Notes for the weeks ending on Oct 20, 2003
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Oct 19 Note-2
Title #32 for Mahesh Bhupathi! [correction later - it is the 31st] .. Had a little trouble in one set once again, but MadMax came through in the final to win their 5th title of the year .. [F] #2 M.Bhupathi/ M.Mirnyi d. W.Black/ K.Ullyett, 62 26 63 .. This is their 3rd title from the 6 masters events they played [MB did not have Max as the partnber for the Indian Wells and Miami masters, after which these two rejoined] .. They have reached the final in four of the six (Monte Carlo, Hamburg, Montreal and Madrid -- were runners up at Hamburg and winners at the other three) .. They were in SF at the other two masters events (Rome, Cinicinnati) .. That is a really good record .. Their consistent show in the masters events is a big reason that they are at #2 in team rankings with 878 race points (just 24 race points behind the Bryans) despite not having won a grand slam n the three they played (2 QFs and the final at Wimbledon) .. Mad Max are 5-4 in finals this year, which is a better record than they had earlier, when they were always a bit iffy in the finals .. Any way you look at it, it has been quite an impressive run since April when they got together -- all these points from just 14 events together, of which 9 were at Grand Slam or Masters levels! .. OK, time for Mahesh to stop the run next month and retire a great team (and restart an old team! :-) :-)) .. Congrats to Mahesh and Max!
Yuri Schukin won the title easily today at Belgaum, over Kindlmann .. Ghouse-Uppal played very well in a two tiebreaker loss to Mertinak-Sekac .. See the Belgaum challenger page.
Oct 18 Note-2
Yet another masters final for Mahesh! .. Today at the 2.45M Madrid Masters, [SF] #2 M.Bhupathi/ M.Mirnyi d. A.Costa/ M.Verkerk, 76(5) 46 62 .. So, Mad Max continues to drop a set here and a set there, but they also keep on winning! .. The win gives them 70 race points (848 pts) and brings them within about 50 points of the top team, the Bryans .. The final is tomorrow against a very good team that seems to be playing quite well after a good while - Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett of Zimbabwe ..
Oct 18 Note-1
MB-MM play the semifinal at the Madrid Masters today at about 6.30 pm .. Their opponents are Albert Costa and Martin Verkerk, who upset the 3rd seeds Bjorkman-Woodbridge yesterday .. In the match yesterday, Mad Max had to comeback from dropping a tiebreaker set, once again .. [QF] #2 M.Bhupathi/ M.Mirnyi d. J.Novak/ P.Vizner, 67(4) 76(5) 63 .. By the way, #2 ranked MB-MM have a chance to get very close in points to the top ranked team, the Bryans is they can win a title here .. The Bryans got upset in the first round by Jared Palmer and David Rikl .. JP-DR then upset the #8 Damm-Suk before falling in the semis yesterday to Black-Ullyett who are awaiting the winners of the MB-MM semi today .. Nice to know that Rikl has a good partner, just in case his Indian partner decides to play next year with another Indian .. Just in case :-)
LP is expected at the Belgaum finals tomorrow to give away the prizes, and he is also expected at the AAG opening ceremony (as Mr.Naidu called him up) .. I suppose he will take off to the US after that to get ready for the Houston WDC.
Schukin upset the 4th seed DeVoest and Kindlmann beat Sekac, and so we have two unseeded players in the final at the the Belgaum challenger.
The big news today is from Hong Kong where Arunprakash Rajagopalan won the double crown! .. He beat the #2 swedish junior, who had upset the second seed in the semi .. [F] (9) Arun Prakash Rajagopalan d. (13) Ervin Eleskovic (SWE,163), 63 63 .. Arun and Divij Sharan continued their doubles win streak with an easy 61 64 win over David Jeflea and Alexander Petropoulos (AUS) .. That seems like complete domination by Indians out there .. Arun Prakash is on some sort of roll .. This is the first grade-2 title (100 pts) forat least a decade or so, by an Indian junior .. Actually, in terms of points there have only been two better results -- Sunil Kumar winning the Asian juniors in late 2001 (120 pts), and Karan Rastogi reaching the group-A semi last week at Osaka (120 pts) .. Karan had the Kentucky grade-1 final (100 pts) last month .. So, we have had three of the four best results since LP times, in the last 6 weeks! .. It is great to see guys coming through so nicely .. Confidence is contagious you know - expect a lot more from Indians next year too ..
The points from here help to take Arun Prakash right outside top-65 in singles .. More incredibly, I believe Divij with 520 pts will now move to #5 in world doubles rankings, with Arun Prakash moving up to #9 - that is phenomenal for somebody who has just played 4 months of junior events .. What is great is that Divij emerged during the first half of this year and Arun did that in the second half (Somdev emerging in the previous 6 months) .. I am expecting Tushar Liberhan to do some damage over the next few months as well (he is on a 20 match win streak at the grade-4 level, by the way) .. Indian tennis needs to keep bringing out top-60 caliber players every six months or so .. We need a factory line - when there are enough of them getting top quality junior competition and improving, we will ultimately develop the kind of depth and quality needed to start producing top level ATP players. Wonderful news lately from all sides.
At the prestigious Nike junior masters in Bangalore, two top seeds won and two top seeds got upset today .. Yuki Bhambri in the u12 boys and GK Shwetha in the u14 girls won thier finals .. On the u14 boys' side, unseeded Agnel Gladwin upset Navneetha Kannan and in the u12 girls' Nandita Krishnan upset the top seed Janaki Rao .. See the main draw results at the Nike Junior Masters page .. Big congratulations go to the four winners, for coming through the regionals and then winning the masters against regional finalists .. Agnel, Shwetha, Yuki and Nandita get to represent India at the Nike International Masters in Sun City South Africa next month. By the way, very nice to see Nandita "emerging" !!
Oct 17 Notes
MB-MM play the QF today at the Madrid masters today.
Only one seed, Rik DeVoest remain in the semifinals at the Belgaum challenger - Schukin, Sekac and Kindlmann are the other semifinalists .. Mertinak and Sekac won the doubles semi today and will play Ghouse-Uppal in the final, whcih is set for Sunday, keeping the Indian interest alive till the last day .. See the Belgaum challenger page.
It seems that Bhupathi, Bopanna, Prakash Amritraj etc have all been roped in for the Afro-Asian Games (probably pressure from all quarters for them all to show up -- I feel bad for them all, as it is really tough for them to get up for this, having played a lot of tennis lately) .. Mankad got off the hook somehow -- but then he has played the longest continuous stretch of eight weeks while others have all had at least a week off along the way; somebody probably felt pity for HM .. I don't know if we really NEED all thes guys to play, to pick up medals - not sure which other top tennis players are coming to AAG, but we will see how things go. It is a big distraction for Mahesh for sure, in the middle of Paris Masters and Houston WDC etc, if he actually plays at AAG.
The big run continues for Arun Prakash Rajagopalan - he reached the final of the grade-2 Hong Kong ITF juniors today with an easy 60 75 win over the 7th seed Lachlan Fergusson (AUS,86) who is a talented player (he beat Somdev twice this year, though SKD got him at Frankfurt the last time) - pretty good win by Arun .. Arun and Divij Sharan continued their winning streak in doubles too, reaching the final with a 63 63 win over the 4th seeds Kiril Tcherveniachki/ William Ward (NZL) .. In the final, Arun plays the 13th seed, the Swedish #2 junior (13) Ervin Eleskovic (SWE,163) who upset the second seed Woong-Sun Jun (KOR) today .. In doubles, our boys play David Jeflea and Alexander Petropoulos of Australia .. Wow, these are terrific results - the kind of runs from Indian players that we could only dream of, some 3 years back!
OK, now you are wondering who are the next group of upcoming players? .. There are a bunch, mostly in the u14 levels that we should keep an eye on .. I almost forgot about the most prestigious event at that level in India -- that is the Nike Junior (u12/u14) Masters at the Bhupathi TennisVillage in Bangalore, going on this week .. The finalists from the four zonal events conducted earlier at Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai & Kolkata take part in the Masters this week .. The first round and semifinals just got done and the finals are tomorrow for the two age groups in boys and girls (only singles) .. The winners will advance to represent India at the Nike Internationl Masters in Sun City South Africa later this year -- that is the most prestogious event in the world at that age level .. Last year we had Sanaa, Pujashree, M.Jeevan and Sriram Balaji who played admirably in South Africa .. The four winners will be determined tomorrow at Bangalore -- Navneeta Kannan, Yuki Bhambri, GK Shwetha, Janaki Rao etc are favorites for tomorrow .. See the main draw results at the Nike Junior Masters page [Thanks go to Globosport organizing the event, for sending the results to us!] .. There is also a backdraw of consolation rounds - I will add those results later.
Oct 16 Notes
Today was not a good day in singles at Belgaum, as both Rohan Bopanna and Harsh Mankad were unable to pull upsets to win their second rounds .. #337 RB played a great match but lost in a 3rd set tiebreaker to #307 Teimuraz Gabashvili .. Oh hell .. #367 HM, probably running on no gas at all in his tank after eight weeks of non-stop play went down in straight sets to the talented 20 yr old from Switzerland, Stephane Bohli ranked #262 .. That finishes the challenger run for Indians in singles .. Not at all a bad show in 5 challengers in India this year, as we had two Indians reach semifinals (HM at Bangalore and PA at Dharwad), and something like 10 odd first round wins .. Remember that over the last decade, except for LP and MB, we probably had only about 2 or 3 challenger wins by Indians pu together .. I would have never expected this time last year that we would have three players in the top-350 range by now and that we would see some 20 odd challenger wins by Indians this year .. Things are certainly looking up, as we look to next year.
And for the 3rd consecutive challenger, we have an Indian team in the final too .. Mustafa Ghouse/ Vishal Uppal this time (PA and DeVoest were in the final the last two weeks) .. MG-VU beat Sunil Kumar and Vishal Punna who had reached the semi with a walkover in the second round .. Actually counting the two challengers in Ukraine that Harsh Mankad reached the finals in, we have had Indians in the finals of the last 5 challengers that had Indian participation :-) .. See the Belgaum challenger page.
The best news today, however, comes from Hong Kong, where ArunPrakash Rajagopalan upset the top seed Sun-Yong Kim (KOR,31), 64 36 64 in the QF of the grade-2 ITF juniors!!! .. This has been some kind of improbable and incredible last-gasp run by Arun Prakash in the juniors .. To say that he came out of the blue to go right to the top of the Indian junior list, would not be correct because he was our u16 number-1 a couple of years back .. For some reason he did not play juniors for 18 months and then came roaring back out of nowhere, 4 months back when he showed up at the grade-4 US International grasscourts and won the title with even a top-35 upset win - in his very first comeback tournament! .. Now, with today's win, he has picked up enough points to crack the junior top-100 from just eight events .. His run was not just in singles -- Arun and Divij Sharan have continued their fine doubles run from last week when they won the grandslam-grade title at Osaka .. They have reached the semi this week (sorry I missed looking at the draw carefully and said ealier they weren't playing doubles this week) .. Scores: [R1] (2) Arun Prakash Rajagopalan/ Divij Sharan BYE .. [R2] d. Kwok-Yeung Ng/ Gilbert Wong (HKG) 61 64 .. [QF] d. (5) David Galic/ Todd Ley (AUS) 61 63 .. [SF] vs (4) Kiril Tcherveniachki/ William Ward (NZL).
Divij Sharan, who himself was somewhat of a surprise story in the first half of the year when he starteed producing some good results, rather unexpectedly, compared to his earlier performance, is #10 this week in wold doubles junior ranks, with Arun at #21 .. This week's result should be pushing Divij to about #8 and Arun to about #15 - He did that from 8 events? are you kidding me? .. These two guys have a grade-2 title (in RSA) together and a group-A title last week .. Arun won a grade-1 title (Kentucky) with Eric Chvojca and Divij won a grade-1 title (Canadian juniors) with GD Jones .. The last 4 months have been extremely productive for these two ..
Here is the update on the junior's schedule, according to Sunil Yajaman of AITA, whom I must once again give kudos to, for closely watching the kids and giving them all advice on where to go and what to do --- Somdev Dev Varman, who is done with juniors (except for the year end Asian Juniors) has been granted wildcards to the $10K Sri Lankan futures the next two weeks .. See our forum's tournament threads - I have posted the entry lists at those two futures .. Karan Rastogi goes to Nick Bollitieri's academy in Florida for three weeks of training .. Somdev, Karan and ArunPrakash are all expected at the Indian futures next month .. Divij might play a couple of grade-3 events in Malaysia next month instead of the futures. The plans look good for all of them.
Oct 15 Notes
MB-MM moved into the QF with a hard-fought win today at the $2.45M Madrid Masters - [R1] (2) M.Bhupathi/ M.Mirnyi d. A.Corretja/ F.Lopez, 67(2) 64 76(4) .. The quarterfinal is against Jiri Novak and Pavel Vizner of Czech Republic, on Friday.
There was good news on the Chennai Tata Open today, as it was announced that Carlos Moya (ESP,7) has confirmed his participation .. With Paradorn Srichaphan (THA,11) also expected, that is a great start for the entry list!
At the Belgaum challenger, today was not a good day, as only Rohan Bopanna advanced to the second round to join Harsh Mankad who had won yesterday .. Prakash, who was nursing quadriceps injury from last week's semi was doubly troubled by cramps - that allowed qualifier Ti Chen to comeback from losing to first set to PA .. Kash was still good enough to push it to even a couple of match points on Chen's serve late in the 3rd set but was unable to even grip the racquet properly to return serve at that point, due to cramps .. Vijay Kannan and Sunil Kumar lost in straight sets - Vijay dropped serve once each in repotedly a competitive match, and SKS fought hard in the second set taking it to a tiebreaker - that was that .. Somdev also reportedly played well, but it was a losing battle against Rohan Bopanna who was in full flow with his serve working well today .. See the Belgaum challenger page.
At the Hong Kong grade2 ITF juniors, the 9th seed Arun Prakash Rajagopalan beat Cheuk-Wai (Jack) Hui (HKG,327), 63 63 in the 3rd round to reach the QF, where he has a tough match against the top seed (1) Sun-Yong Kim (KOR,31) .. 6th seed Divij Sharan (#103) went down in a close match, 64 36 46, to 11th seed Martin Fischer of Austria .. That would look like an upset, but Martin at #97 is actually ranked ahead of Divij after his nice run to the QF of the big Osaka group-A event last week.
Oct 14 Notes
Mahesh and Max Mirnyi are at the $2.45M Madrid Masters in Spain this week .. This is the penultimate of the nine masters series events, the Paris indoors remaining after this .. The winner gets 100 race points (500 entry pts) .. So, a good show at these last two big events and then the Houston World Doubles Championships will help in the final ranking positions .. MB-MM want to try to finish at #1 .. It looks tough at this time though .. The Bryan twins with 902 race points (4510 entry points) this year has a decent lead over MadMax, who are #2 with 778 race points (with Knowles-Nestor at 745 and Bjorkman-Woodbridge at 701 not too far behind) .. Paes-Rikl stays at #7 with 522 points but will drop to #8 next week with Damm-Suk inching ahead, but it doesn't look like the #9 team (Etlis-Rodriguez, with 353 points) will be able to displace them from that spot before WDC .. Etlis-Rodriguez lost today in the R1 at Madrd, by the way .. It matters if LP-Rikl decide to play at Houston .. No final word on that, but LP seemed very interested in playing the WDC if all goes well in the next two weeks when he gets on court for practice again.
MB-MM are seeded second at Madrid and are drawn to face wildcards Alex Corretja and Feliciano Lopez in the first round.
Pretty tough win by Harsh Mankad today at the challenger .. 67(4) 75 76(4) comeback on James Auckland (GBR) .. Well, that turned out to be much tougher than I expected, but glad to see him coming through in a tiebreaker, which has lately been a bit of a problem for Harsh .. Mustafa could not sustain a good sart in the first set against Bruthans and Sunil Kumar could not do much against Sekac, though he fought hard in the second set before falling in a 6-8 tiebreaker .. Prakash, Rohan, Vijay, Somdev, and Saurabh Singh play tomorrow .. See the Belgaum challenger page.
The first entry list has come out for the women's $25K challenger set for Nov 3-8 .. See the Mumbai challenger page .. Only Sania Mirza made the main draw directly, but Rushmi is first in the qualifying list and will surely make the draw in the end .. Megha and Isha at #5 and #7 in the qualifying list, and both have a very good chance to make the main draw .. Sai at #10 may end up having to play qualies.
There were reports yesterday that things are pretty well set now for Sania Mirza to undergo some coaching under Bob Brett at his new tennis academy in San Remo, Italy .. She will be with him for a few weeks at the end of this year .. It is expensive though .. Mahesh Bhupathi's Globosport firm which manages her, are raising some funds, a big chunk of which is expected from the Government of Andhra Pradesh, as promised by Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu .. Mr. Naidu does not go back on his word on these things, so it looks like things are happening .. I hope she gets to go into training for some extended periods - basically 2-3 months or something, rather than in piecemeal weekly stints .. She needs to do this urgently, because the results at the top-300 levels have been quite patchy for her, despite her being virtually unbeatable by players below that level .. In my uneducated opinion, that sounds like a classic case of some extremely coachable and correctable gaps in her game that need immediate attention .. Bob Brett was of course the coach for Becker, Ibvanisevic, etc .. I believe he has not taken up anybody for direct coaching in a while, as he has been focusing on getting the academy up .. He seems interested in "giving it a shot" -- and that means he finds good potential in Sania .. Go Girl!
At the Hong Kong grade-2 ITF juniors, both Indian boys advanced today to the PQF .. 9th seed Arun Prakash Rajagopalan beat Alexander Petropoulos (AUS,203), 76(3) 76(5), and now faces Jack Hui (HKG,328) who upset a seeded player .. 6th seed Divij Sharan beat Syrym Abdukhalikov (UZB,563), 36 60 62 and runs into the 11th seed Martin Fischer (AUT,157) next.
Oct 13 Notes
Mahesh and Max could not pick up another title yesterday at the $765K Vienna ATP .. [F] #2 M.Bhupathi/ M.Mirnyi l. Y.Allegro/ R.Federer, 67(7) 57 .. Still a nice run with 7 wins in a row by Mad max, before the close loss yesterday .. The points from this event helped move MB up one spot past Woodbridge to #4 in doubles rankings, behind the Bryan twins and Max Mirnyi .. MB-MM moved up to #2 spot in team rankings as well (behind the Bryans at #1); That is somewhat significant, as far as the draw and groupings at the Houstin World Doubles Championships are concerned.
Good news in the qualies at the Belgaum challenger .. Vijay Kannan qualified in today, as Vinod Sridhar and Vishal Punna in the final qualies went down .. Nice straight set win by Vijay over the 5th seed in the qualies, the talented youngster Go Soeda (JPN) .. I guess Vijay did get the final laugh on this -- he richly deserved the main draw wildcard that went to Saurabh Singh this week (the other wildcards were Sunil Kumar, Somdev Varman and Mustafa Ghouse - no complaints on that) ..
The main draw at Belgaum is quite decent for most of the Indian players .. See the Belgaum challenger page .. Harsh is playing doubles with Aisam Qureshi this week, and Rohan and Prakash are not playing doubles.
The new rankings show Prakash cracking the singles top-300 and Harsh cracking the doubles top-200 for the first time .. The singles rankings are: Prakash at #277, Rohan at #337, Harsh at #367 .. The doubles rankings are: Harsh at #200, Rohan at #210 and Prakash at #230 .. Let us hope for them all to raise the rankings a bit more up this week.
Divij Sharan and Arun Prakash are at the grade-2 Hong Kong ITF, seeded 5th and 9th - they both had first round byes .. GayatriKrishnan, RK's daughter, qualified into the girls' draw but fell to the 4th seed today in the first round .. See the juniors thread in the players pages at our forum for scores.
Rupesh Roy won his second consecutive grad-5 title yesterday at the Pakistan grade-5 juniors.
.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Oct 13 ..
I am getting some inquiries 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 inquiring 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 inquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.