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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on Oct 5, 1998

(Previous week's notes) (Next week's notes) (Daily Notes Index)

Please read the newly-added page, a collection of notes, especially on the important topic of Indian players needing support .. We need responses and help from everybody ..

Oct 5 Note-3

A ton of news and results from New Delhi to report - from the DSCL National Hardcourts which is where everybody is this week .. The first round of the women's and girl under-18 draws are done, with hardly any surprise worth noting .. The qualifiers of the men's and boys draws' are also determined .. The list of qualifiers and the complete results from today onwards are at the Hardcourt Nationals results page .. Check it out ..

Quite a few girls are playing in both the women's and girls' draws .. Some results of note: Uzma Khan won easily in both the under-18 and the women's draws, in both of which she is the top seed (no surprise, nobody has beaten her in ages in India and only Manisha Malhotra has come close) .. A couple of newspaper reports say that Uzma looked a bit "unfit" and "bulky" (their words, not mine! :-)) - but that didn't seem to matter ! .. Shruti Dhawan had an easy win in the women's first round, but had a difficult time with a 3rd set tiebreaker in winning the under-18 match against the qualifier Harsimran Kaur (who, by the way, has pulled some upsets lately, notably the upset of the #2 seed Sheetal Gautam at the junior nationals at Chennai in August) .. The seniors' matches were all easy 2-sets affairs, with all the seeds winning - only #4 and #8 seeds Archana and Arathi Venkataraman sisters had even tiebreakers in their wins .. #2 sai Jayalakshmi, #3 Arati Ponnappa, #5 Rushmi Chakravarti etc are others who won .. Lisa Pereira and young Radhika Mandke are the only qualifiers to win in the women's draw .. In bad losses of note, both Padma Pritham and Vishnu Pritham of TN had 6-0, 6-0 losses, which must hurt (though against two good opponents, 3rd seed Arati Ponnappa talented youngster Sheetal Gautam) ! .. In the under-18 draw, three seeds (#5 Kameshwari Vadali, who is reported to have looked strangely nervous, #7 Geeta Manohar, AP, and #8 Vishnu Pritham) .. The qualifiers to advance in the girls' draw are Sonal Phadke (Mah) and Y.Lakshmi Reddi (AP) .. In a strange coincidence or twist of fate, Geeta Manohar lost to Sonal Phadke in both the women's and girls' events !! .. The scorecards I have seen show Geeta as a seed in the under-18 with Sonal as a qualifier, and the in the women's draw Geeta is shown as a qualifier and Sonal as a direct entry .. I have no idea what the deal is, with that .. Anyway, tough luck for Geeta .. Seven girls are into the final-16 of both events [sources: The Hindu, Deccan Herald, Times of India, Indian Express]

The boys' and men's events start Tuesday.

Oct 5 Note-2

Hmm .. funny .. ATP just changed the draw they had posted earlier for Shanghai singles. I had noticed that something looked messed up when they had Carlsen seeded above Delgado, even though his ranking was a spot below Delgado's last week (the previous week's rankings are always used for seeding). Carlsen is now the 7th seed and Tillstrom in the bottom half is the 4th seed .. Anyway, the corrected draw for LP, with this week's ranking is:

3-Jan-Michael Gambill (USA,48) vs WC-Yu Zhang (CHN)           \
  Sjeng Schalken (NED,80)      vs    Michael Tebbut (AUS)     / \
  Leander Paes (IND,87)        vs    John Van Lottum (NED,90) \ /
6-Ramon Delgado (PAR,69)       vs    Daniel Nestor (CAN,96)   /

Thanks go to Vas Param, for alerting me to the change .. Already Gambill and Tebbut have won their matches (on Monday).

Oct 5 Note-1

Things have moved fast today at the Heineken Open in Shanghai .. LP/MB have already won their first round doubles match !! .. They played Ben Ellwood (Australia) and Sargis Sargsian (Armenia) in the first round and defeated them 6-4, 7-5 .. Now they await the winner of Jan-Michael Gambill and Paul Haarhuis (I guess Eltingh is still in Netherlands, spending time with his newborn son) vs Sjeng Schalken and John Van Lottum.

The Woodies are the top seeds in doubles and LP/MB are the #2 seeds .. Here is the draw lower half of the doubles draw:

  M.Tebbut(AUS)/J.Tillstrom(SWE)   vs Qualifier/Qualifier              \
3-P.Galbraith(USA)/B.Steven(NZL)   vs J.Courier(USA)/J.Gimelstob(USA)  / \
  J-M.Gambill(USA)/P.Haarhuis(NED) vs S.Schalken(NED)/J.VanLottum(NED) \ /
2-M.Bhupathi(IND)/L.Paes(IND)      d. B.Ellwood(AUS)/S.Sargsian(ARM)   /

In Woodies' half of the draw the #3 seeds are W.Black/Tramacchi, with Keil/Middleton as another good established team .. Therer is also an interesting wildcarded old pair, Michael Chang playing with his brother ! .. It is not a very tough doubles draw for our guys, but Galbraith/Steven are a team that looked very good at the start of the year, though they have tailed off a bit after that ..

Leander plays John Van Lottum (#90) of Netherlands in the first round - the match should be tomorrow (Tuesday) .. Here is the draw till the semis for LP (upper half, which also has Ivanisevic as #1 and Gambill as #3 seeds):

4-Kenneth Karlsen (DEN) vs WC-Yu Zhang (CHN)        \
  Sjeng Schalken (NED)  vs    Michael Tebbut (AUS)  / \
  Leander Paes (IND)    vs    John Van Lottum (NED) \ /
6-Ramon Delgado (PAR)   vs    Daniel Nestor (CAN)   /

It is not a tough draw, in the sense that there are no top-20 or top-50 players here .. However, 22-year old Ramon Delgado of Paraguay has had a tremendous year, coming up from around #125 to #66 .. Along with Leander, Ramon is one of the guys who has beaten Sampras this year, if I am not mistaken. Carlsen has been playing well again after so-so results for a while last year .. LP has a win over Karlsen the last time they met, a big upset at Beijing in October 1995 ..

By the way, very strong singles field there at Shanghai - surprising and perhaps the strongest I have seen for a tournament with $315K prize money .. The top seed is Goran Ivanisevic and the 8th seed is #66 Ramon Delgado (Paraguay) .. The main draw closed at around #125, six weeks back .. Doesn't that make you wonder why a $405K tournament in Chennai that spent much much more on appearance fees had trouble getting even eight or nine top-100 players and had a main draw closing at #160 ?? .. May be they spent too much time trying to get Becker ? .. sorry about digressing .. I don't let any chance go in taking digs at the Madras tournament, ever since the Aussie guys who ran the show (and the few Indians who stood watching) decided not to give a wildcard entry to Srinath ..

A correction: Mahesh beat Lie Xie in the second round of the qualifiers Saturday, not Lu Zie, as I reported ..

Indian news: The qualifiers at the DSCL national hardcourts at Delhi has been going on in full swing .. It seems there are 16 qualifiers into the main draw for men, and we were down to 32 on Sunday (it started with 256 people) .. Uzma Khan is the top seed in the women's singles, as well as the under-18 singles ! .. Women's Qualifiers: S Anitha (TN), Sumitra Rao (TN), Anisha Shellar (Mah), Lisa Pereira (Mah), Radhika Mandke (mah), Y Lakshmi Reddy (AP), Geeta Manohar (AP) and Nikita Bhardwaj (Guj) .. The girls under-18 qualifiers: Kasturi Bhatt (Mah), Sonal Phadke (Mah), Jitisha Shelakar (Mah), Nikita Bhardwaj (Guj), Rani Smita Jain (Raj), Harsimran Kaur (Chand), Sumitra Rao (TN) and Y.Lakshmi Reddy (AP) (source: Times of India) .. The wildcards into the men's draw are, Ashutosh Singh and Chandrashekhar Mohanty of Delhi and Chennai's VN Premprakash (apparently a full time coach now) and Rajkumar Gopalan (source: Indian Express) .. Sanzaruz Zaman is the top seed in the boys' under-18 (which means Vijay kannan is only in the men's draw, I guess), with Rohan Bopanna, Kedar Tambe, Akshay Vishal Rao and Mustafa Ghouse, also in the mix .. Mustafa has reached the men's qualifier final round too .. Harsh Mankad, Vasudev Reddy, the Kirtanes, etc are in the men's draw.

We were told that Fazal would not be at DSCL earlier - now we get even worse news .. Prahlad Srinath has withdrawn as well, due to a twisted ankle he sufferred in practice a couple of days back, according to Deccan Herald .. Not clear if that means he will miss the satellites starting next week. If it's a twisted ankle, he could probably recover by then, but an unfortunate time for that.

Oct 4 Notes

Talked to just about the only person who seemed to speak English (the ATP tour supervisor) at the $315K Shanghai ATP tounament office .. They were all nice and helpful out there though .. Anyway, the news isn't good .. Mahesh just lost the final round of the qualifiers to Michael Kohlmann (#111, Germany), 1-6, 5-7 .. MB had easily beaten a Chinese player, Lu Zie in the second round, 6-0, 6-2 yesterday .. He had a first round bye in the qualies. The last time Mahesh played Kohlmann was at the Kyoto challenger in Feb 1997, when it was a straight sets win for MB, but Kohlmann has got him this time. MB is 3rd in line for a lucky loser spot, but chances are low that there will be three withdrawals. He will be playing doubles with LP (probably 2nd seeds, if the Woodies go there as was reported in Chinese newspapers earlier).

Oct 3 Notes

No news yet from Shanghai on the qualies there .. I assume Mahesh is playing the qualies, but no confirmation yet.

The hardcourt nationals, Sriram Open, now renamed as the DSCL national championships, is underway at New Delhi, and the qualifiers are on during the weekend .. A press friend just told me that the qualifier draw is 256 stromg, incredible as it seems .. I assume they need some 5 rounds to pick, say 8 qualifiers into the main draw of 32 .. I am not sure of the exact format though. Apparently there is a bit of a problem for those few players who reach the semifinals of the main draw, who will have to play next weekend .. They will miss the qualifiers for the 4-week satellites starting in Mumbai the week after ! .. What do they do, throw the matches at DSCL ? .. funny. Hopefully, it would be those who have direct entry or wildcards into the ATP satellites who will be playing over the weekend at Delhi.

As for the India S1 ATP satellites, yesterday's Times of India reports that the Indian #3 Prahlad Srinath, #5 Harsh Mankad, Vijay Kannan, Sandeep Kirtane and Nitin Kirtane are already in the direct entry. Not sure is any of them needed any wildcards to get in. Probably not, as their ATP ranks would normally be sufficient.

S.Kannan of the Hindustan Times had a rather poignant article today about the decisions of both Gaurav Natekar and Asif Ismail to retire from professional tennis soon. They have both started coaching and feel that's where they can make a difference now. Both are Arjuna award winners and have had very illustrious careers .. It is always sad to see people like those leave .. Thanks for all you have given to Indian tennis, guys ! .. I did hear last week that Gaurav will be playing doubles at the Sriram Open though; not sure if he will play the singles .. Asif and gaurav, incidentally were in the finals just last year at the Sriram Open.

Oct 2 Notes

Fazal lost the second round match against Arvind Parmar of Britain, 6-4, 1-6, 3-6 today at the British F8 Futures at Glasgow .. (source: London Times) .. Parmar is ranked #411 and is the 4th or 5th seed in the tournament. Fazal, as usual picked up a point from the tournament though .. It's interesting that he has lost in the first round of a future only once in some 8 attempts this year, but has fallen in the second round to a high seed many times.. He will move up about 10 spots or so in the ranking next week .. He is expected to play the British futures next week, at Leeds also.

Incidentally, I just heard a report that Fazal may have withdrawn from the Indian satellites starting the week after next .. Not sure why he would do that, but I will try to confirm soon, if this is so .. Prahlad, Vijay Kannan, Harsh Mankad, etc, will all be in the satellites. The precursor is the domestic hardcourt nationals, the Sriram trophy next week in Delhi .. I am sure we will start getting reports from the Indian press on that soon .. Yes, the Indian season is starting now ! .. After next week, there will be 4 legs of the satellite tour for a month, followed by a Futures event in Calcutta .. The week after that, we will have a Futures event in Islamabad, Pakistan, ending by the 3rd week of November. After that, we get the Asia Cup in Delhi .. Then after a break for Asiad in December, the year ends with 2 challengers in Mumbai and Ahmedabad, followed by another 4 weeks of satellites, and then two more challengers ending in mid February .. Let the fun start ! ..

Here is the Indian Domestic Calendar if you haven't seen it at this site.

Oct 1 Note-2

Today's Telegraph, Calcutta, reports that Mahesh has been granted a wildcard into the Singapore Heineken ATP, the week after next ! .. That is terrific. That means he doesn't have to worry about missing the qualies at Singapore, because they reach the semis of doubles at Shanghai at the end of next week .. As for next week, he has to play qualies at Shanghai, which is not a problem, as he only has to leave from India a couple of days earlier than LP and get there by Friday evening .. I would expect the Shanghai qualifier field to be not so strong, it being a $330K tournament .. Singapore, on the other hand has had very tough qualifiers the last couple of years.. Since the week after Singapore is a challenger at Hong Kong, Mahesh may get a direct entry there anyway and won't have to play qualies .. So he has a chance to play some singles for a few weeks .. at last .. for a change ! .. LP is in the main draw at all three places .. The others confirmed for Shanghai next week are Goran Ivanisevic, Michael Chang. Scott Draper and Jean-Michael Gambill .. The Woodies were also expected there, according to a report a while back in the China Daily, Beujing ..

By the way, I hope they have actually *given* MB the wildcard at Singapore .. You may remember what happened to LP last year, when he was informally told of a wildcard, which was taken away in the last week because Jim Courier wanted to play .. That was fine, except that LP, who is immensely popular out there among the large Indian population, was ranked #103, just outside the main draw cutoff which was at #102, and they took the WC away from LP and let David Wheaten, ranked below 150, keep his wildcard .. They better show much more decency and respect for Asian players this time .. Singapore will have a very good draw of players, including Goran, Chang and Jonas Bjorkman ..

Oct 1 Note-1

Good news from UK: Syed Fazaluddin defeated Neil Watts (#819) of England, 6-2, 7-6 yesterday in the first round of the $10K Futures at Glasgow .. Fazal is one of only 6 foreign players to advance to the final 16 of the futures which is filled with aspiring British players .. The win gives Fazal one more ATP point to add to his total of 27 .. Prahlad Srinath doesn't seem to have stayed on after the Davis Cup to play the futures with Fazal.

One of the fanclub members were at the Santa Clara challenger yesterday, cheering on Nirupama .. Here is the onsite fanclub member report from Nizam Sheikh: First let me congratulate Niru for making it to the main draw with 3 big wins. Well done Niru ! .. Niru played Ines Gorrochategui in the first round of the main draw. It was a tough 3 set loss with a score of 2-6;6-4;3-6. This match could have gone either way in the 3rd set. Niru serving at 3-4 was down 15-40, got back to duce and a game point only to lose that game. At 5-3 Ines served out the match. Over all Ines hung in tough when she was down game points ... In the first set Niru was a little tentative and squandered a few ( I think four) game point chances. That set could have been 6-2 in favor of Niru, had she capitalized on all the game point chances she had. In the second set Niru started playing better and won the set at 6-4. After 3-3 in the 3rd set I guess Niru's focus was slipping a bit and in no time that set and match was over .. I congratulate and wish Niru good luck at her upcoming tournaments.... Thanks, Nizam ..

Qualifying into the main draw of this tough challenger gives Niru some good points - 8.5 points which would take her up 7-8 spots to just above #170 .. This keeps her in good shape to make it into the Australian Open qualifiers, as she is expected to play only 4 more tournaments for the rest of the year (3 challengers in Australia and one in India), and somehow fails to pick up much points from now on .. She has no points, or perhaps just a handful for the rest of the year to defend .. I am assuming that the AO qualies will not have an expanded 128-draw as at the US Open, which was the first time they have had that for women at a Grand Slam. If the chips fall the right way and Niru ends up being the highest ranked Asian player in the top-200 from a country that does not have anybody else in the main draw, she could get that Asian wildcard once again, though.

Sep 30 Note-4

Nirupama seems to have been in the match, but couldn't get the win today, as she lost 2-6, 6-4, 3-6 to Ines Gorrochategui .. She is not playing doubles at Santa Clara (I am told she had played doubles qualifiers there, but did not make the main draw) .. So, she is done with the west coast swing, and unless any plans have changed, she won't be playing till next month at the three $25K challengers in Australia ..

Sep 30 Note-3

Nirupama is playing the veteran, Ines Gorrochategui (#330) of Argentina in the first round today, at the $75K Santa Clara challenger .. Looking at her rank, it would seem that the draw was very kind to Niru, but that could be deceptive ! .. Not sure if Ines is also a qualifier, but she probably is (or she has some injury protected ranking or something) .. She has been around a while, and was ranked near 100 till even 3-4 months back - I hadn't noticed that she had fallen so low in the rankings all of a sudden, and I don't know what happened to her (she is about 25 years old and was ranked as high as around #20 in 1995) .. I suspect she had some sort of injury ?? .. No idea how well Ms. Gorrochategui (I like typing that name :-)) is playing these days either .. Anyway, Niru plays at about 12 pm today, if any of you bay area folks want to drive down there in a hurry.

Sep 30 Note-2

More details on the Davis Cup World Group: The 1998 world group had Brazil, Czech Rep., Germany, Slovak Rep., South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Australia, Belgium, India, Italy, Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland, USA and Zimbabwe .. Of these, the eight first round losers, AUS, BRA, CZE, IND, RUS, SLO, RSA, NED, all played last weekend .. All but IND and RSA won their ties, and stayed in the wordl group for 1999 .. RSA and CZE are two of the first round losers who ended up against each other after the draw .. France and Israel played a tie between two teams not in the world group last year too, but otherwise all the other 6 ties were between first round losers against regional group-I winners .. The other six regional winners trying to get in were Uzbek., Japan, Romania, Ecuador, Argentina, and Britain .. To India's bad luck, we drew the toughest among those - GBR .. So we are out, after a fight .. Similarly RSA ended up with a tough Czech republic and got eaten alive 5-0, leading to loud calls for sacking their captain, Danie Visser .. That is the summary of what happened last week.

If the last note was confusing about the world group, here are some more details on the Asian regionals .. The Asian regional group-I in 1998 had Korea, Uzbekistan, China, Indonesia, Japan, Lebanon and New Zealand .. Korea had a first-round bye .. Regional First round in Feb:  UZB d. CHN, JPN d. INA, NZL d. LBN .. Second Round in April: UZB d. KOR, JPN d. NZL .. Thus UZB and JPN were in world group qualifier ties that both lost over this weekend (to Russia and Australia, both trying to stay in the world group for 99) .. The four first round losers also played in April, and CHN and INA lost again .. So they played the relegation playoff this weekend and determined INA to be the one to leave the Asian Group-I .. For the next year, we have India, China, Japan, Korea, Lebanon, New Zealand, Uzbekistan and Pakistan in Group-I .. They will play two rounds to detemine the 2 winners to advance to next September's world group qualifiers .. In the first round, two teams will be seeded .. At this point, Japan will be seeded first, as it is based on the sum of ATP ranks of the top 2 players - Suzuki (128) and Motomura (210) come out first .. LP (87) and MB (361) will put India at the #2 position .. New Zealand, with Brett Steven (94) and Mark Nielsen (387) will be close behind India but won't be seeded as of now .. That means India will not have to face Japan, as one team advance from each half of the 8 where India and Japan will be placed as seeds .. The other 6 teams are placed using a draw in the two halfs, I believe .. I think the draw will be made pretty soon (next week?) at London .. If both LP and MB play, we have no problems advancing to the world group qualifier after the two ties in Asia-Oceania next Feb and April ..

Thought I should give some details, as I have been getting a few emails from confused folks on how Davis Cup works .. We haven't had to worry about the Asian regionals in a while, you know .. people are forgetting how it used to be .. I am reminded of all those tough matches between Vijay Amritraj and Onni Parun of New Zealand in the late 70s .. LP vs Brett Steven (NZL) is the modern day version of that, though I am not sure if Brett actively plays Davis Cup .. Uzbek players are another set who could give LP trouble, as they have done in ATP matches in the past, but I doubt they can do that in Davis Cup against him .. Even an unexpected loss somewhere wouldn't hurt all that much if MB is there, as he can pretty surely beat all these guys, except a couple like Yong-Il Yoon of Korea, Suzuki and Motomura of Japan, Ogorodov and Tomashevich of Uzbekistan who are probably not certain wins for MB .. And, of course, not one damn team out there can beat LP-MB in doubles .. That's so reassuring.

Sep 30 Note-1

There were some other very interesting Davis Cup ties over the weekend .. One in particular was the close tie between Pakistan and Thailand to advance to the Asia-Oceania Group-I, which Pakistan won 3-2 !! .. That brought Pakistan into the top regional group for the first time in NINE years ! .. Guess who had some serious heroics for Pakistan ? .. Aisam Ul-Haq Quereshi, 18 year old and in the ITF junior top-10 in the world .. Look out for this kid. Three of the top young talents in Asia were in that tie - Paradorn Srichaphan (19 yr old,w ho was in the world junior top-10 last year, and has steadily moved up in ATP .. he is up in the 320s now), Danai Udomchoke (currently in the junior world top-20) of Thailand, along with Pakistan's Aisam. Aisam beat Danai easily on the first day, but Paradorn tied it up with a 5 setter against Muhalmmed Khaliq, the Pak #2, with a 10-8 win in the 5th set ! .. Then Aisam and Khaliq beat Narathorn Srichaphan (Paradorn's elder brother) and Wittaya Samrej in doubles to go up 2-1 .. Gasping for breath, Thailand came up with a win in the match of the tie - a four hour 44 minute duel on Sunday between the kids, that Paradorn won over Aisam, who was literally not able to walk in the end, 6-7(5), 7-6(1), 4-6, 7-5, 12-10 !! .. When Muhammed Khaliq won the final match against Narathorn, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, the crowd ran onto the grasscourts at Lahore and mobbed the guys, as that put Pakistan into the regional group-I for the first time since 1989 !! .. All the heroics from Paradorn went waste for Thailand, but boy, did he and Aisam light it up out there .. (sources: The Dawn, Karachi, and Bangkok Post, Thailand) ..

Guess what, there's a chance that we could have an India-Pak tie in tennis next year .. The way it works in Davis Cup (if you are not sure about the format that confuses everybody) there are multiple levels of play in Davis Cup, with up to 4 groups (levels) in each regional, and then a world group of the final 16 that play a year for the Cup. The eight first round losers of the world group in any year (the first round normally done by April) play a regional Group-I winner who is trying to take up that spot in the world group, in September of a year, to move to the final-16 of the *next year*.. This is why India was playing Britain .. They have unseated us in the world group, which means India is relegated to the Group-I of our region (Asia-Oceania), where we will need to win a couple of ties, and then face in 1999 September, somebody who loses next April in the first round of the 1999 world group, to try to advance to the 2000 world group .. Similarly, Pakistan and Thailand were playing the final of the regional group-II, to advance to Group-I, which they did .. Now, India will be a high seed in the region in 1999, and will play against one of the unseeded teams, and could possibly face Pakistan next year ..

Another Asian tie was the 5-0 whitewash by China over Indonesia in a group-I playoff in the region .. Yu Zheng and Yu Zhang won the 4 singles matches there (these two guys have been given 2 of the wildcards at the Shanghai tournaments, incidentally) .. China will stay in the group-I and Indonesia will move to the next lower regional level, Group-II .. Pakistan comes into group-I .. Incidentally, Japan and Uzbekistan were the two teams who advanced from the group-I play in Asia-Oceania this year and were trying for a spot in the world group for next year .. Neither could unseat somebody from the World group-98 - Rusia beat Japan 3-1 and Autralia beat Uzbekisthan 5-0 (there was a doubles match of some interest there - Ogorodov and Tomashevich played the Woodies surprisingly closely, 3-6, 6-7, 6-7, in a loss - In the singles, Rafter and Stoltenberg played 2 matches each and didn't even give up a set to Ogorodov, Kutsenko, etc). What all this means is that, with India out of the world group and neither of the Asian challengers making in it, there will be NO TEAM from Asia-Oceania in the World Group in 1999 .. Not good. India has been there for 5 of the last 6 years, and we do need to get back in there in 2000 ..

It is a bit of a concern that India has not produced a real top-caliber (I mean an ITF junior top-10) player in over 6-7 years since LP ruled the world .. Where do we go in 3-4 years from now ? .. Hopefully LP and MB will be around for much longer, or we will be in serious trouble. It is no fun to think of the possibilities of losing to the Pakistans and Thailands of the world, who have been producing some top talents lately .. I am looking forward to the domestic internationals starting soon in India, to see how far Vijay Kannan and other youngsters have improved .. In the US and European circuits, we often see many players who did not do too well in the ITF junior circuits blooming into top players later in their career .. India has not had this phenomenon, and often it has been quite the reverse - i.e., many players who were in the junior world top-100 rarely have come even close to the top-300s in the ATP circuit .. Ramesh Krishnan and Leander Paes were right at the top, but even they took a while before getting close to the top in ATP circuit and never got into the top-10 .. We have not had anybody who came out of nowhere and reached the top .. So, if we do not have anyone right now even in the junior world top-25 (we really haven't had any in a while, though Vikrant Chadha was pretty close up there 2-3 years back), can we expect any of them now to bloom in the next few years ? .. I don't know .. I am a bit concerned about it all .. Hope Vijay Kannan, Harsh mankad, Manoj Mahadevan, and even a few others like AV Rao, Ravi Kiran Bhatt etc, will prove me wrong in the next 3-4 years .. They better, or India is in serious trouble a few years down the line in tennis ! .. I like to go over these gloomy pictures once in a while ..

Sep 29 Note-2

Great news: Nirupama got revenge for her loss last month to Irina Selyutina by beating her soundly, 6-2, 6-3 today, to advance to the main draw at the $75K Santa Clara challenger .. The three rounds of qualifier wins give her 8.5 points, including 6 quality (bonus) points .. The main draw will be decided later this afternoon .. A first round win would give her at least 7 more points and any bonus points on top of that .. If she keeps her nice form the last three days, this could become a very nice tournament for her..

Yesterday's Times of India had a good story about Bill Norris, the trainer that AITA appointed for the Davis Cup .. Bill is a former US professional basketball player. He later played baseball for the New York Mets too, before studying sports medicine and physical training .. He said that Leander is one of the fittest tennis players out there, but that Mahesh would benefit from working on some areas of fitness .. Anyway, he is expected to tour with LP and MB during their eastern swing at Shanghai, Singapore etc, starting next week .. I assume Sanjay Singh, who has done a very good job with Leander during his US tour is in the picture too .. Such good trainers are becoming a real need on the ATP tour, though only those at the top can really afford them.

Sep 29 Note-1

The new ATP rankings show Leander one spot up at #87, and Mahesh two spots up at #361 .. the doubles and team rankings remain as before ..

An informed source told me last week that the preliminary team nominations for the Asian Games have been already made, and that India will have a mixed doubles team (I believe Mahesh-Nirupama), as well as a full women's contingent including women's doubles teams .. We will await further confirmation and news on who are in the teams, but it appears that LP, MB, Nirupama and may be a couple more like Manisha Malhotra, Uzma Khan, and Prahlad Srinath, may be in the team .. All unconfirmed, so don't quote me!

More news later, on how Niru did in the final round of qualies at the Santa Clara Challenger..

Sep 28 Notes

Good news from Santa Clara : Niruapama has won two rounds and is in the final round of qualifiers at the $75K Santa Clara Challenger .. She upset #128 Karin Miller of USA today, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 to advance !! .. Karin Miller was seeded in the qualifiers here, and if I am not mistaken, this is the highest ranked player that Niru has beaten since her huge upset of Gloria Pizziccini at the Australian Open in January .. Yesterday, in the first round of qualifiers, Niru summarily defeated #176 Jessica Steck of South Africa, 6-1, 6-3 .. In the final round of qualifiers, she faces Irina Selyutina of Kazakhsthan, ranked #188 .. She has a score to settle with Irina, who had beaten her 7-5, 6-2 at the Lexington Challenger in the first week of August .. Let's hope he continue her good form and moves into the main draw. Nirupama has picked up 6 points including 4 quality (bonus) points for beating two players in the 120-250 ranking range, to add to the 121.5 points she has this week .. A win tomorrow will give her 2.5 more points. Go Niru !!

In the latest WTA rankings, Nirupama has moved up 2 spots to #175 in singles and 3 spots to #230 in doubles ..

I just noticed that I forgot to mention that Mahesh played a good match yesterday evening to make it respectable for India in the end at Nottingham .. He defeated Chris Wilkinson (#140) in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4 .. Even though it was a dead-rubber match, I don't think Wilko wanted to lose it, as he knws it is one of the rare Davis Cup matches he would get to play from now on, and I am sure he wasn't throwing the match .. It shows good spirit and attitude by Mahesh to do what was needed to take the match seriously and upset a player much higher ranked than him, rather than hang his head and get one more loss added to our record .. India ended up losing 2-3 to Britian, as all of you surely know by now. I have not seen any details of MB's match in any of the British or Indian newspapers. Apparently, immediately after Henman beat LP in the 4th match to clinch the tie, Greg Rusedski produced a Doctor's Certificate (ah, the funny things they do in the dead rubber Davis Cup matches!) and was replaced by Chris Wilkinson .. You cheat, Greg !

Fazaluddin had said earlier that he might play the British futures for this week and next .. No news yet.

.. Previous notes at Weekly Notes, ending Sep 28 .. Go there for all the Davis Cup news ..