LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Nov 1, 1999
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Nov 1 Note-1
The weirdest stuff seems to happen to our boys .. How about this ? .. I just got word that Leander got hit on his knee by his own racket during practice at Paris and had to stay away from playing this week - that's why MB is playing with Andrew Florent there .. Yikes .. It's like there is some strange force out there trying to make sure that these guys don't play well anywhere else but the grand slams and Chennai .. Leander is alright, I am told and will be fine to play next week .. That means they will be at Stockholm next week, as they need at least some match practice before Hartford .. Hopefully the dark forces will stay away for them to do well at Hartford, which is the other big event of the year .. Holy Mackerell .. What else can go wrong in a year of tennis, which incidentally is also one of the best years ever by any doubles pair too ! .. Is that weird or what ? .. Anyway, I will try to talk to Leander and get the details of what happened .. Thought I would update everyone before anybody gets any ideas that there is again something between the boys :-) .. No, absolutely nothing like that.
Oct 31 Notes
The Paris Super 9 doubles draw shows Mahesh playing with Andrew Florent (seeded 8th) .. Leander is not in the draw .. I need to find out what's up with LP now .. I had not talked to either of them for a few weeks .. As far as I know LP does not have any injury or anything, but I need to find out if anything new happened (kind of bad timing, since we are just 2 weeks away from Hartford) .. Hold on, I will try to find out. There was an article in the Mid-Day Mumbai, just two days back where Akshay Sawai had interviewed Mahesh .. MB was undergoing physical therapy at Mumbai and was getting ready to leave for Paris, where he said he and Leander would be playing by Wednesday next .. Let us hope for the best!
I have just posted the qualifier round results at the satellite Leg-3 page .. Just as I predicted, a couple of Indians ended up just missing out the main draw .. One was unfortunately AV Rao .. Actually not too bad, as he has now won two rounds and is in the final round in the qualies .. Always good for the kids to get good match practice .. S.Zaman was the other one who missed out .. in side the top-26 in circuit points who missed out .. Poor S.Zaman should have got some help from AITA .. He had qualified into the draw in the first two legs but lost in the 3rd leg qualies today (in round 2) and will now get no chance for any ATP points .. It would have been better to make Sunil Kumar play qualies here .. The kid doesn't need ATP points now .. Oh well .. As I predicted, Vijendra Laad, SK Shivshankar and kedar Shah had to play qualies, and all three are in the final round (to be played tomorrow, I guess) .. In the main draw, Srinath is the 3rd seed and Sandeep is the 6th .. Others in the direct entry are, Fazal, Manoj, Vinod, Vijay, Rohan, Nitin, Saurav, and Vasu, along with wildcards Sunil Kumar, Vishal Uppal, Mustafa and Kedar Tembe .. Top seed is Chicoine, 2nd is Zitco, 4th is Messmer .. 5th is Thornadtsson, 7th is Majmudar and 8th is Youzhny .. I believe Kemp-Bergman, Karagiannis, Mlynaris and Veress are the others in the 24 direct entries .. I have not seen the draw.
At the Stuttgart Super 9, Jonas Bjorkman and Byron Black won the title, beating Adams/DeJager, 67(7) 76(2) 60 .. Adams/deJager had beaten the Woodies in three sets in the semis .. That places Bjorkman/Black at around #13 or 12 in team rankings .. Another good Super 9 in Paris, and these guys could make it to Hartford and cause problems for everyone! .. How about Enqvist ? A day after beating Agassi, he beat Krajicek today to win the Stuttgart singles title.
Oct 30 Note-2
Indian sweep at the satellites second leg today .. Srinath was too hot today for Chicoine to handle and the Kirtanes were too gritty for Majmudar/Chicoine too !! .. Srinath was moving gingerly, not to aggravate the ankle he sprained yesterday, but his deep ground strokes were still too good for Chicoine, who at one point reportedly yelled, "My God, the way he hits those balls!" (see Sharda Ugra's report in The Hindu) .. Not bad .. Srinath won 7-5, 6-4 .. Srinath has a bunch of points to defend from the satellites last year, and has now come back into the top 3 among the satellite player field in points after two legs, with 22 total circuit points .. The Kirtanes reportedly played an inspired match in the doubles final that followed too .. They won by the same score 7-5, 6-4 .. The Kirtanes are of course a class doubles pair, and their title is also no surprise.
Based on my quick calculation of the circuit points so far, pretty much all the top Indian players have made it into the direct entry for the 3rd leg of the satellites which uses only circuit points in the first 2 legs and not the ATP rankings .. That is, given that AITA has given a wildcard entry to Mustafa who has no wins in the two legs and have three other wildcard spots reserved for Sunil Kumar, Vishal Uppal and Kedar Tembe .. Vijay Kannan, Nitin Kirtane, Saurav Panja, Vasudev Reddy, Vishal Uppal, Sunil Kumar, and AV Rao, all with one win each are inside the top 26 in circuit points .. Since there will be 24 entries including the wildcards (and 8 qualifier spots) for the 3rd leg, a couple of those may end up having to play qualies (I am not sure how they break ties among those with the same points, perhaps based on ATP rankings) .. Only Srinath and Sandeep may get seeded among Indians for the next leg though .. Manoj Mahadevan, Vinod Sridhar and Rohan Bopanna are the others with more than one win, who are in comfortably .. Still not sure if S. Zaman would squeeze in with a wildcard or something, but SK Shivshankar, Vijendra Laad and Kedar Shah are three players who would need to play qualies for the 3rd leg .. Among the foreign players in the driect entry for the first 2 legs, Australian Blake Brinklow will have to play qualies .. Not sure of Niko Karagiannis and Balasz Veress, who have only one win each so far .. Mathis Kemp-Bergman, Kunj Majmudar and Thomas Messmer, who did not have direct entry for the first leg can finally relax and not have to play qualies now.
OK, what has been happening in ATP doubles this week, as the top teams are jockeying for position in the Hartford draw ? .. Officially, only LP-MB have qualified for the Hartford already (they have been in for a long time!), though Woodies and Ferreira/Leach are also surely in .. The top-12 are,  Bhupathi/ Paes, 3650 points,  Woodforde/ Woodbridge, 2341  Ferreira/ Leach 2176,  Bjorkman/ Rafter, 2097  Adams/ deJager, 1999 ..  W.Black/ Stolle, 1991  Lareau/ O'Brien, 1772  Haarhuis/ Palmer, 1662  Norval/ Ullyett, 1590  Novak/ Rikl, 1540  Delaitre/ Santoro, 1466 and  Arthurs/ Kratzmann, 1262 .. In the Paris Super 9 so far this week, Bjorkman/Black have reached the final today, beating Olhovskiy-Prinsoil, who had beaten Lareau/OBrien in the QF .. The Woodies beat Arthurs/ Kratzmann in the QFs, but I haven't seen the result of their semi against Adams/DeJager today .. Haarhuis/Palmer lost in the second round .. The interesting thing is that Bjorkman/Black, who are at the #22 position with just 855 points right now, has the abilty to make it into the Hartford draw .. I hope they do that - otherwise it will be sad to not see Jonas Bjorkman at Hartford (since Rafter has been injured for months, Bjorkman has no way to get to Hartford other than to make a late charge with Byron Black) .. If they win the title at Stuttgart and pick up some 300 more points from Paris next week and Stockholm the week after, they could end up with 1600+ points and make the top 8 teams that go to Hartford .. Let us hope there will be some way for Bjorkman, the 3rd ranked individual doubles player behind LP and MB, to play at Hartford ..
Also, LP and MB who have 5109 and 4642 points this week, will lose the 313 points on Monday from the Stuttgart final last year .. They also have 475 points to defend next week for the title at Paris .. If everything goes wrong and LP-MB do not pick up any points at Paris next week, then Bjorkman has an outside chance to go above Mahesh who will fall to around 3900 points the week after .. Bjorkman has 3300 as of this week and with the points this week, he is at about 3600 already (he has nothing to defend for the rest of the year) .. Leander will still be at about 4400 or so, and nobody can realistically go past him for the #1 spot .. Bjorkman apparently wanted to make a run at a year-end #1individual ranking earlier in the year, but Leander has made it basically impossible for him with that great summer run .. Jonas, a great doubles player, has never been #1 (he is now #3 and has been #3 before too - that's the career high for him in doubles) ..
Oct 30 Note-1
At the Paris Super 9, the qualies for the singles closed at #143 (wow!) today, and so Leander would not have made it in for that .. I will try to confirm that LP-MB will be playing doubles there this coming week .. The doubles draw is not out yet .. They were expected to play, and I believe Mahesh is healthy now.
In case you didn't see the scores I had updated at the satellite leg-2 (Pune) page yesterday, Srinath is in the finals (must have been played by now) .. Srinath looked very good in his 62 63 semifinal win over the 4th seed Per Thornadtsson .. There was also a report that his foot injury was acting up again, as he had to withdraw later from the doubles semis with Vasu Reddy, against the Kirtanes, while behind 1-6 1-3 in the second set .. It's a pity that Srinath continues to have these injury problems .. He was well-poised make a move up from near #300 that he reached half a year back, but has been continually troubled by injuries which started with the achilles problem during the Asiad last December .. He was to play Tom Chicoine today in the final .. I have not seen the score yet .. Chicoine has easily been the most consistent player in the satellite so far, and had no problems getting past Sandeep Kirtane .. Tom was the #1 player for the University of Minnesota till a few months back when he graduated (he finished just inside the top-25 in the US college rankings), is also in the doubles final with Kunj Majumdar .. They were qualifiers here, but upset the second seeds, Fazal and Karagiannis yesterday .. I will update the finals score at the above page, as soon as I hear.
Later today, with more ..
Oct 29 Notes
How about Sandeep Kirtane ? .. He turned 26 a couple of days back and celebrated it with an upset of the 2nd seed Fazal in straight sets in the QF yesterday at the Pune satellite leg .. Last week he had upset Srinath in the first round too .. Both Sri and Fazal are not 100% injury-free, but then Sandeep isn't either .. I guess Sandeep has placed himself in a position to be considered in the Indian plans, such as for Asia Cup, etc (the last time Sandeep represented India was in the Asia Cup in 97) .. Anyway, good job beating two Davis Cuppers within a week .. Srinath plays 4th seed Thornadtsson (SWE) and Sandeep plays 5th seed Tom Chicoine (USA) today .. In doubles, Srinath and Vasudeva Reddy ended the 8-match win streak (dating back to the last satellites) of Mustafa and Vishal Uppal, in three sets .. The Kirtane cousins are in the semis .. Vijay Kannan and Manoj Mahadevan were giving second seeds Fazal and Karagiannis a run for the money in 3 sets - the 3rd set tiebreaker was to be played today in a postponed match .. See the Leg-2 (Pune) page for results.
There are excellent posts from some experts in our bulletin board about the need for physical training, especially with the nutrition angle, that any player who reads these notes may want to take a look at .. A lot of small details which may be taken not too seriously by some of the Indian players may be causing them problems, and the discussions in the bulletin board may give some pointers to consider .. Some of the smaller details are becoming increasingly well-known in the western countries, though only in recent years .. Check out the posts on Oct 28th and Oct 22nd .. Talking in my professorial-speak, it's "required reading" for all :-) .. Take a look .. Some of it is of course known to good coaches and players in India, but I there may also be others who are less aware of these things.
AITA tells us that Devinder Singh Bhusari, an under - 14 player from Gujarat, has been selected by the ITF to join their team to play in North America during Nov-Dec .. Begining on 21st Nov, he will attend a training camp at the performance Tennis Academy, and will then compete in the Eddie Herr International Junior Tennis Championships, the Prince Cup International Tennis Championships and the Orange Bowl 1999 .. He will return home on 20th December .. The ITF will pay all transportation, board and lodging costs for the team members .. Mr Ivan Malina of Columbia will be the ITF Coach to the team .. Congrats, Devendar.
Oct 28 Notes
The wildcards for the 3rd leg of the Indian satellites have been announced by AITA today - and they are Vishal Uppal, Sunil Kumar, Mustafa Ghouse and Kedar Tembe .. If any of them makes it into the 3rd leg based on the points so far, then S.Zaman will get a wildcard .. It looks reasonable .. Mustafa has had a tough time in the first two legs, losing in the first round both times - the nationals runner-up probably deserves some help, as the 3rd leg entries are based on the circuit points collected from the first two legs and he has none so far to make it in, other than through qualifying rounds .. Vishal Uppal, AV Rao, Sunil Kumar, Vijay Kannan, Nitin Kirtane, and Saurav Panja, all have one win each, which may be enough for them to make it to the best 24 for the 3rd leg (there will be 4 wildcards and 4 qualifiers into the 3rd leg) .. Those who have two wins or more so far are sure to make the draw for the 3rd leg, and from India that would be Sri, Fazal, Sandeep Kirtane, Vinod Sridhar, and Rohan Bopanna .. The doubles wildcards are the usual two teenage teams - CS Mohanty/Benjamin Xavier and AV Rao/Sunil Kumar .. AITA informs us that the singles qualifier wildcards and the 3rd doubles wildcard will be decided by MSLTA of Maharashtra.
I have posted all the AITA rankings (except girls u14 and u16, coming soon) as of last week .. See the calendar/rankings/results archive page for the links .. I will periodically add the new rankings and archive the older ones, linked from that page .. No big changes in the rankings .. On the men's side, Nitin Kirtane has dropped from 5 to 7, with Sridhar moving up to 5 and Saurav Panja jumping from 9 to 6 .. The biggest jump was of course by Sunil Kumar, who was not in the list before, and has now reached #16 in the ranks with the DSCL title .. Manisha has moved ahead of Sai as the #2 on the women's side with her points from the UK satellites .. Radhika Tulpule has edged just ahead of Sheetal Gautam as the number 1 in the u18 girls singles rankings .. In the boys u16 singles Amanjot Singh (the u16 champion at the DSCL nationals) has come up from #3 to #1 now, replaceing CS Mohanty who is now #2 .. AV Rao leads the u18 rankings ahead of kedar Tembe, as before .. Of course Sunil Kumar is also in that list, but he dropped from #2 to #7, as he is not focusing on that age group anymore .. Actually Sunil's rankings are all over the place, which isn't surprising as he can play all three age groups! .. Amanjot has also come up to #11 in the u18 age group .. Take a look at the rankings.
Oct 27 Notes
"The young pretenders will have to wait as the old boys are not quite ready to stand aside and be passed over. Three experienced Indians made the quarterfinals of the India2 ITF Satellite second leg, thus proving that their years still count more than the energy and ambitions of younger aspirants", says Sharda Ugra in Thursday's The Hindu .. That sounds right, as Srinath, Fazal and Sandeep advanced today to the quarterfinals beating Nitin, Saurav and AV Rao .. Vijay Kannan had a tough loss to Andrei Youzhny, after being up a set and then going a break up in the second and 3rd sets .. At least he seems to be playing well again, though he is reportedly still tentative at times .. Young Rohan Bopanna played well in a 46 46 loss where his opponent, the 4th seeded Per Thornadtsson (SWE) basically was better in the break points (2 of 8 converted to 0 of 6 by Rohan) .. Some pressure is off Srinath and Fazal, both still suffering from some injuries over the last few months .. Fazal has a wrist problem that has been affecting his serve, but he seems to have been serving better today .. In a repeat meeting since the final from the last leg, Thomas Messmer (GER), got revenge over Radim Zitco (CZE) .. I don't think there were any doubles matches today .. All the QFs will be tomorrow .. See the Leg-2 page for scores.
Here is some Asian Tennis news .. The prestigious Hopman Cup mixed tennis competition in Auatralia in the coming January will have an Asian team! .. They are going to include an Asian country this time after a qualifier competition between Thailand and Japan .. Tamarine Tanasugarn and Paradorn Srichaphan will fight it out with Ai Sugiyama and Takao Suzuki .. Basically the countries which are invited are those with players ranked high in singles .. Neither Thailand, nor Japan would normally come anywhere near qualifying into the Hopman Cup, but this is probably being done with some undertanding with the Asian Tennis Federation for betterment of tennis in Asia, etc .. With Ai and Tammi in the WTA top-100 and Srichaphan and Takao inside ATP top-200, those two countries have better claims than India, with LP and NV at identical #208 and #204 ..
Oct 26 Note-2
There goes a Kawaljeet kid again! .. 17 year old u18 national champion Akshay Vishal Rao (also coached by Kawaljeet Singh at Chandigarh, as are the 16 yr old senior champion Sunil Kumar and u16 champion Amanjot Singh), pulled an unexpected upset over Mathis Kemp-Bergman, who had impressed everyone by reaching QF last week and going 8-1 including the qualifiers .. 7-5 4-6 6-4 was the score .. It's been quite some show by these Chandigarh kids, I must say .. In other matches today, both Srinath and Fazal moved on easily, as did Sandeep Kirtane .. Saurav Panja's win over qualifier Pavel Kozak was notable, in that he did it in 49 minutes for a 60 62 win ! .. The way Mustafa Ghouse and Vishal Uppal lost was rather disappointing .. Vasu also went down .. 8 of the 16 in the second round are now Indians, and that's not bad at all! .. Six of them play each other next (Srinath vs Nitin, Fazal vs Saurav, Sandeep vs AV Rao) and so we are assured of at least three in the QFs .. Vijay Kannan plays Qualifier Andrei Youzhnyi next, where he has a good chance for a win, but Rohan Bopanna has a tough match against 4th seed Per Thornadtsson .. All the doubles first round matches are done too .. See the Leg 2 (Pune) page.
In the latest rankings, Leander has gone out of the top-200 .. He is now at #208 .. First time he is out of the top-200 in many, many, years .. MB is at #290.
The Times of India reports that the national grasscourts championships, originally scheduled for next month is getting postponed .. Rain in Calcutta has apparently left the courts in a mess .. It will be done only in late February next year .. Well, it looks like we have effectively skipped a year .. After Dec 97, we did it only in Mar 99 .. The next will be Feb 00, so I guess the national grasscourts have now become a early year event ?
Oct 26 Note-1
There were only four singles matches played yesterday at the second leg of the India S2 satellites in Pune .. There was one win there that was so heartening - Vijay Kannan finally got a win against a quality opponent ! .. It is perhaps his first such win in about a year, ever since his win over Harsh Mankad in the satellite masters QFs last November (has his slump been only for that long ? .. Gosh, it feels like Vijay has been breaking our hearts losing matches for so long!) .. He upset the 6th seed Vinod Sridhar yesterday .. I don't want to sound like I am celebrating Vinod's loss -- just that he has been doing fine, and I wanted to see Vijay get whatever confidence he can get back with a win .. 19 yr old Vijay had to go through an excruciating thirteen (!) match points before he could wrap up the three-setter against Vinod, though .. The youngster was always known for his fighting qualities and the hunger for wins, but he lost it along with all his confidence late last year when he racked up about 8 or 9 first round losses in a row against tough opponents he had to face thanks to a string of wildcards handed to him .. We will have to place the blame on AITA for that .. To some extent, Vijay was the golden boy of the program in Delhi, and he was a success story then that everybody felt needed to be highlighted .. No real ulterior motives there, but just a lack of thought on what it could do to a young player who suddenly was out from the junior ranks and was being thrown to the wolves in the senior tournaments .. The situation was somewhat different from that of, say, Sunil Kumar, who gets wildcards now - Sunil has the option of playing in the junior circuit till the end of 2001, but Vijay had finished his elgibility and only had senior events left .. That was the right time for him to play winnable matches in the qualies of the senior events .. Vijay deserved the wildcards over others (with the exception of perhaps his good friend Harsh Mankad in a couple of events - Harsh, who was 9 months older but had proved himself with 6 national junior titles to his credit also got messed up a bit thanks to nobody giving him any encouragement) .. The problem was that along with the deserved wildcards, Vijay also deserved advice from somebody in looking at it the right way and not losing heart with all the losses .. The way Vijay started losing matches gives a telling story .. It started with a first round loss to Fazaluddin at the Calcutta futures last November .. A loss to a Pakistani kid followed in the Islamabad futures where I believe Vijay was ill .. The real mistake started with the Ahmedabad challenger in December .. He should have been playing the qualies for that, but instead he was a wildcard entry who ended up with the 2nd seed Anthony Dupuis! .. The same Dupuis who went 14-1 in 3 challengers in India since mid 98, including straight set wins over Leander and Mahesh too .. Dupuis who is ranked #84 now, won the title at Ahmedabad then and dropped only one set in the whole tournament - yes, against Vijay Kannan in the first round! .. But it was a loss nonetheless and it was going down hill from there for Vijay .. If he wasn't playing qualy matches in India and was not getting sponsorship to go abroad to play those, where was he going to get sopme wins and match practice in the senior circuit to get things back on track ? .. This is what I call bad planning from everybody in the establishment .. He finally got some support (I believe from AITA?) for a trip to Turkey 3 months back, but it was too late, as his confidence was at rock-bottom by then and he was losing listlessly to unheard-of Turkish guys .. I remember an email from him from Turkey when he himself admitted to me that he had basically no confidence left .. Made me so sad to see that .. I thought I would revisit this topic, as we have done the worst possible job on two of our recent talents - Harsh Mankad (I have written enough on that topic), and Vijay Kannan .. Though I blamed AITA above for the wildcards which they gave Vijay with good intentions, I think the problem was more due to us not having somebody really in charge of advising and nurturing our kids [I think AITA had talked about a junior development officer once, but I have not heard much about that lately] .. I still feel we need a national coach or somebody who can help the kids in setting their agendas, planning their progress and plans, advise them on coaching issues, etc, not to metion playing a bit of a shrink to keep them mentally strong .. Teenagers need that .. We should stop looking at them as pro players who can handle their job till they are about 22 or so .. Anyway, it's one of my pet subjects - I thought it was an appropriate time to talk about it again .. Let us wish Vijay well, and hope this win over Vinod will boost his confidence a bit, to start playing like he is capable of .. I am sure he still has the fight in him, and I hope this win will start something new.
Back to the Pune satellites .. wildcard Sunil Kumar lost 16 16 to Nitin Kirtane .. As I had said before the satellites started, nobody should expect much from the kid so early .. Everyone should just forget his DSCL title and remember that he is a 16 year old who needs lot of coaching, help, encouragement, experience from junior circuit and then senior circuit before he hits big-time .. Manoj Mahadevan lost to Tom Chicoine .. 19 year old Rohan Bopanna is creating some ripples in these satellites .. He had qualified into the last leg with wins over a US guy and then Manoj Mahadevan, following it with an upset of a Hungarian player in the first round last week (onlylosing to the eventual finalist Messmer of Germany after a good fight in a tiebreaker) .. This week he was rewarded with a wildcard and he has shown up ready to play again, upsetting the Australian Blake Brinklow in three sets .. Hey, we should all take a closer look at Rohan .. The tall kid seems to be on the rise .. Some doubles matches were also done yesterday .. Take a look at the Leg-2 (Pune) page.
Oct 25 Notes
A small tid-bit news item .. The International Tennis Federation had a small competition on its WorldNet, the intra-net that various national organizations are hooked into .. The entry required answering some questionnaires, etc - basically a test on how well the net is being used, I blieve .. Just saw in the ITF weekly newsletter that AITA's Phillip Montes was among the two runners up (the winner was from the Slovinia tennis association and the other runner-up was from the LTA, London) .. Congrats Mr.Montes! .. He is the one who has been sending us the AITA rankings, etc, for archiving here, by the way .. I have received the latest rank lists from him late last week, which I will archive here soon.
Nirupama may not be playing this week .. That means LP, MB, NV are all off .. Not sure if Manisha will be playing anywhere, as there are no challengers in UK this week. The only challenger is at Dallas for women, and there are only two $10K satellites (Greece and Belarus) .. That means Manisha, Sai and Rushmi may also be on vacation this week .. The Pune satellites is the only thing happening this week, I believe (also a grade-5 ITF junior event in Vietnam that some of the kids may be at) .. Later, ith the Pune satellite news from today.
.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Oct 25 ..