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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Oct 2, 2000

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Oct 2 Notes

In the first round at today the $350K Hong Kong ATP, the Indian Express lost today to Jonas Bjorkman and Brent Haygarth, 67(2) 46 .. This was the opening match on center court for the tournament, actually .. Looks like a close match, but they need to get the edge back in staying on top in tiebreakers and close sets .. I guess we need to wait for some more time for good times to start  :-(   ..  Paes and Bhupathi will be at the $800K Tokyo ATP next week, and I guess they will be there for the singles qualies this weekend.

Nirupama will be at the $50K challenger in Albuquerque (New Mexico) this week .. She had made the main draw there .. The main draw matches will start from Tuesday.

This week is an off week in the AITA domestic calendar, which is a rarity these days, I guess .. The DSCL (sriram) hardcourt nationals is on the schedule for next week .. Take a look at the nice website for the event - http://www.dsclopentennis.com .. They did fantastic coverage of the event last year, with nice timely updates of scores and news .. I hope they will continue it this year as well.

The subcontinental ITF junior internationals circuit continues this week with the grade-5 event at Islamabad on claycourts .. There is also another claycourt grade-5 event at Islamabad next week .. I don't know if any of our players are going to Pakistan - perhaps not, especially since the DSCL open is starting next week where there is the u18 competition next week along with the men/women draws (u16 and u14 are in the following week) .. Starting on the 9th there is a high grade (grade-A) event in Japan as well .. Strarting on the 16th, there is the grade-2 event in Hong Kong and then on 23rd there is the grade-3 Thailand ITF event (once again, nice higher grade events in the far east - it continues to bug me that our juniors *have to* travel to foreign countries to face good competition -- we just need to force ITF to approve some such events for India, and I believe AITA has been working on this) ..

Oct 1 Notes

Both LP and MB played the qualies at the $350K Hong Kong ATP (wow, you have to go back a long time to find both of them playing singles qualies somewhere!) ..  Bad news from there, but it wasn't unexpected as they are both just restarting their singles from scratch at this point after very very long layoffs .. I am just glad that they are both back out there doing the "normal" (:-)) things like playing singles qualies, etc .. MB did OK, in going down in the first round to the 4th seed Wayne Black (ZIM,113), 67(6) 46 .. LP seems to need some serious work on his singles game, as he lost to Paul-Henry Mathieu (FRA,283) 36 16 ..

The doubles draw at Hong Kong shows LP-MB drawn to face the 3rd seeds, Jonas Bjorkman and Brent Haygarth in the first round .. They are in the bottom half of the draw, with #2 seed W.Black-Ullyett, and also Rafter-Eagle .. The top seeds are Hrbaty and Prinosil .. Not sure when they will play the first round.

Sep 30 Notes

Sania Mirza and Rohan Gajjar won the titles today at the Mumbai ITF junior internationals .. Gajjar had a straight sets win over the #2 ITF junior from India, Vindo Sewa, which is some sort of a surprise .. Vinod doesn't seem to have had his best in these two junior events in Chennai and Mumbai, reaching a QF and a final .. He did pick up 30 points to boost his rankings a bit, though .. Rohan Gajjar is #8 in the AITA under-16 rankings right now, and this is his big coming out party - he upset the 2nd seed Sivang Mishra, 3rd seed Parantap Chaturvedi and the top seed in a row, to win the title! .. He is playing in his first couple of ITF junior events, as far as I know (he lost in the second round to 3rd seed Amanjot Singh last week) .. Quite a big achievement toi get a title so early, and he will be making a debut inside the world junior rankings inside the top-450 .. Yes, it seems we have a new name to look forward to there, though Rohan is not an unknown, having done quite well in domestic junior events .. We will keep an eye on him, for sure .. See the Mumbai juniors page .. As for Sania Mirza, it is simply incredible what this 13 year old has been able to do .. To win an ITF junior event at this age (not to mention reaching a semi in an event in Europe last month, etc) is just out of this world .. Sania beat Megha in the final .. I think everyone needs to work overtime to do something to make sure Sania comes up the way she should .. She is the highest ranked 13 yr old in the world, by a long mile - no other kid from anywhere has done anything anywhere near what this girl has done .. Just imagine that this girl has FOUR more years in the juniors, and she is already getting close to top-100 in the world (the semi and title in these two events will move her ranking up from 186 to inside 125) .. Time to make that long term plan for Sania .. She is a "can't miss" prospect, if there has ever been one in India ! .. OK, where is the sponsorship for Sania ?? ..

Waiting for news from Hong Kong on whether LP and MB entered the qualies.

Sep 29 Note-2

LP and MB should be getting to Hong Kong now .. Not sure if either will be playing singles qualifying rounds there during the weekend - we will see soon .. They will be in the doubles draw for sure .. A long stretch of many tournaments begins for the Indian Express starting with Hong Kong.

At the ITF junior internationals today, Vinod Sewa beat Amanjot Singh in the semi in a comeback threesetter .. Rohan Gajjar upset the 3rd seed Parantap Chaturvedi in three sets as well .. Girls semis were yesterday .. Boys' and Girls' singles and doubles finals will all be on Saturday .. See the Mumbai juniors page for scores.

Kudos to BeenaMol for running her hearts out to ensure a national record today in the 4 by 400 relays at Sydney, despite slow starts by the first two runners .. Rosa Kutty also did a good job in the same heats .. The sad thing is that our national record (bettering the one by none other than that unforgettable PT Usha - Shiny Wilson - Vandana Rao group of mid 80s) was still not enough to get us out of the heats! .. At least Beenamol did better than what she has done in the past - and that's all we can ask of our athletes.

Sep 29 Note-1

I have added the latest AITA men/women rankings at the Calendar/rankings/results page .. Take a look .. Will add the junior ranks, as soon as they are available .. As the DSCL Hardcourt Nationals (Shriram Trophy) starts soon on Oct 9th, we should be seeing the new junior rank lists also soon.

I ahve also added the early entry lists for the $10K India-6 and India-7 satellites starting on Oct 16th at Gwalior (clay) and on Oct 23rd at Delhi (decoturf hardcourt) .. Quite impressive to see seven $10K events this year, as opposed to only 2 or 3 just two years back for women, in addition to the one four-week circuit, and the $25K challenger .. Women have had quite good bonanza this year, and AITA actually would be doing three of the $10K events and the challenger right there at their RK Khanna stadium in Delhi .. Good show .. As for the entry list itself, Manisha Malhotra, the Indian #2 is in both week's list ..  Talking of Manisha, I just learned that Manisha had seen the doctor for shoulder pain, and has been asked to go through some treatment and cortisone shots .. Apparently the MRI, etc, shows that it may not be any long-term problem, but she has to be careful not to play too much .. Anyway, plans to play for the next couple of weeks seems to be off -- she should be playing the Indian events, I think .. As for the other entries in the list, they look really strong for now .. There will be some withdrawals, but as the Delhi challenger follows the two $10K events, we can expect at least 3 or 4 more top-350 players than is normal at the Indian satellites .. If we keep up such a schedule for women as we had this year, I have no doubt that we will be seeing at least two or three among our youngsters like Sania, Sanaa, Sasha, Megha, Isha, Samrita, Lata, Nandita, Liza, Shruti, Radhika, Sonal, Sheetal, Uzma, etc (all 20 and under now) to be up inside the top-250 in the next 3 to 6 years .. Wish we had anywhere near as many hopeful names on the boys' side, though.

After I typed that nasty note about our hockey team yesterday, I saw this article, "Losing like this is devastating - we are sorry" from Dhanraj in today's India-Today online, and actually felt quite bad about what that man is going through .. In fact, Leander had written this article ("I am really sorry for my friend Dhanraj") two days back about it too .. Well, India won the match against Argentina and placed 7th in the list today .. Dhanraj gives an unadulterated apology to all Indian fans, but I still feel the best they could have done to the fans was to shwo the professionalism to win the match against Britain etc, and finish as the 5th team in the end .. In my mind, Dhanraj does not have to apologize at all for the tie against Poland, but the whole team should apologize for not showing up for the next match .. That loss to Britain yesterday still hurts me as a fan. [ By the way, Navin points out in our forum that we tied Poland and did not lose as I said yesterday .. Of course, that's right .. Just that it certainly felt like a loss when I was typing my non-tennis notes yesterday!]

Sep 28 Note-2

Late report on something I forgot to report on Sunday -- Ajay Ramaswamy of Lousiana State Univ won the consolation draw singles title at the T.Rowe Price National collegiate claycourt championships last Sunday .. The consolation draw is made up of those who lost the first round of the 64-size main draw (which basically has top-75 quality players), and he beat a few pretty good players on the way to the title - the best being the 75 63 final win over Jason Marshall of Purdue Univ who is ranked #17 in the preseason collegiate rankings .. He also beat #16 Andres Pedroso (Duke), #25 Max Belski (Alabama), and #34 Jon Wollmark (SMU) .. That's quite a show by him .. Ajay has started the season very well, and all these wins over top-50 players will boost his rankings considerably up from the #57 it is now .. Congrats go to him.

Sep 28 Note-1

I have added the updated AITA calendar fixed in early September at the calendar page.

At the Mumbai ITF junior international,  13 yr old Sania Mirza upset the top seed Pichaya Laosirichon of Thailand in a comeback three-setter 26 64 63 to reach the final against unseeded Megha Vakharia who is on a 9-match win streak including her title last week at Chennai .. This is going to be a terrific final between these two girls .. By the way, Sania had gone down to Pichaya last week in the semifinal, also in a three-setter .. These are some high quality matches we are seeing from a 13 yr old .. Let there be no doubt about Sania .. There is nothing spurious about her ranking as the highest ranked 13 yr old in the world .. This girl is for real! .. As for Megha, don't put much stock on her being unseeded - She has only played 2 or 3 ITF events before .. We know about how good she is, from domestic tournaments .. These two events will bring her all the way up from near 900 to inside 300 in the world junior rankings .. On the boys' side, top seed Vinod Sewa, 3rd seed Amanjot Singh, etc have reached the semifinals (the boys draw was of size 64, and so they are moving a day behind the girls) .. See the Mumbai juniors page.

I have added the complete singles results from last week (finally got hold of it!) at the Chennai juniors page .. 17 yr old Benjamin Xavier won the boys' title there in only his second or 3rd ITF event, I believe .. Anant Sitaram was the runner-up .. Top seed Vinod Sewa had fallen in the quarterfinals and Amanjot had gone down in the PQF to 16 yr old Jaco Mathew of TN who was in the semi there - only the second ITF juniors event for him too, I think .. The boys' results have turned out to be quite different this week at Mumbai, as opposed to girls, where last week showed the same matchups in the semis .. Actually, I am not sure if Benjamin and Jaco played this week's event at all (I haven't seen all the results from the first two rounds).

I am normally very much on the side of our sportsmen, as anybody who reads my ramblings know .. But I have to say something about our PATHETIC hockey team .. These guys should be ashamed of themselves for what they did today in the placement match against Britain for a 5th - 6th position .. I did not complain about their loss to Poland yesterday, and I am sure a lot of people were sympathetic to the team's agony .. Mistakes in the last minute can happen in a match .. I could understand their pain in losing that match and missing a semifinal berth .. But I am absolutely enraged at their lack of spirit today .. Damnit, you are playing for India's pride, idiots! .. They played like excrement, from all reports .. Don't these morons know what happened in Atlanta ? .. Couldn't they at least make sure of a top-6 finish and an automatic qualifying for the next hockey world cup (and the champion's cup -- the "great and legendary" Indian team has not even played in that since 1995!) .. I have no sympathy for sportsmen who have no pride in themselves - yes, this includes Dhanraj and Mukesh and captain Ramandeep and everybody else .. Not making the semi due to a one minute lapse against Poland did not put Indian hockey back in the garbage dumpster, but today's loss indeed did, in certain ways .. Because this was a gut-ckeck, a test of attitude - and they failed miserably .. Indian sportsmen have the reputation as quitters in the minds of Indians and others .. Today's loss to Britain did nothing to change the perception .. Absolute lack of professionalism in losing that match .. It reinforced all perceptions of Indians as quitters .. It makes me mad .. Every senior member of this team should be paraded in public and thrown tomatoes at .. After all, they did the same thing in Atlanta -- don't they learn ? .. Their humiliation will be richly deserved - and none of it is for missing the semi, but it will be for them taking today's match as "unimportant" and coming out and sleepwalking, still crying about that last loss .. The coach deserves similar blame as well .. Hockey is our national sport -- we have no business losing to bloody England, when we were playing for pride  .. "Attitude" is so important in sports and that is why we get so mad about this, as opposed to our previous loss .. There is a reason why playing placement matches are said to be "for pride" .. Indian sportsmen rarely seem to understand this .. Frustrating .. Every time we think Indian sports is beginning to turn the corner and that Indian sportsmen are learning what "winning attitudes" are, we see this kind of crap .. Lest I forget, I also want to slam the so-called bandwagon Indian fans who stayed away from today's match .. One can say there was nothing much riding on it, but then again, so much was riding on it when you look at the big picture.

Sep 27 Note-2

India's hopes for any more medals ended today at Sydney .. Once again, it was agony and jinx for India as Gurcharan, who led 12-11 till 4 seconds to go in the fight, got a last-gasp right hook from the Uzbek fighter, tying the score at 12-12 after which the individual scores were tabulated and the Uzbek advanced (to semis, which means an assured bronze) .. Gurcharan certainly went down with guns blazing, but the heartbreaks continue .. It is sad to think that we really had a better chance for medals at this Olympics than we all thought at first -- we really could have come back with 4 medals (Karnam in weight lifting, Gurcharan in boxing, then hockey and tennis) if a few things went our way and we did not run into bad draws and all thus last-minute close-out problems .. Perhaps even five medals, as Chanu in weightlifting also was a legitimate candidate, though she did not do that well .. I really do not remember any Olympics were we were this competitive or had the potential to be competitive .. I hope our athletes will look at it the right way, build their self-belief that Indians can of course be competitive in the world arena, and focus on the mental discipline needed to close things out and win medals .. LP last time and Karnam this time showed that Indians can do that .. Perhaps more of our athletes will do that next time .. In some ways, I feel we did better in this Olympics than in the previous ones, though we only have one medal to show for it .. But then, I am a glass is half-full kind of guy ..  We have to stay positive - that's all we can do, after all.

All our tennis players are set to leave from Sydney on thursday, I believe .. LP and MB will be playing at the $375K Hong Kong ATP next week .. Niru will get to Albuquerque (New Mexico, US) by Friday for the challenger next week .. Manisha will be in France soon for club tennis and perhaps challenger qualifiers also.

At the Mumbai junior grade-5 ITF internationals, no big surprises .. Megha Vakharia continues her good run -- she upset the 4th seed Sasha Abraham in the quarterfinals .. See the results at the Mumbai juniors page .. I am still trying to find the results from Tuesday, by the way.

AITA informs me that they are trying hard for some time to bring higher grade junior events to India -- ITF takes a while to approve these things .. Good to know that they understand the seriousness and are trying to do something (see my notes yesterday about this matter) .. By the way, AITA also tells me that Sunil Kumar missed the ITF junior events in India now only because he is in Sydney for the Olympics Youth Camp as the representative from India .. AITA seems to be staying on top of these things, which is nice.

Sep 27 Note-1

Can't call it an upset since it is Lareau and Nestor, but it's a minor surprise .. The Canadians just upset the Woodies, 57 64 64 76(2) in the final for the Gold at Sydney .. Can you believe that Woodforde double-faulted once, then Woodbridge twice in that 4th set tiebreaker ? .. Nestor's power serves, some over 120 mph which is not usual in doubles, was just too much for the Woodies today .. All credit go to the Canadians, but I am sad that the legends stumbled at the finish line like this .. Hey, is there a chance they would reconsider the retirement and come to Bangalore for a final Hurrah with a World championship?

Sep 26 Notes

I am hardly able to type anything after that incredible disaster in hockey today in Sydney .. I wonder when the heartbreaks will end for India .. If something can go wrong for India at Olympics - it will; there is no need to doubt it .. It ALWAYS does .. Not taking responsibility away from our sportsmen, but it is tough to say that that is all there is to this .. Indians do at least somewhat better at world championships, Asiad, etc, where there doesn't seem to be the kind of bad luck that haunts us at Olympics .. How can you explain Usha missing the bronze on a photo finish (though perhaps a mistake in not lunging forward can be attributed to her) .. How can you explain the draw that LP-MB got this time - though I felt then that it was not a bad thing to play Woodies rightaway and catch them offguard after a match, in retrospect after seeing what great form Woodies have shown, I feel that LP-MB would have got us at least a bronze or silver had they been in any other quarter of the draw .. LP's show last time and Karnam's this time are such rarities for India at Olympics .. Things almost never go right for us at Olympics .. Anyway, let's hope Gurcharan will give us a secon medal for the first time since 1952 .. Go India!

By the way, Manisha informs me that she is not playing at the Saga challenger .. Her air-ticket is to return to Paris, and she is unable to change her plans to go to Saga .. Pity, because I believe she had made the main draw there .. I doubt Nirupama will be playing before next week either .. Fazal is taking the week off.

I have added a page for the Mumbai ITF junior international  .. Actually it is just an Indian tournament, with only a couple of Malaysians and a couple of Thais coming from abroad .. Only Pichaya Laosirichon in the girls draw, and perhaps Adam Jaya of Malaysia in the boys draw can be considered quality foreign players .. See the Mumbai juniors page .. I will add today's results later there.

By the way, I had said yesterday that it was grade-4, based on the ITF's weekly this week - which I am told was just a mistake (actually I had always seen it in the calendar as a grade-5 event) .. I wonder why we continue to do these grade-5 events ?  .. Why not do a grade-2 or grade-3 events, and get at least some quality players from abroad .. We have been asking for this for over two years now, and nothing has been done on this front .. I see no reason why India cannot conduct a grade-2 event .. We normally have some 2 or 3 grade-5 events and 2 or 3 grade-4 events every year (even the grade-3 event in the subcontinent is in Bangladesh every year) .. What's the deal -- can somebody explain ? .. Is there some ITF rules for hospitality, etc, for higher-grade events which cost more money ? ..  With the under-18 calendar never being all that busy, it's OK to have these grade-5 events as basically domestic u18 events, but with some few ITF points .. Fine .. But we need to have at least 2 or 3 grade-3 events and a couple of grade-2 events in India .. Indian kids need to see the top foreign players at the age of 15-18 to know where they stand with respect to physical development, etc .. Our players get a shock when they finally venture out at age 18 to play a few foreign events (and they are often a bit over-ranked with some of the cheaper points from the Indian grade-5 events which don't have sufficient competition) .. In fact, I hardly remember an upset of a higher ranked player (let alone anybody in the top-60) by any Indian kid in the last few years, except for that one win Sunil Kumar pulled off against #44 Peter Jon-Nomdo of RSA in commonwealth juniors in UK two months back [Vinod Sewa won a grade-5 Canadian event last month, but he was the top seed there] .. That all points to a very very troublesome record with respect to our upcoming players .. Our tennis future is quite doomed if we don't do something about this .. Suddenly seeing top quality senior players in ATP and WTA events at age 19 and 20 and waiting for 5-6 years to slowly get enough good-quality matches to improve, is not the way to develop our next string .. It is much easier to find top quality matches at the junior level itself .. Ideally, our top juniors should have played at least 15-20 matches against top-75 junior players (and started winning some after the first few attempts, by the time they leave the junior ranks) .. Not the 3 or 4 quality matches that our juniors like Vijay Kannan, Radhika, Sheetal, Sonal, etc got to play as juniors ..  There is no way to improve in world tennis without playing quality matches .. Once you are in the seniors, and losing in the ealy rounds, it takes several years to get enough matches to learm .. Can we plan early and have higher-grade events in India next year, please? .. AITA, you have got some work to do on this! ..

If you have doubts on what I am saying here, go take a look at the record of 19 to 22 yr old players in the ATP and WTA top-200 and find how many matches they played against top-50 junior players by the time they moved to the senior ranks .. Also see how many they lost in the first few attempts as 16 and 17 yr olds before they started winning those as 18 year-olds .. They are quite battle-tested by the time they reach the senior levels, and do not have to go through many years of satellites to get enough experience under their belt, .. Indian players are out of junior ranks by the time they start getting even one or two matches against top-50 players .. For example, I believe Vijay Kannan had *two* matches against top-50 junior players (from my memory) by the time he graduated to seniors .. The same thing happened to those like Srinath, Fazal, sai, Rushmi, etc .. I am probably too long-winded here in making a point, but I hope I did make one! .. Bringing higher-grade junior events to India is much more important than we realize.

Also, I am not sure why Sunil Kumar is not playing these Indian ITF events .. The competition is probably not much by his standards, but considering that he has not had the kind of great results abroad this year like we expected, he could have really used some cheaper points from these Indian events to move up the rankings .. No urgent problem though -- early next year, when the 18 yr old leave the rank list, Sunil should be moving up inside the top-70 which will be enough to get into Australian Open juniors and all that .. Hopefully he will defend all the point he has to defend early next year and pick up enough extra to make it to other grand slams during the rest of the year .. But I hope the points missed from these events would not come back and haunt him later, as happened this year when the 60 odd points he could have had from the two Indian events he missed (wildcard to a challenger and some untimely illness) was partly the cause for him to miss all the grand slam juniors this year .. I would have just kept some 60 or 90 points in the kitty from these three ITF events (each grade-5 event gives 30 pts to winner and 20 for runner-up) .. He is being managed by Paes-en-Sport and Leander himself takes good interest in his development - so I guess we don't need to worry; they are aware of what needs to be done .. I was indeed a bit surprised not to see him play these events at all, though .. The 17 yr old Indian #2, Vinod Sewa, also under Paes-en-Sport watch, is playing the ITF events now, by the way - and is seeded #1.

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. Its too early to say for sure that well 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!

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Sep 25 ..

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.