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Indian-Tennis: Daily News for the weeks ending on Nov 1, 2004
(Previous week's notes) (Next week's notes) (Daily Notes Index 1997 thru 2004)

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Nov 1 Notes

Leander's year seems to have ended rather quickly today, unfortunately .. At the Paris masters, LP and Rikl went down 26 36 to Martin Damm and Cyril Suk in the first round .. The scoreline seems to indicate that Lee was probably not fully recovered from the fever and body aches he had last week .. The schedule also did not help LP - and that is partly due to them being not seeded, which itself is unfortunately due to Rikl's rank being under 20 - which in turn is due to him having not played a full schedule all year .. Oh well .. Their chances to move up from #11 to the top 7 for an entry in the year-end masters cup is shot now - but that was anyway a long shot because they had to basically win the event to be sure of that .. Hopefully LP will be back next year making more noise .. I am itching to say with which partner - and it is not Rikl, with all due respect to the very good doubles player that he is ... but you know where I am going with this :-) ... Have not seen any word from the two Indian champs about anything like that since the Olympics time ..

I had not bugged or publicly implored LP and MB to play together, for a long time .. No, that was not because we in the fanclub were taking the hands-off attitude like most Indian tennis stalwarts did during their first split, saying they were pros and should do what they wanted as pros .. Not at all .. In fact, I never believed that these two should be just "left alone" like all professional doubles players, free to play with whomever they wanted to play with, just because, as the argument from some went, they were playing for money for themselves after all .. Never believed that bowl of baloney..  Because the fact is that LP and MB are not like just any other tennis players .. Whenever they stepped on court, they were doing something more than win matches for themselves .. They were among the very very few true top world class sportsmen (top-10 quality) India has had in world sports .. So, when they played, India cared - and India continues to care .. So the argument that they should be left alone was not acceptable to me - and on my part, on behalf of the fanclub, I of course sent them many messages at one time (in 1999, during the first split) begging them to get back together .. Because every record they created and every piece of history they made was of utmost importance to Indian sports ..

Then I had completely stopped doing all that, because at one point in early 2002 when they split for the second time, I knew that they were not mentally in position to play together again on the tour .. It seemed pretty clear that they simply did not seem to enjoy playing with each other .. The trust was gone .. The comfort level was completely gone .. It was no longer just some ego and other people's influence and all that which happened the first time when they split .. Their tennis together was probably not going to go anywhere .. It seemed also clear that there was some sort of pressure as well, real or perceived, to prove something to each other .. That was not very useful for good results either .. Even to an observer from afar like me, it was easy to see that they probably would not do well together even if they tried to play together .. That really was the reason why I stopped pestering LP and MB for a reunion .. In other words, if the general air between them was not great, they weren't going to do well together on the relentless day-to-day grind on the tour .. So there was no point in wishing for the Indian Express to be together .. I was content to just live with the memories of the great team and all they did earlier .. In a way I suppose somewhere inside I even felt that I did not want to see them struggle along on the tour and mar the great memories from earlier .. So I (and I am sure quite a few in the fanclub as well) decided to just let it go and generally stopped talking about seeing another reunion.

Anyway, that was the case all the way till this summer and the Olympics .. Now things have again changed .. In my view they are both in a comfortable place in their careers - both have done a fair bit and showed they can be very successful with other partners .. Neither has really anything to prove to anybody or to themselves as individual doubles players .. The whole world knows that each have been among the best few doubles players in the last decade (the world never had any doubt on what these two were as a team if only they played together) .. Then we saw that they might even be able to play and enjoy their doubles TOGETHER like old times when tennis was all that mattered .. We saw some of that in the three weeks of tennis around Olympics and saw how terrific they still are .. They must have even liked it a bit, seeing as they played one event afterwards at Bangkok when their partners were not available .. Well, then perhaps it is time to get together for the final stretch run in their careers - which can still go another 2-3 years or more easily ..

Now, however, some other earlier goals come back and start making sense again .. While they individually can hardly prove anything more by playing with others, they both do have a lot to still prove as a doubles team TOGETHER ..  Like winning a masters cup (something they could not do, falling in three finals) .. Like winning an Australian Open and a US Open to get a career grand slam as a team (not even the woodies have won all four, you know!) .. Like making a lot of money .. Perhaps more importantly, winning another 10-15 titles and going down as a top-5 team in the history of the game .. Like making sure that people won't for ever say "what if" about their careers .. Well, as a practical matter, at this point both could use a steady partner too;  Neither has been able to always be sure of the partner's availability, both having had to play with others when Mirnyi and Rikl were unavailable this year ..  Both have arguably even had better results with others than their regular partners this year, though in much fewer events .. It does seem to be time for both to change partners, if you ask me.

So, here is my first call -- Hey Lee and Hesh, get the hell back together next year! .. (I have not decided how insistent I will be on behalf of the fanclub in pestering them, but for now, this is the call from us! :-)) .. One of you send an SMS like last time in 2001 with a "let's play again" message - and let's get going.. OK, may be after MB gets done with Paris and Houston.

Alright, back to news .. The $25K "MSLTA" Mumbai women's challenger has started today .. No big surprises but Sanaa Bhambri continues to play really well -- she upset Sai Jayalakshmy in the first round today in easy straight sets .. Krushmi Chheda beat qualifier Chirashantha Rajur .. Sonal went down to Wilawan Choptang (THA) .. Three Thai girls advanced, as most Indian girls continue to be unable to stand up to the physical energy and mobility of the Thai girls who are always relentless when they come to India .. See the Mumbai women's challenger page for all the scores.

In other bad news, Harsh Mankad could not get going in the one set he played today and went down 60 26 26 to Robert Yim (USA) in the final qualies at the Homstead challenger in Florida .. HM is the first lucky loser candidate, but it does not look like there are any withdrawals from the main draw .. Harsh and Aisam play doubles tomorrow in the afternoon.

In the latest singles rankings, we have another top-350 player --- and that is Sunil Kumar Sipaeya, who has come up to #349 with the 12 points he gained with the runner-up finish at the Nigeria futures a week back .. He is only the 4th Indian since 1997 to crack top-250, with Srinath, Harsh and Prakash as the previouos ones ..  Sunil has not had a whole lot of top-350 wins though, which is what he will need to move up much from where he is .. He will be playing a lot more challengers from now on and would have a chance to play higher ranked players ..

Sunil Kumar, Vishal Uppal, Vijay Kannan, and Vinod Sridhar are all at the Thailand $10K this week .. Young Karan Rastogi qualified in once again - and had to go through a couple of tough three-setters to do that .. Also qualifying in was former national hockey captain Ajit Pal Singh's 23 year old son Gurmehar Singh, who upset the top seed Jacco mathew in the final round of qualies .. The draw is all posted by our Thai friend jirobkk in the forum - take a look ..

Oct 31 Notes

LP and Rikl are scheduled to play on Monday itself at the Paris masters .. That is terrible; I was hoping that LP would get a couple more days to hopefully recover from his illness last week .. At this point, LP-DR needs to win at least some three rounds to have any chance for the Houston Masters Cup draw .. Let us hope LP is goon enough to play tomorrow.

A really good win for Harsh Mankad at the $50K+H Homstead challenger Q2 this morning .. Mankad d. Brendan Evans (USA,730), 57 76(3) 63 .. He had to come back from the brink against the 18 year old who is the current #2 in the world junior rankings .. That he was able to do that in a three hour match this morning after a 3 hour match last night in the Q1 was perhaps some indication that HM has gained something from his recent training work in Pasadena - actually HM himself said that today, as he felt he was able to tire the opponents down by the third set in both the matches .. He then had to come back for a 3rd match within 24 hours, in the afternoon - and did run out of gas after 7 hours of play - but got lucky as the match got postponed at 60 26 in the Q3 against Robert Yim (USA) .. Hopefully he can win the third set and make the main draw tomorrow .. In the doubles draw, Harsh is playing with Aisam Qureshi (PAK) .. They face the wildcards, Vahid Mirzadeh and Jesse Witten of USA ..

At the Q2 for the Tier III Bell challenge in Qubec City, Canada, Shikha Uberoi (USA) went down to Carly Gullickson, 36 46 ..

Oct 30 Notes 

The doubles draws are out for the very final regular ATP tournament of the year, the Paris Indoors Masters .. Good to see that Leander (who was a bit ill last week) is in the draw .. LP-Rikl are unseeded and play Martin Damm and Cyril Suk of CZE in the first round ..  Mahesh and Max are on the other half of the draw, seeded 4th - they play Andrei Pavel (ROM) and Nenad Zimonjic (SCG) .. The firt round matches may be scheduled as late as on wednesday this week.

At the Tier III WTA in Quebec City, Canada, the 5th seed Shikha Uberoi beat Ekaterina Afinogenova (RUS,460), 57 63 76(5) and face Carly Gullickson (USA,409) next .. Neha Ubeori (USA,317) could not get past the top seed Abigail Spears (USA,118) in a 26 46 match.

At the $50K+H Homestead challenger qualies, Harsh Mankad had a very good Q1 win yesterday, 63 67(3) 63 against Wayne Odesnik (USA,425), a 19 year old who has been playing vey well this month with a $15K US futures final and an upset of a top-225 player in the Burbank challenger, etc .. Up next for Harsh today in the Q2 is Brendan Evans (USA,730), who will be another tough match - he is the current junior #2 in the world ..

By the way, I forgot to mention that there were a few excellent onsite fanclub member match reports from the $10K in Pune, from Jaydeep (thyanks!) in our forum thread on the Pune ITF .. Take a look .. He mentions the gritty work there by the runner-up Rushmi, who had been injured from the QF onwards ..

Oct 29 Notes

Mahesh and Gambill had a good start at the Stockholm ATP semis yesterday, but went down to the Spanish team of Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco,  63 57 26 .. Mahesh now goes to Paris for the masters event, to play with Max Mirnyi again.

The Uberoi sisters are at the Bell Challenge (WTA Tier III) in Quebec City for the qualifying rounds this weekend .. [Q1] (1) Abigail Spears (USA, 118) vs. Neha Uberoi (USA, 317) .. [Q1] (5) Shikha Uberoi (USA, 169) vs. Ekaterina Afinogenova (RUS, 460) .. Tough match for Neha, but if she can play with teh form she had last week in her straight sets upset of a top-130 player, who knows! ..

Harsh Mankad is in the draw for the weekend qualifying at the $50K+H challenger in Homestead, Florida (USA) near Miami ..  He is the 4th seed and faces Wayne Odesnik (USA) in the Q1 today.

At the $15K in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (USA), 5th seed
Prakash Amritraj (IND,332) went down to qualifier Yaoki Ishii (JPN,719) 57 26, in the semis .. I don't think Prakash was able to get down by last night to sign in for the qualies at the Homestead challenger, unfortunately.

At the $10K Pune ITF, the unbeaten streak of Akgul Amanmuradova (UZB) continued, as she won a dowble crown .. She beat Rushmi in the final (60 76) today, and had won the doubles title with Sai Jayalakshmy yesterday (correction - I wrongly said that Rushmi won the doubles, earlier) .. For her part, Rushmi had a very good tournament, as she always does when she is in India .. She had beaten a resurgent Isha Lakhani in the semi yesterday quite easily .. Now the girls move on to the $25K challenger in Mumbai.

Forgot to update how things went a couple of days back in the second round at the $10K in Thailand .. All three Indians went down in the second round there .. Denis Gremelmayr (GER,498) d. Vijay Kannan (IND,540) 63 61 .. (4) Takahiro Terachi (JPN,327) d. (Q) Karan Rastogi (IND) 57 63 63 and David Martin (USA,674) d. Vishal Uppal (IND,585) 36 64 61 .. Though he lost, it was a pretty good match from Karan, against Terach .. At the $15K in Nigeria (F6b) Mustafa had lost in the first round to Jonathan Igbinova (NGR) 46 46 .. Mustafa is in the doubles semis again, though.

Oct 28 Notes

Sorry for disappearing for two days .. Thought I would have good internet connections during my travel, but it took two days to get set ..

I thought Mahesh would be off this week, as he was not in the early entry lists at any of the ATP events .. As it turned out, he went and signed in with Jan-Michael Gambill at the Stockholm ATP .. They advanced to the QF with a really tough R1 win over Jordan Kerr (AUS) and Jim Thomas (USA), 76(1) 67(6) 76(4) .. Then they got a walkover in the QF and are in the semifinals today against the Spaniards, Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco, who upset the 2nd seeds Palmer-Vizner ..  Good going, Hesh.

Nice work by Prakash Amritraj at the $15K Baton Rouge futures in the US .. He has reached the QF with wins over wildcar, Michael Pallares (DOM), 62 60 and the talented qualifier Scoville Jenkins (USA,889), 76(7) 62 .. He plays another qualifier, Yaoki Ishii (JPN,719), who upset the 3rd seed Yu Wang Jr (CHN,317) yesterday .. Praksh is only playing singles this week.

Harsh Mankad is at the $50K+H Homestead challenger (next week), and would be signing in for qualies this evening.

The Pune $10K ITF has now reached the semifinal stage .. The story has been the nice comeback by Isha Lakhani .. She was made to fight all the way to the end in a three set (3rd set tiebreaker) marathin by Sanaa Bhambri yesterday though .. Sanaa is playing at a higher level lately, for sure .. Isha faces Rushmi, who is generally unbeatable when she pays in India .. The top seed Akgul Amanmuradova keeps cooking though, in the upper half of the draw - she faces Wilawan Choptang (THA) who upset the 8th seed Sonal Phadke yesterday .. See the Pune $10K page.

Oct 26 Notes

Prakash Amritraj is at the $15K USA F30 futures in Baton Rouge (Louisiana) in the US this week .. He is seeded 5th and is drawn to face a wildcard Michael Ray Pallares (DOM,1225) .. The match is on Tuesday.

At the $10K ITF tournament in Pune, the big upset today was by 15 year old GK Shwetha, who pulled the rug out from under the 7th seed Archana Venkatraman .. That is the first professional win for the young girl .. Wilawan Choptang of Thailand beat the 4th seed Sai Jayalakshmy, who only occasionally seems to play at the level that she used to be at a couple of years back .. I have not seen the official Tuesday scores (the ususally prompt Deccan Gymkhana website didn't update today), but have posted what I could find from a Marathi newspaper (Sakal), at the Pune $10K page. It looks like 17 yr old Punam reddy had a good win over Arthi Venkatraman, and the 2nd seed Rushmi beat Sheethal.  Young wildcard, 16 year old Tara Iyer seems to have gone down to the 6th seed Thassha Vitayaviroj (THA), though in a good 67(3) 36 match .. Tara has had some knee injury problems this year but seems to be starting to play well after quite a while.

At the Thailand F1, Indians had a pretty good day .. The biggest win was by Vishal Uppal who upset the 6th seed Herbert Wiltschnig (AUT,419), 62 63 .. Voijay Kannan (IND,540) had a very good 64 64 win over Martin Slanar (AUT,571) .. Slanar was ranked around 400 just a few months back .. Qualifier Karan Rastogi beat another qualifier Joji Miyao (JPN), 63 36 62 .. The bad news was that Vinod Sridhar had an uncharacteristic 16 26 upset loss to a wildcard youngster, Kirati Siributwong ..

Oct 25 Notes

There was good and bad news at the Nigeria F6A futures in Lagos over the weekend - Sunil Kumar won the doubles title but went down in the singles final to Viktor Bruthans (SVK,315), 26 46 .. Still an excellent week for Sunil Kumar, who picked up enough points to move to about #355 in singles rankings next week! .. Good job .. He needs to now start moving on to some of the tougher futures and pick up some wins at the higher levels (against top-350 opponents) .. He seems ready to start doing that .. SKS was in the entry list for the Thailand futures series starting this week (three $10K events), but seems to have withdrawn from the first week.

The $10K women's ITf event has started in Pune, sponsored once again by NECC (National Egg Coordination Committee, I believe) .. Pretty decent field there, led by Akgul Amanmuradova of UZB, the winner of the event last year at Pune .. The runner-up last year, Meghaa Vakharia, is not playing as she is taking some time off to rets some injury etc .. The big match today was between the Bhambri sisters .. Sanaa who has usually had trouble against her elder sister in the past, turned the tables on 3rd seed Ankita in a straight sets upset .. Sanaa really seems to be in great form lately .. 5th seed Isha Lakhani and 8th seed Sonal Phadke also won .. Rushmi, Sai, etc are yet to play .. See the scores in the Pune $10K page.

18 yr old Karan Rastogi did a good job in the qualifying rounds at the $10K Thailand F1 futures this weekend .. After beating a Thai wildcard in the Q1 round, he beat tetsuya Chaen (JPN,1311),m 46 63 64 in the Q2 round and then upset the 5th seed Mourad Inoyatov (UZB,839) in the Q3 to make the main draw where he will face another qualifier, Joji Miyao (JPN), who had upset Jaco Mathew who was the 6th seed in the qualies, in the Q2 .. Also qualifying in was Ashutosh Singh, who beat Chris Nathan (USA) 61 60, Ante Andric (CRO), 76(4) 76(3) and Idan Rosenberg (ISR), 61 62 .. Ashutosh has a tough R1 against the 4th seed Terachi (JPN) .. In the main draw, VIinod Sridhar plays a wildcard, Vijay kannan plays Martin Slanar (AUT), Vishal Uppal plays the 6th seed Wiltschnig .. You can see all the results posted by our friend jirobkk in the forum thread on the Thai events ..

Forgot to report on the Asian Tennis Federation (ATF) u14 tournament that finished this past weekend in Delhi .. Shriram Balaji won the final over Yuki Bhambri, 75 64 .. Poojashree Venkatesh beat Prerna Mythry, 63 62 in the girls finals .. If I am not mistaken, the winners of this event will be sent to Australia for a one month program, in an arrangement between the Asian Tennis federation and Tennis Australia (something like that) .. So, it is a very nice break for the youngsters Shriram and Poojashree!  .. Congratulations.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the weeks ending on Oct 25 ..

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 playera, let me know .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan