Notes for week ending on Nov 3, 1997
(Last week's Notes) (Next week's Notes) (Notes Index)
Nov 3 Note-1
Here is the report from the Asia Cup at New Delhi (Thank you, Kannan Srinivasan!):
LP and MB really enjoyed themselves in the warm sunshine today. Playing Philippines was no big deal and India won 3-0. The India_A team lost to Korea 0-3. The Indians are so confident nowadays they could afford not to play Mahesh in singles. Leander did play singles and beat Joseph Lizardo 6-2, 6-4 with consumate ease. It was more like playing a practice match, or warming up and testing strokes from the baseline. Poor Lizardo, his pony-tail swaying from one side to the other, just did not know how to tackle LP. LP looked solid from the baseline, his forehand a real big weapon. What surprised me more was his backhand, which was never so good. Maybe, the confidence of winning more and more has made the difference. By the way, when LP was playing Mahesh was sitting in the non-playing captain's chair since the captain himself Jaidip Mukherjea was not too well. The rules do allow a player can sit on the chair. Wearing dark glasses, Mahesh was enjoying himself under an umbrella. Asia Cup isn't all that boring. Sandeep Kirtane, a good national-level player won the second singles in straight sets. Mahesh played doubles with Nitin Kirtane and won in straight sets.
Interesting comment on Leander's backhand. The fan club has been discussing this all year, and the consensus has been that he should be using more topspin backhand rather than the chip shots. He has always had a pretty good topspin backhand but has for some reason preferred the chip shot, which while he plays it beatufully, does not often prove the winner that his stronger backhand shot is. The guess has been that his coach "Nails" Carmichael must have impressed upon him a bit on using this more often. His baseline game has certainly improved a lot this year.
Rather disappointing that the India-A lost 0-3 to Korea, though. Three of the team members got in only just before the matches, as they were all at Bombay where they were playing the National Hardcourts Tournament during the weekend. Must have affected their game a bit..
Nov 2 Note-2
World #2 Eltingh/Haarhuis tied Leander/Mahesh for the most number of titles (six) this year, by beating #7 Leach/Stark today at the Paris Super 9. Based on my calculations, Leach/Stark should be a few points above Leander/Mahesh at #4 next week.
Asia Cup draw: Group A: #1 seed India (Leander, Mahesh, Sandeep Kirtane, Nitin Kirtane; captain: Jaideep Mukherjea), #3 seeds Uzbekistan, Thailand, Philippines. Group B: #2 seeds South Korea, #4 Indonesia, Chinese Taipei, and India "A" (Gaurav Natekar, Vasudev Reddy, Vishal Uppal and Vikram Venkatraghavan; captain: Shyam Minotra). Monday's Schedule: India vs Philippines, Uzbekistan vs Thailand, India-A vs South Korea, Chinese Taipei vs Indonesia.
Here is a piece from the Times of India (Nov 3): "NEW DELHI (by Rahul celly): The one-eyed man shall rule the blind. No offence meant, but the old Indian proverb does sum up the Indian challenge for the Sahara Cup Asian team championship, which gets underway at the DLTA complex Monday morning. The lack of quality tennis in the Asian scene, which has been one of the key reasons why India have often found themselves among the elite group of 16 for the Davis Cup honours, is not expected to give the hosts much of a fight." ... the Times of India, who are normally very good and prompt with their tennis coverage, should know better than that.. India haven't often just "found themselves" in the world-16.. The reason why we are in the world 16 is that we were more than ready for the challenge from the likes of France, Netherlands, Croatia, Chile, etc to retain the spot every year. Heck, we haven't even played the Asian competition for quite a while.. But then again, they said "no offense meant".. so perhaps we shouldn't get offended.. :-)
Leander said "it's a shame" that Ogorodov is not there this week for Uzbekistan.
Nov 2 Note-1
Leach/Stark beat Broad/Norwal and Eltingh/Haarhuis beat Ferreira/Galbraith at Paris, and are in the finals today. F/G were 125 points behind LP/MB, and get 178 pts here, but their 14-tourney total may not go up by 125+ and they should remain right behind LP/MB. Leach/Stark already have around 300 pts and will jump over LP/MB for the #4 spot. Surprisingly strong finish for the US pair at the year-end. They were in danger of completely missing out on Hartford, just about 4 weeks back.
Leander and Mahesh are back in India. At Delhi, and enjoying some golf there. Getting ready for the inaugural Asia Cup starting in a couple of days. Sad to hear that Oleg Ogorodov from Uzbekistan (#134, the next highest Asian player after LP) is not going to be there, apparently due to an injury. It's also good to hear that 23-yr old Vasudev Reddy finally won the national hardcourt championship. He is also very talented, though erratic in his service game, and has been often troubled by injuries. Reddy beat Sandeep Kirtane in the semis, and Nitin Kirtane beat Vishal Uppal, in the other semis. On the wemen's side, Rushmi Chakravarti (20-year old student at Ethiraj College in Madras) beat Arati Ponnappa of Karnataka. Vikram Venkataraghavan and Gaurav Natekar won the doubles. The ones who did well here have all been included in the Asia Cup, either in the first team, or in the just-formed India "A" team replacing the P.R.China team. There are quite a few talented youngsters out there; hope they would get the right sponsorship and support to go into the pro-tour more actively. They all need to play more Satellites and bring their ranks up into the top-500. Many are capable of much higher rankings than their current rankings, but perhaps only Prahlad Srinath has been going all out in the pro-circuit. Hope the three one-week satellites in December in India would help some of these Indian players to break through.
Other tid-bits: Aarthi Venkatesan (listed to be from Brisbane, Australia) is now a freshman student and part of the University of Georgia tennis team which is ranked highly in the college (NCAA) rankings in the US... By the way, why are the names Arati and Nirupama so popular for women's tennis players ?.. :-)... Vikrant Chadha has been doing well at the University of Mississippi, and is 8-3 so far this year.. A couple more Indian players in the US schools: Sheetal Gautam at Purdue Univ and Jaideep Shetty at the Texas Christian Univ...
V.Krishnswamy, Indian Express, sends the following notes (Thanks !):
News on Asia Cup 1. China has pulled out because of injuries to their top players and claim they have no time to get replacements.... 2. Japan did not come because the dates clash with their Emperor and Empress Cup, their domestic tournaments on the basis of which their Davis Cup teams are selected.... 3. Oleg Ogorodov of Uzbekistan is not coming. Ogorodov beat LP in Chennai Challenger last year. He is replaced by Timur Khankhodjaev..... 4. India `A' inducted in place of China. The team is: Vasudeva Reddy, Vikram Venkataraghavan, Gaurav Natekar and Vishal Uppal.... 5. Draw to be made later this evening (Sunday). Four teams in each group. Matches in two sessions. Doubles a must even if tie has been decided. Placement matches will also be held.... 6. Asia Cup to be held for sure for next four years also. It will be in Delhi at RK Khanna (named after the current President of AITA) stadium... Leander/ Mahesh back in India for Asia Cup:..1. Went for a bit of golf at Army Golf Course.... 2. Quotes: ``It was cold there (Stuttgart and Paris) and we were kind of sick (cold). But this has been the best year for us and we are getting ready for the big event. This (Hartford) has been a feather in our cap. It is a nice feeling to be among the best in the world.'' -- Leander Paes.... 3. "We have been playing so well and one bad match was coming. Its good that it came in Paris (losing to Rafter/Eagle)" Mahesh Bhupathi.... 4. ``We had a great match in Stuttgart against Seb Lareau and Alex O'Brien and had four match points. It was tough to experience that kind of a match.'' Mahesh Bhupathi... Indian news: National Hardcourt at Mumbai MSLTA (where the Challenger will be held next month).. 1. Vasudev Reddy finall won the Nationals _ he had lost four times in final previously _ beating `drained out' Nitin Kirtane 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-1. Reddy had lost to Nitin in grass court Nationals last year.... 2. Gaurav Natekar and Vikram Venkatraghavan beat Nitin and Sandeep Kirtane 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3 in doubles.
Didn't know LP/MB had 4 match points in that 10-12 second-set tie-break they lost to Lareau/O'Brien in the Stuttgart semis!.. That's a pity.. There are reports on some very unfortunate net-cords, but for which they would have won the tie-breker... Also, apparently Becker was less than appreciative of the Indians' play during the second round match there, which really fired up LP and MB to go after Becker/Goellner in the 3rd set tiebreak, in their win.
Now, we have even more news.. This from Kannan Srinivasan of the Hindustan Times (Thanks !):
India has been given top billing in Asia Cup. Leander and Mahesh flew into the Capital yestreday morning (Saturday), played golf and relaxed. Today, it was back to tennis courts. They are in a good frame of mind and Mahesh said he spoke to ATP, who have confirmed their berths for Hartford. India play Philippines on Monday in the Asia Cup. The hosts are favourites and Leander said they will take this compeition seriously. ``It will be nice to play in front of fans at home,''said Leander and Mahesh. ``Losing in Paris was expected. One bad match was due and we are glad ti came before Hartford,'' they said. The weather in Delhi is pleasant, and the Indians are hoping to get over heavy chest and cold. They are in a good frame of mind and very eager to give fans a lot of good news. Mahesh likes Delhi a lot as his girlfriend stays here. By the way, there is also an India A team playing in Asia Cup. It comprises Vasudeva Reddy, Gaurav Natekar, Vikram Venkataraghavan and Vishal Uppal..
Good to get such detailed info from India!
Oct 30 Evening Notes
Bad news to report.. LP/MB lost in straight set for only the second time in the last 30 matches.. This time to Eagle/Rafter, 6-3, 6-4.. (The last straight sets loss was against the #3 Kafelnikov/Vacek in two tiebreakers at the US Open, and the one before that was against the #1 Woodies at Queens, two weeks before Wimbledon). In fact they are losing two matches in a row for the first time since Wimbledon, they are not advancing past the first match for the first time since Wimbledon, and they are losing to a team outside the top 5 for the first time since the loss to Brandi/Messor at Wimbledon. They are 25-4 in the last 29 matches.. Not a good sign to end with two losses in the last two matches before Hartford (week after next week), but perhaps this would give our Duo the right motivation to roar back into form at Hartford.
ATP's International Tennis Weekly had some nice words on LP/MB (and now we know what jinxed our guys this week..). After saying the top 3 doubles teams have qualified for Hartford, they say, "The next closest team to qualifying is Mahesh Bhupathi-Leander Paes. Mathematically, they have not guaranteed a spot, but they will most likely clinch this week in Paris, even if they lose their first round. The only way they cannot qualify for Hartford is for the next five teams to pass them. But the way Bhupathi-Paes have been playing lately, it is likely they will earn their first trip to the World Doubles Championship this week at the Paris Open. After the Indian duo, the Road to Hartford is a little more unclear. Sebastien Lareau and Alex O'Brien reached the Hartford final in 1997 and are in excellent position to qualify this year. Although they are not playing this week, they still might qualify, depending on the results of the other teams..."
Don't worry; LP/MB are in, safely, into the Hartford draw.. Now it's off to the Asia Cup at New Delhi next week, and then to Hartford after a week of rest in India.
By the way, a small note: Leander picked up 5 points for winning a qualifier round at Stuttgart last week, and his points total is up to 427, even though he stayed at the same rank of #105.
Indian Tennis news: Nitin Kirtane, Sandeep Kirtane, Vasudev Reddy and Vishal Uppal (20-yr old from Delhi) are in the semifinals at the National Hardcourt tournament at Bombay. Vishal upset #1 seed Gaurav Natekar. Nitin beat Harsh Mankad (always disappointing to see that kid losing.. He is talented). The #2 seeded Vasudev Reddy crushed Vikram Venkataraghavan in two easy sets, under an hour. On the women's side, the top two seeds, Rushmi Chakravarti and Arati Ponnappa are in the finals after beating the #3 seed Jahnavi Parekh and the #4 seed Uzma Khan, respectively.
Oct 30 Morning Notes
7 of the 8 second round matches are done.. Just like last week, the Dynamic Duo will be playing the featured night match today. The other teams in the quarterfinals are, Kronemann/MacPherson, Broad/Norwal, #6-Leach/Stark on the upper half of the draw, and WC-Clement/Escude, #5-Ferreira/Galbraith, #8-Knowles/Nestor, and #2-Eltingh/Haarhuis in the lower half.
Oct 29 Evening Notes
Leander and Mahesh have still not played their doubles match.. They again wait to play one of the last second round matches... Their match will be tomorrow (hope it won't be late at night on thursday like last week), against the Aussies, Joshua Eagle and Pat Rafter, who beat O'Brien and Black in the first round. Rafter is #14 in doubles rankings, and Eagle is #66.. So, LP/MB will get 12 bonus points if they beat them.
The good news is that, on paper, our Duo's side of the draw has become considerably easier, as the Woodies got upset by the #15 ranked team Kronemann/MacPherson today in the round of 16 !!... LP/MB had beaten Kron/MacPh at Montreal a few weeks back.. #7 Leach/Stark advanced to the QF today, and will be the QF opponents for the Dynamic Duo if they win tomorrow. The other QF on our half of the draw will be between Broad/Norwal and Kronemann/MacPherson. The second big surprise today was in the other half of the draw, where #3 ranked Kafelnikov/Vacek got upset by French the wildcard team, Arnaud Clement and Nicolas Escude... Clement has been coming on strong lately, pulling a couple of singles upsets last week, a win over Rosset here, and now an upset in the doubles.. Escude is the dude who beat Mahesh in the US Open qualifiers.. #2 seed Eltingh/Haarhuis are in the quarterfinal on the other half of the draw, after a win today.
Since there were no updates for a while in the early part of this week, just a note for the record: Leander is #12 in doubles and #105 in singles this week. Mahesh is #10 in doubles and #229 in singles. Not much change in the rankings.
Indian tennis news: Almost all of the big shots are through to the quarterfinals at the National Hardcourt Tennis Championship (Rs 4.75 lakhs) underway at Mumbai this week... The only exception is Asif Ismail, who was upset by the Tamil Nadu teenager, Vinod Sridhar.. Another promising teenager, Vijay Kannan, was ousted by Nitin Kirtane in a comeback three-setter .. It's shaping up to be a pretty interesting tourney. Men's quarterfinals: Gaurav Natekar vs Vishal Uppal, Nitin Kirtane vs Harsh Mankad, Vinod Sridhar vs Sandeep Kirtane, Vikram Venkatraghavan vs Vasudev Reddy... Women's semifinals: line-up: Rushmi Chakravarthi vs Jahnavi Parekh, Arati Ponappa vs Uzma Khan... by the way, Uzma Khan from Andhra Pradesh has been playing quite well lately.
Oct 27 Notes
Pity that Leander lost in the first round of the qualifiers at Paris over the weekend. Rodolphe Gilbert is currently ranked #177, but has beaten even Boris Becker in the past (at the French Open second round.. Seshadri from the fanclub says that.. thanks Sesh!). Leander lost the second and 3rd sets meekly after winning the first set. I guess the tough matches the previous two nights may have taken some energy off him, not to mention the travel. In the doubles, LP/ MB face the winner of Black/O'Brien vs Eagle/Rafter, after a first round bye. Interesting teams there! Black plays with Connell, O'Brien with Lareau, Eagle with Florent and Rafter with Philippoussis, normally.. and all four are top teams.. except that none has his partner here ! .. The doubles match won't be till Wednesday or so. Oh, by the way, the Woodies took care of Leach/Stark in the finals at Stuttgart .. 6-3, 6-3..