LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Nov 6, 2000
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Nov 6 Note-1
Just saw the doubles draw at Lyon and Mahesh is playing with Nenad Zimonjic (YUG,40) in the doubles draw .. I am not sure where LP is, at this time .. The last entry in the draw at Lyon was Nargiso-Gaudenzi who were ranked 56+84, which means MB and LP would have had to squeeze in as one of the last entries with a 43+85 rank .. If I were to guess, LP may have decided to skip Lyon because of the uncertainty in making the draw, but that is just a guess .. I have emailed both - hopefully we will hear soon about what happened .. I hope LP did not get injured or anything at Charleroi last week .. I will also check if he made the singles draw somewhere, but with there being no challengers in Europe this week, LP may be taking the week off (the challenger events are in the US, in Korea and in Chile this week) ..
MB-Zimonjic will be playing Tramacchi and Van Houdt at Lyon in the first round .. Zimonjic is a good player, and he was a semifinalist last week at the Stuttgart masters with Wayne Arthurs (by the way, the Stuttgart title went to Novak-Rikl who had beaten MB-Ullyett in the second round last week -- looks like those two will be coming to Bangalore in good form)
Nirupama, who had originally planned to skip the $50K Pittsburgh challenger this week is actually playing there .. We will know the draw soon .. She will be continuing to play doubles with Miyagi this week and also the next week at the Naples (Florida) challenger.
The qualifying rounds were completed yesterday at the $10K Lucknow futures, and four Indians made it in - the most interesting entry being the young Arun Prakash, who is among the top-3 in the under-16 ranks .. Also making it in is Nishank Mishra in the top-15 of the u18 ranks, along with SK Shivshankar, Kedar Shah, and four foreigners .. One name that caught my eye among the qualifiers is Stephen Nugent of Ireland -- I remember that guy winning the ITF junior international in Calcutta in 98 December, as the second seed .. In his first year on the pro tour this year, I don't think he has done all that well, however .. In the main draw, Vishal Uppal, the 6th seed, gets Punna Vishal in the first round and Fazaluddin gets Anton Kokurin of Uzbekistan .. See the Lucknow futures page.
Nov 5 Note-4
Hey, Niru wasn't going to be left behind, with Sai and Rushmi winning a challenger doubles title this week :-) .. She also went and won a doubles title! .. Japanese women have been good for Indians as partners, as Mahesh had shown with Hiraki and Sugiyama .. Now Niru has a challenger title with Nana Miyagi too .. At the $25K Hayward (California) challenger today,#1 N.Miyagi/ N.Vaidyanathan d. Kelly Liggan (IRL)/ Milagros Sequera (VEN), 42 41 40 .. This was basically a cakewalk .. Actually the other team had taken out the 2nd seeds in the QF and so I was expecting a better fight .. Beating the 3rd seeds in a close one in the semis was the tough job for Niru-Miyagi this week - otherwise, they were on a roll .. The win gives them 23 WTA points which will raise Niru's rankings close to 150, her highest doubles ranking in some three years .. She has reached three doubles finals and won one title in the last 4 challenger events in 5 weeks .. Came at the right time too, as she was defending some 30 odd points in doubles during this period too ..
Congrats go to Niru, Sai and Rushmi for coming up with two challenger titles in the same week!
Nov 5 Note-3
The busy busy week continues .. Niru and Miyagi reached the doubles final yesterday! .. #1 N.Miyagi/ N.Vaidyanathan d. #3 D.Buth/ K.Miller, 54(1) 53 45(4) 53 .. They actually had match points in the 3rd set itself, but Buth and Miller was fighting all the way it seems .. The doubles final is today .. Pretty impressive for Niru to reach doubles finals in successive weeks .. I am glad Rippner-Tatarkova who beat Niru in two finals in the last month, are not playing at Hayward :-)
By the way, Niru wrote this to me today -- "Its great to see all the girls in India doing well.. I am really happy things are really improving in India.. It's about time though, don't u think??" .. Yes, of course!
Nov 5 Note-2
There was yet another doubles semifinal by an Indian this week, on top everything I wrote during the week! .. At the tough USA F24 $15K futures at Hattiesburg (Mississippi), Vikrant Chadha and James Shortall (USA) had reached the semifinal as of Friday evening .. They are the 4th seeds there, and beat Scott Barron/ Ingo Neumuller 62 64, followed by Robbie Ginepri/ John Winter 75 61 .. Will find out soon on what happened to them in the semifinal .. Vikrant also had some good singles outings there .. Vikrant was the 9th seed in the qualies with a first round bye .. He beat Patrick Horne, 60 60 in Q2, Gary Engleman 64 (ret.) in Q3, and then fell in the final round (Q4) of qualies to the 8th seed James Shortall, 46 75 36 .. He made it into the main draw as the lucky loser as the second seed Ville Liukko was a no-show and beat Sebastian Jaeger, 61 26 76(3) to pick up one ATP point (always tough in the US futures to even get one point!) .. But alas, he again faced his friend James shortall in the second round and fell to him yet again in a three-setter, 67(3) 76(3) 60 .. Vikrant continues to work hard to make some headway and that's good - success has mostly been in doubles so far though.
The other Indian in the futures circuit was Mustafa Ghouse who is in Indonesia .. He was the last entry in the main draw and fell in the first round to Indonesian Febi Wadhiyanto, 46 57 .. In doubles, Mustafa and Mattias Hellstrom (Sweden) advanced to the QF with a walkover from Gueit/ Svarc, but then lost to the 3rd seeds Wibowo/ Wiryawan .. Mustafa is skipping the Indian futures next week, based on the info I have seen about the Lucknow futures .. By the way, check out the early info on the Lucknow futures page .. Vishal and fazal are the two seeded Indians, and not too many top-500 players seem to be playing the futures, most probably because the first two weeks in Lucknow and Chadigrah are on grass - not too many have the guts to come and play on the soft Indian grass, I guess! .. Srinath is missing - I assume he is continuing to have those lower -body injuries which have kept him away for many weeks this year .. Harsh Mankad and Ajay Ramaswami are playing the US college season .. Sandeep Kirtane may be in some retiring mood these days? .. He is not playing the futures, but Nitin is there, as are Vijay Kannan, Manoj Mahadevan, Vinod and Rishi Sridhar.
Vinod Sridhar won the singles and doubles at the JS Pereira AITA men's ranking tournament in Mumbai yesterday .. Vijendra Laad had some heroics upsetting three seeds (Asif Ismail, Manoj Mahadevan and Ntin Kirtane) before falling to Vinod in the final .. Vinod and Vasudev Reddy won the doubles title .. I will add a page with scores soon.
Our men's tennis continues to be in crisis situation with nothing new in sight for now .. It's becoming very tough to keep hopes alive that somebody from the current group will emerge in the next 2-3 years when LP and MB pull down the curtains on all singles play (hopefully they will continue on in singles for at least that long - Mahesh himself needs to completely restart from scratch in singles, but he is still the second best we have, and LP showing something this week in singles in terms of drive on his own, gives me at least some sigh of relief) .. Otherwise, Harsh mankad (who has started the season fine with a semifinal in his NCAA regional etc) and Ajay Ramaswamy (who by the way seems to have picked up some great steam this year in the colleges and has had a string of top wins) need to get back with some pretty good improvement from the US .. None in India seems to be anywhere near the international levels, or so it seems .. I am reluctant make such judgments but perhaps that is the case? .. We will look for improvements in the next three weeks of satellites again ..
On this topic, here is what those in a a mailing list for monthly comments from Bhupathi Senior got from him a couple of days back .. He was very happy to see the women's exploits but quite concerned about the men's situation .. "At home, young Sunil Kumar didn't quite win his second Nationals, back to back, but he did prove two points. Firstly, he defeated all opposition except Nitin Kirtane in the finals confirming that he certainly is among the top players in India. The second point is a sad one. Considering that Sunil could hardly win a match in Group 2 Junior tournaments, was unable to qualify for any of the Grand Slams, and languishes somewhere around the 100th rank among the World under-18 players, his performance at the Nationals proves that our National players, barring the Davis Cuppers, are not even top 100 material among the Juniors! .. This is something one needs to address on an emergency basis. A glaring deficiency amongst all the players is physical fitness. Perhaps the remedial measures should start with this aspect and then turn the concentration to more tennis." .. It's possible that Sunil is better than what he has shown in the junior ranks this year (I pray to God that he is, actually!), the point remains that we have a serious crisis on our hands, as Krishna Bhupathi rightly says .. And the one point that he continues to harp on, is the one to take care of, first .. THE PHYSICAL FITNESS of our players .. I am sick of seeing all the newspaper articles which continues to write about our players with words like "Pencil-thin", "lean" etc, and talking about all the cases of those who "ran out of steam" or did not "have any power in the shots", etc etc, ad nauseum .. I suggest that they all be asked to stop playing tennis and go to some body building and physical development facility to lift weights or run in knee-deep water or cut trees, or whatever the heck is needed to improve their physique .. And what happened to my suggestion sometime back here that AITA start some sort of "strong man" contest at tennis events with money and tournament wildcards (or even AITA ranking points) for success in those contests .. Anything to get our boys to put in the time to improve physically .. I am not saying that none of them take it seriously - I am sure a few definitely put in the hard work .. But it does not seem to be enough .. And it needs to start at the lower ages in the junior ranks itself .. Come on .. Let's do something! .. It bugs me that there are spots in the national team right there for the taking in the near future and we are not sure if any of our boys are doing the right things to go grab it.
Nov 5 Note-1
No comeback heroics yesterday from leander, but he played a close match before going down to his occasional doubles partner .. The 8th seed Jan Siemrink (NED,122) d. Leander Paes, 76(5) 75 to advance to the final of the $100K+H Charleroi (Belgium) challenger against the 6th seed Srichaphan .. Still a good week for leander, who got to play a bit of singles and pick up 36 points .. His ranking will go up near #130, and that should pretty much let him squeeze into the Chennai Open main draw which closes in a couple of weeks, thus freeing up an extra wildcard.
Will find out about Niru's semifinal yesterday, soon .. The qualies start for the Lucknow (ITF India F4) futures for men, today.
Nov 4 Note-2
Well, I was out for a while and everybody had gone home by 9 pm at night at Charleroi (Belgium), by the time I got back .. So, I don't have the final score for LP's match yet .. Hope they will update the tournament website late at night .. Last I heard, LP was behind 67 32 against Siemrink in the semi .. Let's hope he pulled a comeback for a 3rd match in a row .. If any of you have the score, please pass it on to me.
Good news from Delhi ! .. 3rd seeded Sai and Rushmi once againt beat the Vesenjak twins (4th seeds) to win their first challenger title in doubles .. 53 42 53 final score .. They pick up 23 WTA points to take their point total to 71 .. Actually 32 of that have come from last three weeks when they went 11-1 in doubles .. They won 8 matches in a row, including a semifinal upset this week over Daskovic-vanDenHurk .. This will take their rankings up to aroun #265 from the near-350 rank they have now .. Pretty good show!
Top seeds Niru and Miyagi play the doubles semi in Hayward today .. Karen Miller and Dawn Buth will probably give them a tough fight.
Nov 4 Note-1
LP must be playing the semifinal at Belgium as I type .. In todays first semifinal, 6th seed Paradorn Srichaphan beat surprising lucky loser semifinalist Lars Burgsmueller, 62 61 .. I hope LP makes it an all-Asian final .. Siemerink will be a tough opponent though.
Here are Niru's scorees from Hayward (she herself emailed after reading that I had not got the scores yet) .. In the semifinal today, top-seeded Niru and Miyagi will play the 3rd seeds Dawn Buth and Karin Miller of USA .. In the second round yesterday, they beat Elizabeth Schmidt and Abigail Spears, 42 40 53 and in In the first round on Thursday, they beat Clarissa Fernandez and Jane Oakada, 40 40 41 .. In Singles, after a 42 14 41 14 40 win over Lauren Kalvaria (USA), Niru went down 42 40 41 to Elena Tatarkova in R2.
At the Delhi challenger singles final, Lenka Dlhopolcova (SVK) beat Olga Kalijnaia (RUS), 41 14 54(4) 42 .. I have not seen the doubles final scores yet, for Sai-Rushmi.
Nov 3 Note-4
LP is scheduled to play the semifinal tomorrow (Saturday) at about 6 pm at the Charleroi challenger in Belgium against Siemerink .. Go Lee ! ..
Well, the singles matches have not gone well for Niru for two weeks, but she is doing fine in doubles again .. Nirupama is in the doubles semis tomorrow, but I don't know whom she and Miyagi beat in the first two rounds .. For that matter, I still have not found out whom she lost to in the singles second round on Thursday .. News has been very tough to come by from Hayward, California (it doesn't help that I am myself in California, though 400 miles away) .. Bay area newspapers *never* cover any challenger news, and USTA does not have any outlets that report scores either .. A phone call to the tournament desk mobile number yielded the news that Niru/Miyagi won the QF today .. USTA needs to do something about timely dissemination of challenger/ satellites scores .. It's not like it is guarded information of importance to the US national security!
By the way, isn't it interesting that Indians played NINE challenger QF matches (4 singles at Delhi, one in Belgium, two doubles at Delhi, one in Belgium and one in California) this week in three continents ? .. Four advanced - two in singles (LP and Sai) and two in doubles (Sai-Rushmi and Niru-Miyagi) .. A singles semi loss and a doubles semi win at Delhi so far for Sai .. One singles and one doubles to be played tomorrow in US and Europe .. This will go as one of the most successful challenger weeks for Indians, eh ? .. I know it's inconsequential numbers, but I am one of those guys who likes to have fun with such stuff ...
Nov 3 Note-3
Hmmm .. At the $100K+H Charleroi challenger, Leander played a good 2 hr 15 minute match today to pull through in yet another comeback three-setter, like yesterday, to recah his first semifinal in a long time .. L.Paes d. D.Norman, 67(3) 63 76(4) .. Considering that Dick Norman has been playing pretty well in the last 3-4 months, this is a pretty good fighting win for Leander .. It's actually only the second time in over two years, since beating Sampras at New Haven in Aug 98, that LP is winning three matches in a row outside India, amazing as it seems (LP won three rounds in the qualies and one in the main draw at the Australian Open last January, which was the other occasion) .. Actually this is his first SF in any event outside India since his title at Newport in July 1998 .. He will play the 7th seeded Jan Siemerink (NED,122) in the semifinal tomorrow ..
Nov 3 Note-2
On Dick Norman, whom LP plays this evening in Belgium .. I remembered the name from 1997 and from some Wimbledon surprises, I but had not heard of him after that .. It looks like Dick Norman is on a comeback trail at the age of 29 .. He was ranked as high as aboiut 115 in late 97, but had fallen off the chart on a steady fall by next year .. This year he has started a comeback with a challenger final in Romania and a couple of challenger quarterfinals in Uzbekistan and France in the last four months .. ATP says he is 6 ft 8 inches tall, which will make him one of the tallest payers on the tour (wonder if he tried his hands at basketball during the last couple of years :-)) .. Hard server, of course .. If the surface isn't too bouncy, LP knows a lot of tricks on making the tall guys bend down all the time and get uncomfortable .. Leander may be quite tired after two three setters in singles and doubles yesterday, though - and Norman seems to be in good form too .. It would be nice to see LP reach a semifinal and pick p 36 points .. These two have never played each other before.
Nov 3 Note-1
Leander is scheduled to play the featured evening singles match against unseeded Dick Norman (#242) of Belgium at the $100K+H Charleroi challenger today .. Norman beat #146 Ketola yesterday .. The second seeded Christophe Rochus in the bottom half of the draw got upset yesterday in the second round by Michael Kohlmann .. LP, Norman, 8th seed Siemerink and Kohlmann are in the QF today from the bottom half .. 6th seeded Paradorn Srichaphan reched the semi in one of the early matches today.
Also, a few losses to mention .. LP and Chris Haggard lost in the doubles second round at Charleroi last night, the top seed being upset by qualifiers Luxa-Skoch (a pretty good regular doubles team earlier), 67(4) 63 64 .. I have not heard the full news, but I believe Niru lost yesterday in the second round at the Hayward challenger in straight sets .. Not sure whom she playedm and no other details known yet .. No news from the doubles draw either for top seeded Niru and Nana Miyagi.
At the Delhi challenger today, Sai Jayalakshmy lost to Lenka Dlholpolcova (SVK), 40 14 14 04 .. I had forgotten that Dlholpolcova is the same young girl who is #7 in the world junior rankings, till I saw Kamesh Srinivasan mention it in the Hindu article yesterday .. Actually we should have expected some of the fireworks from Dlholpolcova, knowing her exploits in the junior circuit .. She seems to have completely overpowered Sai after figuring her out during a slow start, and she has reached her first challenger final .. By the way, Kurhajcova who played this challenger (and lost earlier to Kalioujnaia) is also a top-10 caliber junior player now - there are some pretty talented future stars in this challenger .. In the other semi today, the Urska Vesenjak show came to an end against Olga Kalioujnaia of Russia in 4 sets .. I am not sure if the doubles final was played today between the Vesenjak sisters and Rushmi-Sai .. I think it is tomorrow, along with the singles final.
Speaking of doubles, Sai and Rushmi reached their first challenger doubles final yesterday, upsetting the top seeded pair, Daskovic and Van Den Hurk, ensuring that there will be Indians in at least one final .. Sai-Rushmi have won 7 matches in a row, and has a 10-1 record in their last three tournaments .. They have a tough final as they face the Vesenjak twins, the only team to beat them in that period (at the Gwalior final) .. Sai and Rushmi have picked up 16 WTA points with this final, to add to the 9 points they have from the last two weeks .. They will go up about 75 spots from the 349 and 350 rankings they have now, which is pretty good!
Nov 2 Note-3
Good news from Belgium .. In the second round of the $100K+H Charleroi challenger, L.Paes d. M.Llodra (FRA,154), 36 75 64 .. Nice comeback job by Lee .. In the quarterfinal tomorrow, he meets the winner of the match between Dick Norman and Tuomas Ketola .. 19 ATP entry points for LP from today's win .. He comes back to play the doubles QF later today.
Nov 2 Note-2
At Stuttgart today, #5 J.Novak/ D.Rikl d. M.Bhupathi/ K.Ullyett, 64 63 in the second round .. The breaks of serve were as follows - [set1: MB-KU broken in game 7] [set2: MB-KU broken in game 1, 5 and 9; JN-DR in game 6] .. Not sure if Mahesh started serve in the second set; hopefully not - it's not usual for him to drop serve three times in a set.
At the Delhi challenger, the overachieving Indian girls all woke up from their wonderful dream with a thud I guess today .. Three of the quarterfinalists fell, but there was still another upset of a top-350 player by an Indian to keep our hopes alaive .. Sai Jayalakshmi upset the 7th seed Kozhokhina (RUS,351) in straight sets 41 42 42 to reach her first challenger semifinal .. Lenka Dlhopolcova's straight sets win over Shruti Dhawan was somewhat of a surprise .. The Solvakian used power tennis (she is probably one who likes fast surfaces) to subdue Shruti whose service was off today .. Sai will have to play well to get past Lenka tomorrow and reach her first final .. Both Jyotsna and Sonal put up some fights with tiebreaker sets etc, but fell in straight sets to higher ranked Kalioujnaia and Urska Vesenjak .. Sai has picked up 12 points to take her ranking up by around 40-50 spots to near #350 .. Sonal will raise her ranking by about 100 spots to near #425 with the 8.5 points, and the 18-yr old will overtake Rushmi as the #4 Indian player .. Shruti will go up by around 175 spots to near #550 now .. In two weeks, India will have 7 players in the top-600 in two weeks with Niru, Sai, Manisha, Sonal, Rushmi, Shruti and Archana in that order! .. Not bad at all .. See our Delhi challenger page.
Except for Sai's win, the day has not started well for us .. Hopefully LP and Niru will give good news later from Belgium and California.
By the way, Bangalore is getting ready for some big tennis legends during the weekend after next .. The Legends Tournament will be held in Bangalore during the Nov 9-12 weekend .. There is an impressive list of tennis greats expected there - Bjorn Borg, Vijay Amritraj, Pat Cash, Guillermo Vilas, Henri Leconte, Ross Case, Anand Amritraj and Mansour Behrami .. This event will kick off tennis fever in Bangalore, as a precursor to the World Doubles Championship (Dec 13-17) .. The new playpave synthetic hardcourt surfaces are being laid right now by American experts, which replace the claycourts at the KSLTA stadium .. CGK Bhupathi is supervising this work and the courts should be ready by early next week .. "KSLTA (Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association) plans to put in place a fully renovated stadium, which would have 7,500 seats in the covered stands, a brand new players lounge, a sauna for the players, media room and a cafeteria .. The whole project will cost Rs 3.5 crore and funds are coming from various sources inlcuding ITC, UB Group and Zee TV network", according to the press release in Indiainfo.com earlier this week .. Good to have world class tournament venues in both Chennai and Bangalore - it can only help Indian tennis.
Nov 2 Note-1
At the Stuttgart masters, MB-Ullyett play the second round today at about 3.30 pm, against the 5th seed Jiri Novak and David Rikl .. At the Charleroi (Belgium) challenger, LP plays the second round against Michael Llodra about 2.30 pm .. At the $25K Hayward challenger, Nirupama plays the second round of singles and possibly the first round doubles today (Niru is seeded #1 in doubles with Nana Miyagi this week, and they face Clarissa Fernandez and Jane Okada) .. Sai, Sonal, Jyotsna and Shruti play the QFs at the $25K Delhi challenger.
Here is a line from Kamesh Srinivasan in today's The Hindu about the Indian show at Delhi where four are in the QFs: "The good news was that all the four Indians would be meeting foreigners, and thus the Indian charge can continue further .." Now, that sounds so different than what we are used to .. How things have changed! - It wasn't all that long ago that we expected a sure loss any time an Indian woman played foreign competition .. Let's hope they continue the good work, as Kamesh says following that line, "if the girls sport the same positive outlook with which they approached the task this day" .. Wins like Shruti's 41 41 40 shellacking of 355th ranked Eva Fislova in 53 minutes is thrilling (Shruti had won her previous match, also against a top-350 player, in 45 minutes! She has been cruising so far) .. Shruti said "nothing is impossible", and it certainly has looked that way this week .. Jyotsna is another terrific story - she is a hard hitter of the ball who makes mistakes in the process as well -- her attitude has been extremely positive, as she was quoted in yesterday's newspaper reports to be saying that she was not going to bother about the mistakes and was going to play to her strength which is in her hard shots, she did exactly that on Tuesday to claw back from a match point down to winning a 5-setter over Archana .. The consistency will develop once you play enough quality matches and put in practice and hard work .. Such aggressive spirit shown by the Indian women is refreshing .. The fast hadcourt surface is also helping the Indians who know the delhi courts very well .. The European players generally prefer clay or any slow surface .. Sonal probably has the toughest QF match, having to face hot Urska Vesenjak next .. Shruti may have, on paper, the easiest next match, as Dlhopolcova is not as tough or highly ranked as the top seed Krejcova who conceded the match to her today .. With all the players smelling unexpected rewards, there will be some tough fights tomorrow .. Sonal has now picked up 8.5 points here and Shruti has 8 points .. Sai and Jyotsna have 7 each .. They can all pick up 4 points more for a win today (Sai and Sonal can pick up one bonus pt also, as their opponents are in the top-500) .. In doubles also we have two teams in the semis .. Sonal and Harsimran reached the semi without even playing today, as the #2 seeds conceding the match to them, as Krejcova was hurt .. Sai-Rushmi pair also reached the semi after a 5-setter against Fislova and Kurhajcova .. Sai-Rushmi have picked up 19 points in three weeks (4 and 5 in the previous two weeks for a final and title and now 10 points in the challenger for the semi) to add to the 39 they now have .. They will move up from around 350 to around 290 in ranking.
Continuing on the women's week theme (:-)), here is a bealated posting of a delayed onsite fanclub member match report that I got from "Prof" (Krishnan Narayan) about Niru's semifinal doubles win at the Dallas challenger last week: Niru/Miyagi d. Sequera/Mesa, 36 76(2) 64 -- here it is, with all the details of a real gritty comeback job:
The Lakes Tennis Academy in Frisco (near Dallas) is the perfect setting for a championship. Tennis lessons are conducted on the split-level courts below, and matches are conducted on the upper level. which has a panoramic view of the Lakes residential community and dramatic views of Texas sunsets and sunrises. The Sports Performance Center has an impressive track record of training atheletes (Rachel McQuillan, Tara Snyder to name a few). Perfect setting for some great tennis..That was an elaborate match report! .. Thanks, Prof .. [Prof also gives a nice plug for the Lakes academy, which seems to be a good one]
It was clear from the outset that this was not going to be a classic doubles game in the traditional serve-and-volley mode. All 4 players had great returns and none was willing to commit to serve and volley on their serve; Seqera promptly lost her serve in the opening game and Niru lost hers immediately after. Thereafter, games went with serve until the 7th game when Miyagi lost her serve and our team dropped to 3-5. Seqera then held at 40-30 to close out the set at 6-3.
The first set was marred by several poor line calls that went against our pair; also, the team wasnt clicking very well. Miyagi was consistently being passed down the line and couldnt poach as well as Mesa could on Seqera's serve, this was the deciding factor in the first set. Niru continued to return and poach very well, she didnt miss a single return all thru the first set!
The second set started off very poorly with a double by Niru and she promptly lost her serve, things were looking pretty bleak for our team. But they managed to break Seqera back right away with some great down the line passing shots; thereafter games went with serve until 2-2 when Niru was broken again. Poor first serve percentage coupled with poor net support from Miyagi was the deciding factor; for some reason Niru had slowed her serve considerably, it was probably a good tactical ploy because her opponents (mesa in particular) were having problems with the slow pace on her serve. Seqera then holds on an easy volley flubbed by Miyagi to go ahead 2-4.
Now comes one of the best comebacks I have witnessed in a long time. Our pair decides to fall back and play from the baseline. It is also now getting very windy and Miyagi was serving against the wind. The 7th game went to about 10 deuces and our pair hung on tenaciously, never giving up to hold 3-4 against a powerful attack from the opponents. It was an awesome display of never-say-die from our pair; quite impressive to watch. The tactical move to the baseline works even though Mesa holds the next game to go up 5-3.
Niru, who has been serving poorly thus far, saves two match points with some very good clutch first serves to hold at 4-5. Our pair then fights their way back on Seqera's serve with a couple of beautiful down-the-line passing shots to break at 5-5, saving another 2 match points in the process. Our pair saved a total of 4 match points in the 9th and 10th games to come up even in the best comeback I have seen in a long time. The crowd was enthralled with the fighting spirit on display and I received several comments from coaches at the academy (coached Gray and Farmer in particular) who were keen to talk to her afterwards. Our pair were now thoroughly pumped up and took the match to the inevitable tiebreaker, where they stormed ahead 5-1 and closed out the set with a good volley from Niru.
The third set started with a hold by Mesa; Miyagi also held easily, Niru hit some great topspin lobs to break and go ahead 3-2 but Miyagi promply lost her serve in the next game; The final break happened in the 9th game when Mesa was broken with a brilliant down-the-middle shot by Niru that forced a flubbed volley in the net by Seqera and a wild scream in Spanish. At that point our pair were so pumped up that nothing could have stopped them and Miyagi was able to convert the very first match point to win the match at 6-4.
I had a good opportunity to watch Niru's game and I see a good potential for both singles and doubles; she does need some work on her serve and volley approach. Her groundies are excellent on both sides (brought back memories of her cousins Elangovan and Parthiban who I played with frequently while on the tour in India about 30 years ago), her footwork and foot speed are good and her volleys are also very good. I feel that 3-4 weeks at the academy with the academy coaches (Gray, Farmer and Beevers) could do wonders for her game and I communicated as such to her. Let us see what happens. Coach Beevers had mentioned that Rachel McQuillan has spent over 6 months at the academy and drops in frequently during breaks in tournament play; Melissa Torres (14s Orange bowl winner) played the entry to the qualifying and impressed all with her abilities; she will be in the academy for the coming 4 weeks.
By the way, the "JS Pereira" AITA men's ranking tournament is underway in Mumbai with some of the good domestic players taking part .. Will report some scores soon .. The men are getting ready for the ITF $10K futures series of three events starting next week at Lucknow (followed by Chandigarh and Mumbai), as the women's international season end for the year with this week's challenger .. More later on that.
Nov 1 Note-2
More good news to report following the women's exploits today at Delhi and Mahesh's doubles win in Stuttgart .. Wins to report from California and Belgium .. Nirupama played her first round at the $25K Hayward challenger, and moved on after some unexpected trouble in 5-sets against a talented but unranked wildcard .. #4 N.Vaidyanathan d. (wc) Lauren Kalvaria (USA), 42 14 41 14 40 .. [Thanks Nizam, for the news!] .. I assume Niru was having some trouble with the new five-set format that she is playing under for the first time .. At the $100K+H Charleroi challenger, Leander and Chris Haggard defeated Braasch and Kohlmann, 63 76(5) to advance to the quarterfinal on Thursday against the qualifier pair, Peter Luxa and David Skoch of CZE ..
Nov 1 Note-1
Mahesh and Kevin Ullyett won their first round at the Stuttgart masters over wildcards Shuttler and Knippschild, 64 76(3) today .. They will run up against the 5th seeds Novak/ Rikl in the round of 16 tomorrow.
No news yet about on LP's doubles first round at Cherleroi .. Michael Llodra (FRA,154) upset the 5th seed Michal Tabara (CZE,96) today, and so LP will get a lower-ranked player tomorrow in the singles R2 .. The other seed in Leander's quarter of the draw also is gone, as the 3rd seed Alex Popp was upset by Tuomas Ketola today.
Terrific, incredible stuff from Indian women today at the $25K Delhi challenger .. Based on a report at wahindia.com, four Indians have reached the quarterfinal today! .. Sai upset the 3rd seed Daskovic, Jyotsna upset the 4th seed Ortuno, Shruti upset Fislova, and Sonal beat Harsimran .. In the three upsets, the Indians dropped just one set out of 10, that too .. Man, are these girls on a roll or what ?? .. Confidence is contagious and these girls believe they can beat anybody right now; winning tennis follows from that .. More later after the newspaper reports come up .. also Niru's scores from Hayward today.
Oct 31 Note-2
Good win for Leander today at the $100K+H Charleroi challenger first round .. Leander Paes (IND,145) d. Julian Alonso (ESP,157), 64 75 .. Hey, LP is again doing alright with his singles game, and that's nice to know .. He gets 8 points and gets closer to making a direct entry to the Chennai Open when entries close in a couple of weeks .. His second round opponent will be determined after the 5th seed Mical Tabara plays tomorrowe .. LP will be playing the doubles first round (with Chris Haggard) tomorrow evening.
Talking of Chennai, one more top name has confirmed his entry today .. #11 Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain, who is the 3rd top-20 player to join, along with #4 Norman and #14 Pioline .. Cool!
Niru is scheduled to play tomorrow at the Hayward challenger first round in the San Fransisco bay area .. The doubles entries close today - not sure who she will be playing with .. I see Nana Miyagi in the singles draw; perhaps they would stick together, as they had good success at Dallas last week.
Oct 31 Note-1
Great show by Shruti Dhawan today at the Delhi challenger! .. A wildcard entry, she upset the 5th seed Surine DeBeer (RSA,325) in straight sets to move to the second round .. Not to be outdone, the other 18 year old, Sonal Phadke upset last week's satellite champion, #491 Rushmi, in straight sets too .. And then Sai Jayalakshmi also made the second round, by beating Maja Mlakar of Slovakia, semifinalist at the satellite last week who looked to be a tough nut to beat .. Along with Jyotsna and a truly lucky loser Harsimran Kaur, we have five Indians in the second round .. That is much more than we could have expected in a $25K challenger; Let us hope that we will have at least one or two going a round or two more .. See the Delhi challenger results page.
Sonal has picked up one bonus point for beating top-500 Rushmi, and with 1.5 points for qualifying in and three regular round points, she has 5.5 points .. Shruti makes 4 points including one bonus .. It's very impressive to see the strides Shruti and Sonal made this year - they each have four and three top-500 wins respectively so far this year .. From just seven and nine tournaments, Shruti and Sonal have made 13.75 and 26.5 points each .. Sonal will be ranked in the top-450 in two weeks, thrilling as it seems for somebody in her very first year in pro tennis .. Shruti was away from tennis for over a year with injuries and started playing only about 7 months back when she was almost unranked .. Very heartening to see her live up to the promise shown two years back as the winner of the developmental satellite masters on the same courts .. Has Indian women's tennis turned a corner? .. You bet it has .. In early 98, Nirupama created news winning a round at the Australian, providing Indian women's tennis with a shot in the arm, and we hoped the others would get their inspiration from that .. In mid 1998, we had Niru in the top-200 and nobody else even in the top-700 .. Then Manisha reached a satellite final in England, Shruti won a satellite masters, and Sai and Rushmi decided to hit the pro scene full-time rather than go away quietly like most 20 year olds had done in the past .. Two years later, we now have so much going on .. In two weeks we will see five Indians (Nirupama, Manisha, Sai Rushmi and Sonal) in the top 450 .. Thanks go to Niru for paving the way (she always gets first props!) and to AITA for taking the ball and running, bringing all these events to India and exposing our players to foreign competition ..
Talking of Nirupama, she took a calculated gamble skipping the Delhi event, where she would have been the top seed .. She decided that she would lose about three weeks on a one-off trip to India on top of travel expenses, as she would lose a week on both sides due to jet-lag .. She thought she would be able to pick up as much money or points from two events in the US ($50K Dallas challenger last week and $25K Hayward challenger this week - I am not sure she is planning to play the $50K Pittsburgh challenger next week; she may) .. She got good money and points with the doubles final last week, but nothing in singles .. She has a better draw this time at Hayward .. Niru is the 4th seed, drawn with the 5th seed Lenka Nemackova till the semis .. In the first round, Nirupama vs. (wc) Lauren Kalvaria (USA) who is unaranked .. A win will put her against the winner of the match between #304 Elena Tatarkova (UKR) and #360 Jean Okada (USA) .. Niru has a good chance to make a semifinal or better there .. She is in the bottom half of the draw with 2nd seed Anca Barna and 7th seed Marion Maruska .. I have not seen the doubles draw.
Later, with any news from Belgium on Leander's first round singles match today .. Also, I have a got a match report for Niru's semifinal win at Dallas from "Prof" .. Will post that soon too.
Oct 30 Note-2
Leander plays the first round of singles Tuesday at the $10K+H Charleroi challenger in Belgium .. Mahesh's first round doubles at Stuttgart seem to be only on wednesday .. Interestingly I see Wodforde playing doubles with Rafter at Stuttgart with a wildcard .. What is he doing ? I thought the old Woody had retired after the Olympics? .. Hey, why not come to Bangalore also, dude?
At the $25K Delhi challenger, tragedy struck poor Manisha Malhotra, as she aggravated the shoulder injury by the 4th set and had to retire, after having won the first two sets against the Portugese qualifier .. Manisha needs to get some more rest and return only after very properly taking care of her shoulder .. Pity that injuries have been preventing her from making a move up from the 300-350 ranking she has kept for over a year now .. The only Indian to make an impression today was the US-returned Jyotsna Vasisht, who certainly justified her wildcard with a win over Archana Venkatraman, who is never an easy opponent to beat .. The 21-year old appears to be a pretty good player, and based on reports about coach Kawaljeet Singh saying that he plans to coach and improve some aspects of her game after these tournaments (he has only recently started with her), she may only be showing a glimpse of what she could be .. She has decent power and seems to have picked up aggressiveness and fighting spirit from her US college stint, and consistency is what needs to come from match practice .. OK, I take back my earlier complaint about her getting so many wildcards :-) .. There were a couple of no shows .. WTA and ITF needs to streamline their entry procedures - players are entering all kinds of tournaments and not showing up .. I had found out yesterday itself that Jagieniak, the second seed wouldn't be going to Delhi as she was already playing qualies at Quebec! .. So Ankita Bhambri instead ended up with lucky loser Harsimran Kaur whom she had beaten in the qualies, but lost to this time .. Arthi venkatraman and Samrita Sekhar also made it in as lucky losers, but lost to Slovakian opponents .. Radhika lost to Kalioujnaia of Russia .. Sai, Shruti, Rushmi and Sonal will play tomorrow, as will the Vesenjak sisters .. Sonal against Rushmi should be a good match, though Rushmi generally knows a thing or two about beating the younger Indians .. See the Delhi challenger page for scores.
Sobering news from the grade-3 Thailand ITF juniors last week .. Just found the results, and I wished I had not seen it! .. Somehow, Indian juniors seem to be unable to do anything in the far east circuit, and it continues to be so .. Sunil Kumar, Vinod sewa, Parantap Chaturvedi, Amanjot Singh, and Harshit Sharma were seeded in the boys draw (2, 3, 5, 6, and 12th seeds - all with first round byes), and only Parantap Chaturvedi won more than a round to make it to even quarterfinal of the 48-draw event .. Everybody else lost to unseeded players .. Vinod won one round, and everybody else lost in the first match itself .. Sunil lost in his first match, as I reported earlier, to Hiu-Tung Yu of Hong Kong (who did reach the semifinal beating another seed) .. Parantap actually played pretty well in the QF, losing to the eventual champion Chris Kwon of USA in three sets .. In doubles, Sunil and Vinod were the 3rd seeds, Parantap and Amanjot were the 6th seeds, and Harshit Sharma and Rahul Rajkhewa were the 8th seeds - all had first round byes again, all of them lost in the first round .. This was truly embarrassing, and it defies logic why our did so poorly .. It was not much better on the girls' side either .. Only the unseeded Liza Pereira did anything noteworthy .. She beat a talented Rattiya Hiranrat of Thailand in three sets in the first round and then upset the 2nd seeded Aiko Nakamura of Japan in a comeback three-setter, before losing the runner-up Line Ekner of Denmark .. 3rd seeded Sania Mirza got upset in the first round; also losing in the first round were Sasha Abraham and Nischela Reddy .. It may be time for Sania to take a break and go back to the drawing board, and work on her game - I am paraphrasing Nandan Bal's comments during the DSCL tournament, about Sania, who is really somebody to look forward to in the future .. No need to play *this* many tournaments at this age .. In doubles, Sasha and Sania were the 4th seed, and once again it was a first round upset loss for them .. In doubles also, Liza Pereira, who played with Maya Rosa of Indonesia was the only one to get anywhere .. After a walkover in the first round, they beat the team that had upset sasha/sania, before losing in the semifinal to the top seeded Taiwanese team who were the eventual winners .. But really, it just boggles my mind that so many of our players, who have not all been doing well just in India, did so poorly out there .. And this is not the first time it has happened .. It was the same story of ridiculously early exits for our kids in their March swing to the Thailand, Singapore area .. I wonder what the problem is? .. Most of the kids will be proceeding to Kuala Lumpur for the grade-4 event there this week, I believe.
Oct 30 Note-1
Leander is drawn against Julian Alonso (ESP,155) in the first round of the $100K+H challenger in Charleroi, Belgium .. LP is unseeded and if he wins, the second round will be against 5th seed Michal Tabara (CZE,96) or Michael Llodra (FRA,154) .. He is also in doubles there, playing with Chris Haggard of South Africa - they are seeded first and play Karsten Braasch and Michael Kohlmann of Germany .. I have no idea why LP is playing doubles and adding unnecessary matches to tire himself out, as the maximum points he can get is just 80 and even the money is rather meager .. I guess he just likes to play! :-) .. Not sure if LP will be playing on Monday ..
Mahesh could not have got into the singles draw at the challenger, so he is sticking to playing doubles at Stuttgart .. he is playing with Kevin Ullyett for just this week (LP and MB will be together for the next three weeks again) .. MB-Ullyett face wildcards Jens Knippschild and Rainer Schuttler in the first round and are drawn to face the 5th seeds Novak-Rikl (who have an R1 bye) in the second round.
.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Oct 30 ..
I am getting some enquiries 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 enquiring 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 enquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.