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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Nov 8, 1999

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Nov 8 Note-1

Hey, hey, hey !! .. I was away for a day, and just when I wasn't looking Nirupama pulled off some stunts .. She is in Kuala Lumpur for the $170K Tier III WTA event qualies .. She beat Mireille Dittman (AUS,325), and then the 9th seed in the qualies, Maggie Maleeva (BUL,128) to reach the final round of qualies .. How about that ?  .. Now she needs to get past 7th seed Annabel Ellwood (AUS,119) .. Niru has picked up 6 points for the two wins including 3 bonus, so far .. Ellwood will be a tough one to get past, though ..  Here is the very extensive report on the match at my favorite online magazine, On the Line, which has reporters at the most unexpected places, watching things like qualifying rounds that the regular press stays away from ! ..

Manisha Malhotra was actually at the Hull challenger in UK last week, and finally had somebody upset her .. She missed the main draw by a whisker, as it was based on the rankings a few weeks back .. Manisha was the top seed in the qualies, but got upset by Natalie Egorova (AUS,519) in the first round, 36 67(3) .. Egorova is a talented player who was hot last week - she went on to pull 5 upsets in a row, two in the main draw too, finally falling in the QF .. Not sure where Manisha is this week.

The doubles title at Paris Super 9 was won by Lareau/O'Brien over Haarhuis/Palmer, 7-6(8), 7-5 .. L/O had beaten Knowles/Nestor in the semis, and H/P had beaten Ferreira/Leach in the semis .. The Woodies lost in the QF to Ferreir/Leach, and Arthurs/Kratzmann had lost to Knowles/Nestor in the QFs .. Lareau/O'Brien are looking well-set to create havoc at Hartford, as they have now come up from #7 in the team rankings to #3 behind LP-MB and Woodies .. The Indian Express better watch out! .. Jonas Bjorkman is unfortunately out from the Hartford draw, as Bjorkman/B.Black lost in the first round at Paris ..

Bjorkman had to win the Paris Open to go past Mahesh for #2 in ranking, but that did not happen .. He still has a very faint outside chance to overtake Mahesh with a title at Stockholm, but it is probably not going to happen, and LP and MB are going to be #1 and #2 in the year-end rankings .. Here are the latest doubles ranks from today -   1. Paes (4,404 pts), 2. Bhupathi (3,898), 3. Bjorkman (3,623), 4. Lareau, (3,208), 5. Palmer (3,151), 6. Haarhuis (3,048), 7. O'Brien (2,827), 8. Woodbridge (2,716), 9. Stolle (2,662), 10. B.Black (2,619), 11. Woodforde (2,619) ..

The Masters leg of the satellites has started at Mumbai today -- Good news, as 5 indians made it into the round of 16 today after the first round (2 Indians, Srinath and Sandeep, are seeded and already in the second round with byes) .. The best win was (finally!) from Fazal, who showed he is not to be taken that lightly just because he had a couple of bad rounds in the first three legs .. He took out Nitin Kirtane in a laugher, 61 62, today .. Vijay Kannan is definitely showing signs of life over the last few days, as he beat a good foreign player, Matthis Kemp-Bergman of Sweden, also in easy straight sets, 63 62 .. Rohan Bopanna, the break-out player of this satellite, moved on beating the kid, AV Rao .. The other one who has had a better-than-expected show at this satellites is Vishal Uppal, who beat Vasudev Reddy in three sets ..  The bad one was for Manoj Mahadevan, the 18 yr old who always seems to play three-setters (winning about the half the time) .. Manoj went down to Joseph Nesticky of CZE, in a 3-setter .. Vinod Sridhar had to play three sets to top Mustafa Ghouse, who had a disappointing time in these satellites in singles, coming right after his excellent show at the nationals where he reached the finals .. Mlynarik and van Wyk are the other 2 foreign players who advanced, the latter having a very easy match against Saurav Panja .. The tough rounds start now, as these eight will all go up against seeds in R2  .. And one of the seeds will need to tackle Fazal, who may be fighting for whatever ATP points he can come out with - a wounded animal on prowl, I hope! .. See the masters leg results page.

Nov Notes

Leander is still in Orlando and decided to not play this week .. He is also working on his physical training (upper body strength etc) - this is his first time he is training in Orlando in over a year and half .. I feel it's possible that staying away from Orlando and his trainer there this long has been a big reason for his singles slump .. In fact, I had asked Leander right after the US Open whether it wouldn't be better get back from India in two weeks and train in Orlando for 3 or 4 weeks (skipping Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong) .. Since he had singles wildcard at Singapore and they were a showpiece pair there etc, he decided not to do that then .. I think he felt there was a chance he could "hit his way back to form" in singles, but that didn't happen ..  Anyway, Mahesh's injury forced LP to skip Stuttgart that followed and now his own injury has forced him to skip Paris .. Stockholm (starting tomorrow) was not in the plans earlier, though they considered playing there as preparation for Hartford, had they been in Paris this week .. I believe LP decided that there wasn't much point in making a frantic trip to Stockholm - and it was better to take 10 more days off in Orlando (there is a risk that LP and MB will be going into Hartford with no match practice, but they have pulled off that stunt quite a few time at even grand slams that they feel they can do it! :-)) .. So it has turned out to be a sort-of unplanned 3 weeks in Orlando..

I personally like the fact that LP is in Orlando, working on singles .. It will be so much more difficult once January comes around, to find time to work physical strength and the singles game .. One has to steal weeks like this, when there is nothing much at stake, if you are serious on singles .. Leander was talking seriously about singles, when I talked to him last week - said that confidence in singles is a result of putting in the hard work and training for strength and he was trying to do it .. The knee bruise from the racket hit has caused him to miss a couple of days of actual practice and made the decision easier on not going to Paris, but otherwise it is not a serious problem .. Considering that it is a 4 week stretch of tennis starting Hartford (Asia Cup and 2 challengers in India), and then the new year starts after 3 more weeks of Christmas, it is not bad to take the break now .. I am crossing my fingers about the champs getting in sync quickly at Hartford, though!

Anyway, Mahesh is at the Stockholm Open, but is playing with his old buddy, Peter Tramacchi (they played together at a far east challenger last year and won the title, if you remember).  Here is the draw:

  M.Keil/ M.Kohlmann   vs   Qualifiers              \
4 P.Norval/ K.Ullyett  vs   W.Ferreira/ B.Haygarth  / \ _ Final
  M.Bertolini/ D.Bowen vs   M.Bhupathi/ P.Tramacchi \ /
2 W.Black/ S.Stolle    vs W R.Federer/ M.Norman     /
Not a bad drfaw.  The top seed is Lareau/O'Brien and the 2nd seeds are Arthurs/Kratzmann.  I believe Mahesh did not make the qualifier singles draw for the weekend.

At the satellites yesterday, they had to have a draw to decide the final spot in the doubles draw for Masters, and Vijay Kannan got lucky among 5 guys! .. The bad news is that his partner Manoj Mahadevan missed out, and so Vijay has to play with Niko Karagiannis, who had some points with Fazal earlier (but Fazal is playing with somebody else now) .. That is is the same parings continue from 3rd leg .. Fazal may be better off playing with Vijay than his partner in the 3rd leg ? .. I need find out the details on this, though.

Nov 6 Notes

Srinath's wonderful run continues in the staellites .. He showed his fight-back abilities once again today, pulling off a comeback win over Thomas Messmer of Germany in three sets, 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-2 .. According to PTI, Srinath "played some splendid aggressive shots from the baseline .. In the second and 3rd set, Srinath dominated with controlled forehand smashes down the line".. Srinath had 8 aces, and Messmer had two .. This gives Srinath 21 more circuit points which places him at the top of the list with 43 points .. If he reaches at least the final in the masters leg, I believe he will top the circuit standings and get the 10 bonus ATP points, after this .. Even a semifinal may be enough for him to end up as second and get 5 bonus ATP points for 41 total and defend his points from last years satellites .. If he wins the masters round, he will pick up 49 ATP points .. So, Srinath has recoevred splendidly from that first leg first round loss.  Srinath would do well to win the next round and pick up all the points he can .. There are some incentives for this too, as that will leave him assured of a place in the qualifying rounds at the Australian Open (Sri has 13 points dropping off on January 3rd from the Ahmedabad challenger, but should be fine even if he does not pick up any points in the 2 challengers next month in India .. The Jan 10th ranks are used for AO qualies - If he wins next leg, he is assured of at least a top-325 ranking then - but then again, nobody knows even this late, about any new twists ATP may introduce on entries for tournaments which is supposedly still based on 52-week points .. ATP is incredibly stupid to be still waiting to release the fulldetails, or *any* useful details, on their system for next year - but that's another matter) .. Anyway, for now, winning the next round will leave him tied with Mahesh at 126 points as India #2 and will place him inside the top-300 for the first time, at about #290 ..

Continuing the Indian Sweep in the last leg, once again the Kirtane cousins won the doubles title, beating the surprising finalists, unseede Kedar Shah and Rohan Bopanna, 6-1, 6-3, today .. I have not calculated the exact point totals, but the Kirtanes should have no problems going over 40 ATP points in the end, and possibly defending the 49 doubles points they have from last year ..  They were upstaged and prevented from winning the masters leg the last two times (by Kannan-Mankad last year and by Vishal-Mustafa this June) .. Their incentive may be to get that monkey off their backs - I hope they would do that in the next leg, and not sit on the fact that they are assured of a lot of ATP points anyway and don't have to win the next round .. See the Leg-3 results.

There were a couple of very nice articles in today's The Hindu .. One on Sunil Kumar by Sharda Ugra with comments on his progress and what needs to be done, by various experts such as Naresh Kumar and CGK Bhupathi .. Lot of nice insights from them all .. Once again, things need to be carefully planned for him, especially since he is from a different background than all other former young talents who made it big - he is not from a family who is involved in tennis/sports, he is from a rural background, etc, etc .. From all I have heard the good news is that Rajan Kashyap and the Chandigarh Lawn Tennis Association (who deserve a ton of praise for what they have done in identifying and nurturing him), and Sunil's coach Kawaljeet Singh, are thinking of the best interests of Sunil and AV Rao (one who is not too behind in talent to Sunil).. Ramesh Krishnan, Bhupathi Sr., etc have shown enough care and goodwill so far too .. The other great article today was a well-researched one by Kamesh Srinavasn on the "best-kept secret in Indian tennis", coach Kawaljeet Singh - on how the 42-year old coach became the one who did the unprecedented - that is, coach three kids who won national championships in 2 weeks last month! .. One thing that caught my attention in the article: Kawaljeet feels that there should be a national tennis centre, with a national coach and a junior national coach, to keep track of all the talented players around the country.  I certainly agree about the national coach part, and reading the article would tell you that Kawaljeet is not suggesting himself for that task .. It's something that needs to be done seriously, and it has to be done by someone who does not have their own self-glory as the reason (ie, please, no politics in this  - the worst thing we can do to talented young players is to play politics with their budding careers) .. There are many countries where the Davis Cup coach/captain unofficially does this - to various levels of success depending on the person involved ..

Kawaljeet also reportedly said, "there is a lot of hope on these two boys. They can improve their junior international ranking and possibly play the junior Grand Slams. Sunil by 2001 may be able to achieve something memorable in this regard" ..  Coach is almost promising something here (duly noted, sir .. we will hold you to your words :-)) .. Good that the plan is for them to try to reach the highest levels of junior events (that means playing in the 2000 junior grand slams, which requires them to play enough junior events from now on out) .. They can test their development at an occasional ATP event, but that doesn't mean much till they are all at least 19-20 years old .. Similar comments are also in the article on Sunil - Bhupathi recommends junior events for two reasons - "to play under the pressure of having to win and to remain in the winners circle, where he can enjoy the feeling of winning.'' Ramesh agrees, "Being in a position where he will be the player to beat is part and parcel of learning how to deal with the pressure of playing tennis ... It is important for Sunil to play in ITFs so that he can get a chance to play in the junior Grand Slams .. In seniors it can be very disheartening to get beaten regularly and he should be able to drop back to juniors and do well there.''  .. Can't agree more .. There have been way too many cases of parents/coaches giving kids wrong advices lately - the worst being the strange thought that if you play junior events you would bring your level down, etc, etc .. Play, play more, play whomever, and always play to win - till you go past your age groups (of course, without causing injury/fatigue damage from playing too much) .. There is no need to confuse the kids with too much non-tennis thinking .. Anyway, check out the two articles .. Good reading.

Nov 5 Notes

I said the well-accepted cliche yesterday that Srinath was a cut above the rest in the satellites .. I should add that Srinath is also incredibly consistent .. I don't remember any time in the last couple of years when Srinath has come to play and looked to be accepting a bad day .. He has had days when his persisting injury prevented him from winning, or his opponent played well enough to beat him (that itself has been *very* rare in India) - but I don't remember any cases when anybody reported that Srinath wasn't putting the effort -- never a day when he "tanked" a match .. Frederico Rovai (twice), Marion Leysek, Artem Derepasko, Fazal and Sandeep (2 weeks back) are the only ones to beat Srinath in 11 legs of satellites in just over a year in India .. A 38-6 record in satellite matches! .. that's what I refer to, when I say he is consistent .. He was in full flow once again today, and took care of the second seed Radim Zitco (CZE, 481), 6-2 6-2 ..  Srinath vs Messmer in the final tomorrow, as Messmer beat Chicoine, 6-4, 6-1 today .. I have not seen the doubles semi scores yet .. See the leg-3 results page and also the points page - as of now, Srinath and Messmer top the points list with 37 total circuit points each - Chicoine at 35 and Zitko at 34 .. Basically a win tomorrow will be worth an extra 6 circuit points for Sri or Messmer .. In fact, once you cross about 35 circuit points (with 14 ATP pts corresponding to that), every extra circuit point is basically worth an extra ATP point till the circuit pt total reaches 58 pts (that is worth 36 pts)  .. After that, extra circuit points don't mean much, and what matters is if you can get the 10 bonus ATP pts for circuit topper and the 5 extra for runner-up .. In other words, it's "money-time" from now on out for the top few players.

There was a very interesting interview article on Srinath, by Amit Karmarkar in Mid-Day, Mumbai  (check out their sports page - Akshay Sawai and gang frequently write interesting articles on tennis) .. Here is the link to the article, but their links are temporary and go away after about a week - so I will give some exceprts: ‘‘I don't want to remain India No 3 all my life. I want to rise as high as possible, and overtake Paes and Bhupathi. I want to become India’s No 1.’’ It was quite a statement. And it came from none other than Prahlad Srinath, who won the second leg of the ITF Satellite in Pune last week ... The Asian Games bronze medallist reckons that international tournaments in India are a good launching pad for him to break into the top-100. ‘‘There are many tournaments coming in, with many points on offer,’’ said the Davis Cupper after going through a gruelling practice stint with Syed Fazaluddin on Monday at the Deccan Gymkhana in Adidas attire and a Wilson racket, with whom he tied up recently. ‘‘If I can do well in these events, I may get into the top 150, which would mean an opportunity to play more and more ATP Tour events. Maybe even a direct entry into the main draw.’’ .... Many on the national circuit believe that he has the game to beat Bhupathi at least three times in 10 matches. In fact, in the SAF Games final in Chennai four years ago, Srinath had put it across the big-serving Indian. In the Baroda leg of the Challenger two years ago, he repeated the result on grass ..... The rise and rise of ‘Lee’ and ‘Hesh’ is surely a motivating factor. ‘‘No  Indian has gone that far in any sport, except maybe Viswanathan Anand in chess. It’s very encouraging and motivating for others. After seeing Leander and Mahesh achieve so much, I feel that I too can go the distance,’’ says Srinath .... Srinath may be right. But isn’t he taking too many risks by opting for a difficult path without many alternatives? He begs to differ. ‘‘There is  no risk,’’ he says. ‘‘I enjoy tennis. There are benefits of being on the circuit. People treat me well and they look after me.’’ .....  Then, he shoots back: ‘‘As far as other career options are concerned,  anyone can become an engineer or a doctor. It’s no big deal. There are thousands of them. Many can do it, but not many can be in the top 200 or 300 on the ATP Tour rankings. It’s not easy. And you  never know unless you give it a try.’’ ....  [Hey, that's pretty good "smack" from Srinath .. and he is quite right -- many who think sports should never be put above academics should take note, in my view .. OK, not anyone can become an engr or doc perhaps, but quite a lot of people can find a decent jobs :-)] .. The article continues, .. It is a popular belief that a tennis player reaches his peak around the age of 24. Srinath thinks it is not necessarily true: ‘‘Age is no barrier .. It’s all in the mind. Look at Thomas Muster (who won the French  Open in his 30s) or Jimmy Connors, who reached the US Open semis when 39. As long as you are mentally fit, nothing can stop you.’’ .. Again, correct, Srinath! -- A lot of it is in the mind (the rest in physical fitness and hard work) .. I think it's good for the Indian tennis fraternity to develop confidence and an "attitude" like this .. The youngsters should use all this for motivation to work hard too ..

Some may argue that Srinath has hardly won anything abroad, except in the far east - but when you look at the situation closely and find that Srinath started playing top-flight tennis only about 3-4 years back (perhaps 4-5 years late than most), and that it's only in the injury plagued last 12 months that he has had a decent enough chance to play abroad, you will see that it is not fair criticism on Sri .. By the way, it's not just Indian propaganda that Sri is a top quality player -- see this report from Montreal by Ed Toombs at the On-The-Line online tennis magazine after watching Srinath play qualies there: "Prahlad, aged 26 and ranked 331, is primarily a baseliner. He has long, flowing strokes, and I particularly liked his stylish topspin backhand and inside-out forehand. He is quite thin and appears a a bit gangly, but this is deceiving, as he is obviously a good athlete who covers the court well. But it looks like he could stand putting on a few kilos. Maybe he can follow the cheeseburger diet affectioned by the Agassi of several years ago!" ..

Vikrant Chadha has won 2 rounds of main draw doubles at the $15K USA F17 futures in Mississippi .. Playing with James Shortall, he beat qualifiers Griesser/Gueit 64 36 62 in the first round and then upset the tough 6th seeds Motevassel/Ziv 64 61 to reach the quarterfinals of the 32-draw doubles event ..

Nov 4 Note-2

The cream basically rose to the top in the end at Pune, as the top 4 seeds advanced to the semis today .. Srinath had no problem against Vishal Uppal .. As everybody knows, Sri is really a cut above the rest of the field - it's sad that he is having to play these satellites .. He has 41 points to defend from last year and he has no choice but to, since most of the year went waste for him due to the serious injury problems (that leg injury has been there for a year or more now - so unfortunate) which left him unable to play enough tournaments this year in a healthy state to raise his ranking .. He faces the 2nd seed Zitko tomorrow .. Both the Kirtanes (also bit by the injury bug which seems to act up every time they win a match or two -- in their case, the fatigue from all the doubles is also a concern) lost cheaply today .. Basically, I am sick of writing about everybody being injured .. I am not giving it to make excuses for anyone (and none of them ever say that's the excuse either), but physical fitness has been a problem .. It's not just Indians - just take a look at the number of players limbing out of the Paris Open Super 9 .. It's that time of the year .. Some of the Indian players have been injured for most of the year though, and that's a pity. Anyway, the only match today with some fight was basically between Chicoine and Majmudar, it appears .. See the scores in the Leg-3 page .. Bopanna and Kedar Shah had a surprisingly easy doubles QF win against Karagiannis and Brinklow, and Srinath-Vasu pulled the upset over the 3rd seeds Chicoine-Majmudar .. And oh, the Kirtanes keep on cruising in doubles.

I finally saw the new WTA doubles rankings this week .. Sai moved up 26 spots to #400 and Rushmi moved up 45 spots to 422 with the 4 pts from their Jakarta final 2 weeks back .. Niru is up to #191 from 198.

Nov 4 Note-1

Mahesh and Andrew Florent did not do too well today, as they went down 1-6, 3-6 to Gimelstob and Vacek at the Paris Super 9 ..  The stats show that MB-AF converted only 1 of 10 break chances, as against the opponents' 5 of 16, and that seems to have been the primary problem .. An interesting pair, Kafelnikov and W.Ferreira, have reached QF beating two good teams - Novak-Rikl and then the 7th seeds Delaitre-Santoro (what's up with that team ?  .. They haven't done anything for such a long time .. surprisingly poor results for a team that has been playing together for over a couple of years ..  D/S they have now dropped to #11 and will miss Hartford) .. The Woodies and Lareau/O'Brien are also in the QFs .. L/O had a good 6-2 6-4 win over Reneberg and Stark .. They will be a tough team at Hartford, for sure.

I saw the main draw at the Hull challenger in UK, and Manisha Malhotra is not there .. Not sure if she tried to qualify in for that.

Vikrant Chadha was at this week's Mississippi (USA F17) futures and qualified in, beating Egor Kolegonov 7-6(3) 6-4 and the 4th seed Carl Hagman (SWE,1093) 7-6(3) 6-2 .. But in the first round of the main draw, he lost to Mark Merklein (USA,906) 16 16 [source: Steve Gocha] ..

Nov 3 Note-2

Mahesh and Andrew Florent play the first match on Court-1 starting at 12 noon tomorrow (3 am PST, USA and 4.30 pm India, Thursday), against Gimelstob and Vacek, two very good doubles players - it won't be an easy match for the 8th seeds who are playing together for the first time .. There will be online score updates courtesy ATP, and so why don't we all meet at the chatroom during the match ? .. Long time no chat! -- a bit too early in the morning for me though :-)

Leander is recovering from the racket-hit-knee problem down in Orlando .. The bruise has not healed and he is still having to be careful while practicing .. When I spoke to him last, he was not sure if he would be going to Stockholm for just one week .. We will wait and see ..

At Pune, the one who had some sort of an "in-a-zone" type day was Vishal Uppal today .. He upset the hard-hitting 5th seed Per Thornadtsson in straight sets, and reportedly did not make a mistake the whole day, playing perfect tennis using his mind well for the right tactics - slicing and smothering the pace of the ball and showing keen judgment in deciding when to come to the net and be aggressive .. Here is something that was shocking to hear - Vishal had THIRTEEN aces in the match .. Better still, 5 of them were on second serves (and only one double fault to go with it) ! .. Are you kidding me ? .. 22 yr old Vishal Uppal isn't really known for power - it was his accuracy that helped today .. Anyway, I guess fully justified getting a wildcard for this leg .. Nitin Kirtane beat Vijay Kannan today to become the second unseeded player in the quarterfinal .. That gives both of them 10 pts each .. One more win will put one of them as the 8th seed with a first round bye in the Masters leg ! .. The  two seeded Indians are also in the QFs - Srinath and Sandeep, the latter having to bring out his best in the end to win a 3rd set tiebreaker against Balcz Veress (HUN) .. Tom Chicoine, Kunj Majmudar, Radim Zitco and Thomas Messmer are the others in the QFs .. All the results are at the leg-3 page ..  Incidentally, there will be a playoff for the final 3 spots in the Masters draw, among 5 players with 5 pts each  - Mustafa, Saurav, Vasu, AV Rao and Karagiannis of Greece .. They will have a draw tomorrow .. I guess they will randomly draw one player to go straight into the draw and draw the other 4 players into two matches for the other two spots .. By the way, I had made a mistake in my earlier calculations and had Conie van Wyk (RSA) also for the playoff - actually he has made it in already .. I have corrected the points list page and updated it after the R2 results.

Nov 3 Note-1

Gimelstob and Vacek beat qualifiers Haggard and Nyborg yesterday at Paris, and will be playing the 8th seeds Bhupathi-Florent in the second round .. As the match is not on today's schedule, it will be played tomorrow (Thursday) ..

This week's WTA rankings show Nirupama at #201 with 110.5 points (4 points from the R1 win at Nashville added this week - 3.5 points had gone in last week from the qualies at the Largo challenger), Manisha at a career-high #320 with 52.5 points (up from 339 with 5.5 points from qualifying into the UK challenger added), Sai at #412 with 30.75 points (she had come up 17 spots with 2 and 1 pts from 2 weeks in Indonesia)  and Rushmi at #554 with 15.25 points (up 56 spots with 2 and 1.5 points in 2 weeks in Indonesia) .. Congrats to all for the upward moves.  I have not seen the doubles rankings, but Niru must have gone up an extra 10 spots from #197 last week with the Nashville challenger semifinal pts.

Nov 2 Note-2

Quite a few interesting results today at the 3rd leg of the satellites .. First, three youngsters came through today - Akshay Vishal Rao, Rohan Bopanna and Vijay Kannan .. AV Rao is making quite a ripple, already qualified into the masters and now picking up some pretty good kitty of points too .. Rohan has really been the "break-out" player so far, as he has now reached the second round for the 3rd leg in a row .. Then there is Vijay Kannan, who beat Vinod Sridhar in another 3-setter, but not after thirteen match points as in the last leg -- a sign that Vijay is getting his mind back in place ? .. If so, it's good news, as the guy does have talent if he plays to his potential .. Vishal Uppal and Mustafa moved on too .. Nitin's win over Anderi Youzhny was not a big surprise to me .. It will be interesting to see who will come to play when Nitin and Vijay face off in the next round! .. Sandeep Kirtane had to come back from dropping the first set today against qualifier Conie van Wyk - Sandeep is in good nick and should be able to handle Balacz Veress (HUN) next .. Manoj Mahadevan made Srinath fight for his life today, but Sri knows how to win, when it's all said and done .. The sad story is about Fazal, who seems to have had a terrible satellite series so far .. Ousted today by the 5th seed Per Thornadtsson (SWE) in a whitewash, 61 60 .. Fazal must be seriously hampered by some of his injury problems - there is just no way the fighter in him will lose that badly otherwise.

Anyway, the entries for the 24-draw Masters leg is all pretty much decided after the first round here .. The top-20 are fully in, but then there are 6 players with 5 points each (only Mustafa Ghouse among those have a chance to improve on it, with a second round win, though that will be very tough against Srinath whom he faces next), for the final 4 spots .. I am updating the point totals at the Circuit Points page .. Take a look .. All the results for this week are at the Leg-3 page .. None of the doubles matches seem to have been played yet.

Nov 2 Note-1

Here is the doubles draw till the final, for Mahesh Bhupathi and Andrew Florent at the $2.3M Paris Super 9:

6 E.Ferreira/ R.Leach            BYE                    \
  D.Adams/ J-L.deJager      vs W A.Clement/ S.Grosjean  / \
W G.Kuerten/ N.Lapentti     vs W N.Escude/ G.Raoux      \ / \
4 T.Woodbridge/ M.Woodforde      BYE                    /    \ __ Final
8 M.Bhupathi/ A.Florent          BYE                    \    /
  J.Gimelstob/ D.Vacek      vs Q C.Haggard/ P.Nyborg    / \ /
  B.Haygarth/ C.Suk         vs   A.Kitinov/ A.Olhovskiy \ /
2 P.Haarhuis/ J.Palmer           BYE                    /
The opponents for the R2 match will be decided tonight, as JG-DV play CH-PN .. Four more first round matches are to be completed tomorrow, and as is usual at the indoor tournaments with limited number of courts, most of the doubles second round matches may not start till Thursday.

Nov 1 Note-2

I have just uploaded the latest calendar from AITA going till the end of May of next year .. Take a look at the Calendar/ ranking/ results archive page.

Not sure which other Indian player is in action outside India this week other than Mahesh at the Paris Super 9 .. Manisha may be at the $25K Hull challenger in UK this week, but I have not seen results from there .. Since there are no challengers in the US, Nirupama may be taking time off, before leaving for the Australian challengers soon.

The main draw matches at the Indian satellites 3rd leg, again at Pune, starts only tomorrow (Tuesday) .. The final round qualies got completed today with 4 Indians advancing among the 8 to main draw .. The story is the nice work by 16 yr old AV Rao, who went through three rounds and made it into the main draw ! .. He was at just about inside the top-25 in circuit points but missed out the 24 direct entries even though he had one win in the two legs just like about 6 other guys .. but he does not have any ATP rankings like the others, and did not get a wildcard this time, as he had them for the previous two .. No problem, as the kid fought his way through .. The interesting thing is that the point he got from qualifying has made sure that he has enough to make it to the final-24 in the Masters leg which will give him at least one ATP point - surely an achievement for any 16 year old .. The Chandigarh kids (AVR and Sunil Kumar) seem to show nice maturity at looking at the situation - here is a piece from Sharda Ugra's article in Tuesday The Hindu: Sunil and his CLTA buddy Akshay Vishal Rao have played in their first ITF satellite with middling results and are grateful for the experience. ``When I came to Mumbai I wasn't all that confident,'' said Rao. ``You tend to have that mindset, that these are foreign players, that they have something more and that you can't beat them. I didn't expect to get into the Masters but I have.'' Rao has made it on the basis of a bonus point from qualifying today and has wins over two overseas players under his belt. Sunil agreed, ``you get great experience, you learn from every match, you  see how tough the older players are, how they fight. I'm not at all disheartened that I have played  tough matches and got beaten early. It's been very good.'' .. Good attitude .. 19 yr old Vijendra Laad also made it in, along with SK Shivshankar and R Narendran, making it an impressive list of 18 players into the 3rd leg draw ..

There is one thing that I find rather interesting this time around in the satellites - by and large, I feel that Indian players have done well against foreign competition .. This is the 3rd satellite circuit that AITA has conducted ever since that famous "Spanish Model" announcement by Anil Khanna where internationals were promised by AITAabout 16 months back (and they surprisingly delivered on it exactly as posmised) .. In my view the competition at this circuit is of higher quality than the previous two ..  Still we find this many Indians making it into the 3rd leg and it is quite gratifying .. Particularly impressive is the number of foreign players (about 12 to 15) who were playing the qualifiers - and Indian players have generally done very well in the qualies, with R.Narendran (twice), S.Zaman (twice), Kedar Shah, Rohan Bopanna, AV Rao, SK Shivshankar, Vijendra Laad, Manoj Mahadevan, Anand Radhakrishnan, and Kedar Tembe, coming through the qualies at least once .. I still feel bad for S.Zaman, who qualified in twice and missed out this time, but had all his chances end with that (he was AITA's alternate for a wildcard this time, but just missed out in the end - poor guy!)

Continuing on the thread of how the "psyche" of indian players is changing a bit, look at what Bhupathi Sr wrote last week in his biweekly newsletter from the TennisVillage - "It looks like good news is becoming a part of the Indian Tennis scenario. Now it's the turn of another kid  from the Kawaljeet stud, Akshay, and Rohan Bopanna, a strapping young man from Coorg who adds to the feathers in Nandan Bal's cap. Both the boys have done their coaches and AITA proud. Rohan is in the last sixteen for the second week on the trot while young Akshay snatched his first big win last evening.  Both of them defeated European opposition. The reason I mention "European" specially is because one  never forgets how we Indian players used to lose the match before entering the court to these "Phirangis". Krish, Vijay and later Ramesh were the exceptions while the rest used to methodically lose to the 'Gora' since he must be better anyway!  In the unlikely event of one of us playing a great  match against these imported players and be on the verge of an upset, the tournament "official" will promptly walk onto the court and do sufficient stuff to ensure you lose, lest the gate should suffer.  Today's Indians thankfully don't care who the opponent is thanks to the leadership of Leander and Mahesh who, of course, relish beating them up ... Where does the AITA come into the pic? Well, I suppose one has to give them the due. Thanks to the dumping of the domestic circuit and insisting on the satellites, futures and challengers, today we have these youngsters producing results not dreamt of earlier and we are also enjoying a host of Indian  names in the tour rankings. Somewhat similar to what liberalisation did to our market place!  Only 6 years ago, for an Indian or perhaps even an Asian to make the first ATP point was to go through the chamber of horrors!  Competition in the Western World was as tough as now and you wouldn't get into the qualies. Therefore, one needed to go to places in Western Africa or Bangladesh where health risks were at the highest, to try and make the first point!  When AITA proposed the change I expected a gestation period of 5 years before we could enjoy any results.  Obviously, I didn't know the strength of our boys!" .. Well said, sir! .. I think this is an important point .. As you said once, confidence is the best shot anybody has, and match practice against good competition is the name of the game .. We have to give credit to Srinath and Fazal for showing the way with multiple satellite titles in the last couple of years, thus offering rold models for others too .. Bhupathi Sr continued, "The Girls... Sai, Rushmi and Arthi are doing well in the Futures tour in Indonesia and Manisha is back to the tour.  Nirupama has cruised into the top 200 in doubles.Manisha notched up a couple of real good wins in Singles. 'Unprecedented' is a mild word. Just because they are not pushing the best in the world, their effort is going largely unnoticed. Make no mistake, they are paving the way for stars. It's time for AITA to recognise this and make a special fund for the travels of these excellent ambassadors" .. Yep .. Yep,yep,yep! ... By the way, if you want to get the nice bi-weekly newsletter that Bhupathi Sr sends (with nice summaries of tennis news and tips for pros, youngsters and club players), go to the Tennis Village website (http://www.thetennisvillage.com) and subscribe for the free newsletter .. His intention is to bring as many Indians into the fold and get everyone to think about modern tennis and physical fitness, and to get kids to play the game with proper work ethic and attitude with appropriate support, understanding and advice from parents and others (and I know he is not doing it for the benefit of his Tennis Village academy, which is doing very well anyway).

But I digressed again .. So what's new ? :-) .. Back to the 3rd leg of the satellites .. Srinath faces Manoj Mahadevan and can run into Fazal in the QFs, assuming that Fazal beats the 5th seed Thornadtsson in R1 (not an easy task if Fazal is not 100% healthy) and continues on .. Fazal needs to pick up up some circuit points to gather any significant number of ATP points after the Masters week (but since he could not play the Indian satellites last November, he does not have the pressure to defend points like Srinath, who has 41 points to defend) .. One qualifier will be in R2, as AV Rao plays R.Narendran in the first round .. Sunil Kumar may need to get a win to make it to the masters leg, and he will need to beat tough qualifier Joseph Nesticky (CZE) .. And there is a repeat match between Vijay Kannan and Vinod Sridhar once again in the first round! (Vijay won in a long 3-setter against him last week) .. In a matchup of wildcards Mustafa gets Kedar Tembe .. See the Leg-3 (Pune) page.

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.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Nov 1 ..