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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Oct 18th, 1999

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Oct 18 Note-1

Some news from Indonesia - Sai Jayalakshmi and Rushmi Chakravarti seem to have reached the semifinals of the $10K Indonesia satellite in Jakarta (Oct 11-17) ..  I am basing it on some Indonesian newspaper reports in Bahasa Indonesia, a language I don't know :-) .. As far as I can figure out, Sai lost to Satomi Kinjo (JPN,534), 36 75 46 .. Rushmi lost to Benjamas Sangaram (THA,415) 57 26 .. In the quarterfinals, Rushmi beat Irrawati Iskandar-Moerid (INA,684), 64 16 76 and Sai beat unranked Mimma Chernovita, 62 60 .. In the Prequarterfinals, Sai beat Arthi Venkatraman, 64 62 and Rushmi beat Veronika Ctvrtnickova (CZE,912), 75 61 .. Archana Venkatraman was also there, but lost to Wukirasih Sawondari (INA,675) 64 62 in the first or second round .. If I have got those results all correct, then a decent job by both Sai and Rushmi who both pick up 2 points each to improve their rankings - they have both become very solid over the last year by playing many tournaments -- once again, nothing helps the players more than playing, playing more and playing often ..

More later with any Hong Kong challenger news for Leander, Nirupama news, and Mumbai satellites news.

Oct 17 Notes

Leander Paes must be at the Hong Kong challenger this week .. I have not seen any news on the draw yet.

The qualifying rounds have got completed for the first leg of the 4-week ATP satellites starting at Mumbai tomorrow .. Good news that 5 Indians made it in after three rounds, out of the 8 qualifiers -- Kedar Tembe, Rohan Bopanna, Kedar Shah, SanzarUz Zaman and R.Narendran .. Narendran's run is somewhat impressive, as he beat a couple of players from the US, and also talented Kamala Kannan along the way - he gets Sunil Kumar in the first round (and if he can get past the kid, it could be the 4th seed Per Thordnadtsson in R2) .. Manoj Mahadevan's inability to raise his game to the next level is a bit disappointing too, though he reached the final round and only lost to talented Rohan Bopanna (but then again, Manoj was considered the best among the 15 yr  olds just about 2 years back) .. I have started the page for the satellites now .. See the details in the Mumbai-leg1 page.

In the main draw, the wildcards went to men's and u18 champs, Sunil Kumar and AV Rao, along with Vishal Uppal of Delhi and SK Shivshankar of Karnataka .. Sunil, Mustafa Ghouse and AV Rao face qualifiers in the first round .. The top 2 seeds are Srinath and Fazal .. Sri faces Sandeep Kirtane, Fazal plays Niko Karagiannis of Greece (incidentally his doubles partner here), and Vishal Uppal plays Nitin Kirtane.

The 3rd leg, which was originally supposed to be on clay at Nagpur, has now been rescheduled for Pune (on hardcourts, I believe) .. That makes it Mumbai, Pune, Pune, Mumbai for the 4 legs .. Definitely a good schedule, from the travel point of view.

At Singapore, the Woodies lost yet another final today - 63 64 to Mirnyi/Taino (the team that LP-MB gave a walkover to, in the first round) .. It's quite sad for me, an admirer of the legends, Woodies, to see them lose their 5th final in a row .. After they went 53-9 in finals over their career (what an incredible stat!) with 2 titles at San Jose and Memphis earlier in the year, they have lost 5 in a row .. Last week they had lost in the final at Shanghai to Lareau/Nestor (they had lost to LP-MB in the final there last year, in what I consider a turning point in the career of both teams, though they did get revenge next week at Singapore over our pair) .. The Woodies had a walkover from Lareau/Nestor in the semifinal, but could not defend their title in the final .. Very strange to see them struggling in  finals like this .. They were on pace to get 58 titles for the best ever in history, but they have got bogged down with 5 to go, and have lost 5 finals in a row now ..

Oct 16 Notes

The AITA mini- and sub-junior DSCL nationals got done today at Delhi .. The Chandigarh kids continued their winning spree .. Just as last week, when the men's title and the u18 titles were won by 16 and 17 yr old Sunil Kumar and AV Rao, the u16 title went to Amanjot Singh of Chandigarh today (he beat Pratim Parekh of Maharashtra) .. Only the u14 title of Rohan Gajjar (MAH) over Arun Prakash (TN) broke the monotony of the Chadigarh titles .. The u16 girls title was won by Megha Vakharia over Liza Pereira (both from Maharashtra) and the u14 girls title went to Sasha Abraham, who beat Sania Mirza (both from AP) .. I had compiled all the singles results - take a look at my DSCL mini-/sub-junior nationals page in our results archives .. I will add the doubles results soon .. All the results including the qualifiers, etc, were being updated throughout the week at the excellent official site, http://www.dsclopentennis.com ..

More later with some details on the men's satellites starting soon .. I saw that the Nagpur leg (3rd leg) was in trouble due to rain, sponsors, etc.  Will have to see where that leg gets conducted.

Oct 14 Notes

LP-MB were scheduled to play at 8.30 pm this evening at Singapore, but have decided this afternoon to pull out from doubles at Singapore, due to the left leg injury Mahesh had from last week .. Kim Das reports that they will make an appearance and talk in person to the fans, but they cannot play .. Such a pity .. Not sure if Mahesh will be able to play next week at the Hong Kong challenger either .. Leander will be at Hong Kong next week .. Anyway, Mirnyi/Taino get a walkover to the quarterfinals.

Here is another nice article on Sunil Kumar, in the Tribune, Chandigarh .. Here is an article in the Times of India about comments by Ramesh Krishnan about questions on possible Davis Cup captaincy and also his good words on Sunil Kumar .. Incidentally, I first started noticing Sunil Kumar after Ramesh Krishnan made some comments on him at Chandigarh over a year back about his potential .. Another one to talk about Sunil was Bhupathi Sr (who had written to me many months ago about the player-support initiative and had said that if we fans put something together, he would help, and that Sunil Kumar was the name he thought of first, as one who may deserve such help) .. Bhupathi Sr had had Sunil in a camp about 3-4 years back and picked him as the best for the future .. In fact, I got a copy of an email yesterday that Bhupathi Sr had sent to some potential sponsors where he had added on many of the newspaper articles on Sunil Kumar this week! .. (Mr.Bhupathi also had some glowing words on Sunil's coach, Kawaljeet Singh at Chandigarh, whom he considers among the very best in India) .. It is nice to know that those who care have already started doing something .. Incidentally, the Chandigarh Lawn Tennis Association gave Rs 40K to add on to the Rs 40K Sunil earned for winning the men's title last week .. By the way, Sunil Kumar has been given a wildcard into the satellites starting next week .. Despite his heroics last week at the DSCL nationals, I hope that people we won't go overboard with expectations .. It is *nearly impossible* for any player, however talented, to do well in pro tennis before the age of 21, and before playing a large number of tournaments to gain experience .. So, don't expect anything from 16 yr old Sunil Kumar for a long while - certainly not next week at the satellites!

I will be gone for a day, and will try to find out news on how Niru is doing in doubles at the Largo challenger tomorrow.

Oct 13 Note-2

Srinath is practising at Pune, still battling injuries that have plagued him this year, despite reaching career-high rankings .. Here is an interview with him, from the Indian Express yesterday.

Here is our on-site fanclub member, Kim Das, reporting from Singapore:

When you get a former #2 player playing a 100+ ranked one it can only go two ways....major upset or bloody murder.  Sadly, it was the latter.  What I had hoped to be an entertaining affair, and it almost always is when Leander is playing top players, turned out to be a desi massacre .....  The first set lasted a mere 19 minutes as LP found himself facing a 5-0 defecit.  He had obviously adopted the strategy that he was going to go for broke in this match.  An admirable quality of his at times but when it doesn't work IT DEFINITLY DOES NOT WORK!  He had a zillion unforced errors as he tried hitting everything for a winner. Clearly he resigned himself to the 'nothing to lose' attitude and while there were some magnificent points played by Leander, they were few and far between.  He finally held to make it 5-1 and just when it seemed that LP might make a comeback of sorts, Chang raised his game just a notch and demolished him on love to close out the first set ....  In the second, LP held the opening game in style, again signalling that perhaps there may be a third set but Chang was just out of control - winners left, right and centre.  Finally in the seventh game with Chang leading 4-2, LP served his best game of the match with an oustanding display of acrobatics and supple net play to hold and then quickly put himself in a position to break Chang ... but once again Chang flipped the afterburners on and held.  He then went to break LP with a flurry of winners to close out the match 6-1, 6-3 ..... As I stated in the beginning, if his strategy had paid off, he would have really pulled a major upset, even though the crowd was clearly in favor of Leander ... don't know if it was the desi factor or the sympathy factor though.  In any case, all I was dissapointed at was the number of unforced errors LP made.

So, LP is still trying to "hit his way out of trouble", as I felt he was doing back in July when I saw him play here in Los Angeles .. He has only played a couple of matches after that though .. If he is doing that, it is a strategy that does work in sports sometimes - but the bigger problem is that you need to play enough matches, and consistently too, before things click with winners falling in and errors reducing, along with getting that mental confidence back .. LP is still able to hit the shots (just not consistently, and just not that accurately in singles where the doubles alley is not there), and he still hasn't lost his quickness and reflexes, as anybody who watches him play doubles can see .. This is why I had actually talked to LP and asked him whether it would help to skip Shanghai and Singapore and just go on a 4-5 week practice regime, then hitting the challenger circuit for singles  .. He really had no choice I am sure, since he and MB were two of the featured players at Singapore, from the sponsors' stand point ..  I still feel his comeback in singles will not happen till he plays a few challengers in a row - which is the toughest thing to do due to the doubles schedule .. Just my opinion - I may be wrong .. Coach Nails and Leander definitely know more! :-)

Oct 13 Note-1

Michael Chang (USA,76) beat Leander 6-1, 6-3 in the first round at Singapore an hour back .. So, LP's singles game is still not improving .. Chang is supposedly struggling this year with his own game, having missed a long period due to injury, and then on a comeback path, though it has been slow .. But nobody has lost his singles form as badly as Leander has - or so it seems .. We will await Kim's report from Singapore.

OK, here is something Syed Fazaluddin wrote in an email to me a couple of days back, about his experience at the South Club in Calcutta this week: -

I have practised at all sorts of places real nice and preppy etc .. I was really astonished that i got booted off the court right in my hometown and on the courts that i grew up on .. {So-and-so at the South Club} telling me I had had enough after half hour because it was members' day! - At least the guy who kicked out Mahesh had no clue who he was .. May be I'm wrong to expect that I should get first priority because I play for the country and  I'm on my way to a satellite ..  The members need to play, but mind you there was another court available ..

Since Fazal said it may help to talk about this incident, I chose to publish that .. I sanitized the email a bit, and edited out who it was who booted Fazal off the court; it is immaterial who exactly it was (no it wasn't the securtity guard, as happened in MB's case in Bangalore) .. I don't know how the South Club in Calcutta operates - it has some 175 odd members, I believe, and I had always known of the place as the mecca of Indian tennis -- would have never expected this to happen there .. It is sad, how we treat our best sportsmen in our country - wasn't it just 5 months back that Fazal was playing for India and winning two Davis Cup singles matches right there on those South Club courts ? .. Fazal said there were members who heard what happened to him, who couldn't believe it .. Anyway, what can I say ! .. I realize that it is Fazal's side of the story - and I don't know what extenuating circumstances South Club folks would have .. As our players always get an ear from us fans before anybody else, I thought I should post it here as Fazal thought appropriate .. No intention of putting down the South Club; as Fazal felt, may be they had their reasons .. People hearing about these things would help avoid similar stories in the future .. Commendable courage by Fazal to decide to talk about it (after all, he doesn't want to burn any bridges out there); the fact that he did so, shows how hurt he is .. I just hope these stories about ill-treatment of our athletes would just stop.

Oct 12 Notes

We just crossed 50,000 hits to this page this year, today .. I am also told that UN announced that the world population just crossed 6 billion today too .. I have a feeling a lot of those people aren't reading my crap! :-)

Leander is scheduled to play at 6.30 pm at Singapore today, against Michael Chang (USA,76) .. Our trusted old reporter, Kim Das, should be on-site there and should give us the details later.

The news is not great from Largo, Florida .. Niru had to play qualies in the challenger, and lost in the second round to Marissa Irvin (USA,183) 2-6, 6-4, 2-6, today .. In the first round yesterday, she had beaten Joanne Moore (GBR,486) 6-2, 6-0 .. Niru is playing doubles this week also, again with Marion Maruska of Austria .. They face a seeded pair in the first round - Janette Husarova (SVK,101) and Florencia Labat (ARG,46) - I expect that to be a tough match.

Got an email from Fazal on something .. Later, with that.

Oct 11 Notes

Some good news from Albuquerque -- Nirupama (#269) and Marion Maruska (AUT,289) reached the final yesterday in doubles in the $50K challenger .. They lost 6-4, 7-5 to Debbie Grahame (USA,80) and Nana Miyagi (JPN,61) to finish runners-up, but they must have upset Paulina Stoyanova (BUL,200) and Alexandra Olsza (POL,74) in the semifinal ..  I believe this is her first final since becoming the doubles runner up at the Lexington (Kentucky) challenger last year, and I think it is her first-ever final in a challenger with over $25K prize money too !! .. She has one singles and 3 doubles titles, as well as two more singles finals and a doubles final, all in $25K challengers in the past .. The final gives Niru 27 points to add to her 62 total and should push her ranking up by about 45-50 spots .. Great show, to come through the qualies as a lucky loser and then to go all the way to the final .. I am not sure if she made the draw at the Largo (Florida) challenger this week .. Will find out soon.

At Singapore,  Leander's match against Michael Chang does not appear in the schedule for Tuesday either - so I guess it will be scheduled for wednesday, which is rather rare for first round matches.

Sai Jayalakshmi and Rushmi Chakravarti should be at the $10K Indonesia ITF satellites this week.  Manisha should be rehabbing the shoulder tendinities in UK .. Most Indian male players should be getting ready for the 4-week satellites that start next week in Mumbai .. 4 satellites start next week (india, South Africa, Spain and Switzerland) along with 7 futures tournaments next week too.  So I don't expect all that much of foreign participation in the Indian stallites.  Srinath and Fazal should be among the top seeds.

The mini- and sub-junior (u14 and u16) DSCL nationals started today in Delhi .. More later.

Oct 10 Notes

Leander's match against Michael Chang is not in the schedule for Monday at the Singapore Heineken Open .. The match should be a featured match for Tuesday ..

The doubles draw is also out .. LP-MB are drawn against a relatively tough pair - Max Mirnyi and Eric Taino .. We will have to wait and see how fast Mahesh's pulled thigh injury gets better.

They have now given the wildcard, originally kept for Mahesh, to Thailand's promising 20 yr old, Paradorn Srichaphan - as MB is not in shape to play singles .. Paradorn started the year at a ranking around 400 and has now come up inside the top-170 .. He reached the quarterfinal of the Tashkent ATP event a few weeks back, and was again in the QF last week at Shanghai .. Nice reward for his efforts, to get a wildcard at Singapore .. I have been calling him the next best in Asia for a couple of years, ever since he was in the top-10 in ITF juniors, and it is basically going as expected so far for him.

The DSCL open official site has now added a Sunil Kumar profile to the men's section in their profiles page .. They didn't have it there at first (heck, who would think a 16 yr old kid would qualify in and mess up everyone's plans with a title? :-)) .. Prompt work by the Planet India web design folks, who apparently put together the web pages in a record 4 days! .. I liked the web site .. I always like web sites where the information comes up fast, like during the tourney when they kept updating their flash news on the front page with scores during the day - the looks of the web sites is of no interest to me ("if I need art, I go to a museum; no need for computer guys to draw for me", as I say often :-)), but their art design and layout was nice too.

There are some comments you might want to read, in the bulletin board today -- Especially Prasenjit's comments today on Sunil Kumar and what happened to some of the earlier phenoms - we should all think of the right things that need to be done.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Oct 11 ..