .. Do't forget, this is a $750K tournament - to find title sponsors after the big tobacco industry sponsors were out, was a very tough job, no doubt .. ATP and the players are also surely happy about it being placed at the original dates after the the Afro-Asian Games were cancelled .. By the way, the AITA says that the Asia Cup is not on the schedule this year .. Not a bad idea - nobody seemed to really care for that whole concept.

Great news from Albuquerque also .. Manisha Malhotra qualified into the $75K challenger with three impressive wins .. She beat Alison Nash (CAN,503), 62 63, Annica Cooper (USA,541), 26 61 76(4), and then Raluca Sandu (ROM,341), 46 76(5) 75 .. Hmmm .. Those were some tough comebacks there against some decent players by the 358th ranked Manisha .. She did not get a break from the draw though, and is drawn to face the second seed Marissa Irwin (USA,75) in the first round .. In the doubles main draw, Manisha and Samantha Reeves (USA) face Allison Bradshaw and Jennifer Hopkins of USA ..

Yet another young one has emerged into the ITF junior rankings .. At the Mumbai ITF grade-4 international, 14 yr old Kartiki Bhat in her first ITF junior event has reached the final-16, following her upset of the top seed Megha Vakharia with a pretty good win over Sanaa Bhambri .. Kartiki is yet another one from Maharashtra, and is ranked #2 in the Indian under-14 rankings .. She had represented India in some ITF subjunior events and was also in the ITF subjunior team that toured Europe this year if I am not mistaken ..  Quite a bit of talent coming up in the younger age ranges, giving serious trouble to the older junior players suddenly .. There are quite a few 14 and under players playing these events, such as Sanaa, Kartiki, Sandri Gangotri, Vandana Murali, Sandhya Nagaraj, etc, etc .. 11th seed Isha Lakhani continues her torrid pace - she beat the 5th seed Sasha Abraham to reach the 3rd round .. On the boys' side, Rohan, Karan, Jacco, etc have reached the final-16 .. 10th seed Rishi Behl had a good upset win over the 6th seed Al Imron of Indonesia .. The Swiss guy, Dominic Stockler beat Somdev Dev Varman, unfortunately .. See the Mumbai juniors page.

Sep 26 Note-1

I have added a page for the Mumbai junior ITF event .. Both top seeds, Amanjot Singh and Megha Vakharia fell yesterday .. Megha's upset was by another really young girl, Kartiki Bhat ! .. Amanjot Singh was upset by the tall Swiss kid, Dominik Stockler ..Rohan, Karan, Isha etc are all in the final-16 after two rounds!

Manisha Malhotra had reached the final round of qualies at the Albuquerque challenger on Sunday .. I don't think Nirupama is playing anywhere, but I have not looked around closely yet ..

More details later today.

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.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Sep 24 ..

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.