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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on Nov 09, 1998

(Previous week's notes) (Next week's notes) (Daily Notes Index)

Nov 9 Note-4

OK, here come the ATP points from the satellites - singles: Srinath Prahlad - 41 big ones (wow! - I expected 30 pts max) .. Harsh Mankad, Sandeep Kirtane, and Vijay Kannan - 7 each .. Saurav Panja, Mustafa Ghouse and Vasudev Reddy - 6 each, Nitin Kirtane - 4 .. The rankings: India #3 Srinath Prahlad (#390 - 80 pts - yeah!!), #4 Fazal Syed (#618 - 28 pts), #5 Harsh Mankad (#835 - 12 pts), #6 Sandeep Kirtane (#879 - 10 pts), #7 Vijay Kannan (#925 - 8 pts), #8 Nitin Kirtane (#984, 7 pts), #9 Saurav Panja (#994, 6 pts), #10 Vasu Reddy (1024, 6 pts), #11 Mustafa Ghouse (#1103, 4 pts) .. Basically, Srinath made out like a bandit here .. Very nice to see four teenagers - Harsh, Vijay, Saurav, and Mustafa making nice progress .. Their experience here would certainly help for further gains in the January satellites in India .. Mahesh better watch out, his good friend Srinath is right on his tail .. :-) .. The one who missed out a great chance due to a very untimely injury was Fazal ..

In doubles, Nitin Kirtane - 49, Sandeep Kirtane - 49, Harsh Mankad - 33, Vijay Kannan - 33, Vasu Reddy - 10, Anand Radhakrishnan - 8, Saurav Panja - 8 .. That was it - nobody else got anything ! .. Once again, a great show by the Kirtanes and by the two kids - Harsh and Vijay came up from 1215 and 1300, all the way up to #671 and #697 !!!! .. That's what we should call as "mercurial rise".. Sandeep and Nitin came up from #693 and #852 to #458 and #511 - terrific .. What can I say, these are all great numbers .. Yes, I agree that the competition at these satellites was weak, but these players, especially Harsh and Vijay made the most out of it.

Nov 9 Note-3

Leander beats Sampras again !!! .. Here it is, from ATP's "News & Notes" release: "After his victory against Magnus Norman on Wednesday, Pete Sampras stayed on the center court at the Paris Open to take part in the Mercedes-Benz Road Rally. Two teams composed of a player and a fan raced against each other with two remote- controlled Mercedes-Benz miniature cars. The Sampras team could not keep up with the superior speed of the Leander Paes team, which won the rally" .. That means Pete is now 0-2 lifetime against Leander - can't seem to win against him if his life depended on it .. :-)

The new WTA rankings don't show much change for any Indian women's rankings - The Indian satellite points will go in only next week .. Nirupama dropped a couple of spots to 186 .. Niru is in Australia, at the $25K Mount Gambier challenger .. If you are wondering where the heck Mt.Gambier is, it is near the southwestern coast of the right side bottom part of Australia - a small town, about 400+ kilometers each from Adelaide and Melbourne, famous for its volcanic lakes .. News will be tough to come by from there, but I will try ..

The full ATP rankings are not out yet, and so we have to wait to see the exact points from the Indian satellites .. Leander has moved up to #84 in singles .. Mahesh and Leander are #3 and #4 in doubles, as expected, with about 400 points lead over the Woodies at 5 and 6 .. by the way, the prize money at Paris was a bit more than I thought - LP-MB made a total of $164, 430, which is the biggest chaque of their career ($150K last year at the Montreal Super 9 was the previous best) .. Last two weeks fetched them about $250K (nice to make over a crore rupees in 2 weeks ! - now why is LP wasting time with miniature mercedes cars ? - go ahead and buy a real one, man ..)

Absolutely no news from the Calcutta futures - none of the Indian newspapers carried any news Monday ..

Nov 9 Note-2

Here is the singles draw for the $800K Scania Stockholm Open:

1-PETE SAMPRAS (WC-USA)  vs    Jason Stoltenberg (AUS)   \
  Magnus Norman (SWE)    vs    Hendrik Dreekmann (GER)   / \
  Michael Kohlmann GER   vs  Q-Geoff Grant (USA)         \ / \
7-THOMAS JOHANSSON (SWE) vs    Fabrice Santoro (FRA)     /    \_ Final
4-GREG RUSEDSKI (GBR)    vs    Tommy Haas (GER)          \    /
  Leander Paes (IND)     vs    Vincent Spadea (USA)      / \ /
  Daniel Nestor (CAN)    vs    Johan Van Herck (BEL)     \ /
6-CEDRIC PIOLINE (FRA)   vs WC-Andreas Vinciguerra (SWE) /

The winner can get 200 points .. For Leander, a first round win is worth 35 points, including 12 bonus pts for beating Vincent Spadea, who is ranked #47 as of last week .. Leander is not scheduled to play today, which means he should be playing singles on Tuesday .. The current Asian #2, 22-yr old Takeo Suzuki of Japan, who has come all the way up to #125 and will probably be the biggest threat for Leander's Asiad singles gold hopes, qualified into the main draw at Stockholm .. He plays Tomas Enquist today - we will keep an eye on how Suzuki does .. The doubles draw is:

1-M.BHUPATHI/ L.PAES       vs    Qualifiers/ Qualifiers    \
  W.Ferreira/ M.K.Goellner vs WC-J.Björkman/ T.Enqvist     / \
  M.Keil/ T.Ketola         vs WC-J.Apel/ M.Norman          \ / \
4-D.MACPHERSON/ B.MACPHIE  vs    C.Haggard/ P.Nyborg       /    \
3-D.ADAMS/ J-L. DE JAGER   vs    R.Reneberg/ J.Stark       \    /
  T.Kempers/ M.Oosting     vs    P.Vizner/ J.Waite         / \ /
  N.Kulti/ M.Tillström     vs WC-M.Gustafsson/ T.Johansson \ /
2-J.EAGLE/ A.FLORENT       vs    W.Arthurs/ P.Tramacchi    /

The winner can get about $60K to share .. The final round of doubles qualifiers is scheduled for today, between Marius Barnard and Kent Kinnear against Geoff Grant and Myles Wakefield - one of these two teams will face LP-MB .. I assume the doubles first round will probably be on Wednesday .. An interesting possibility here is for Leander to jump over Mahesh to the #3 spot if they reach the final .. Mahesh has 138 points from the Stuttgart indoors tournament (partnering Kafelnikov) as his 14th-best tournament now which is more than LP's 14th .. If they get more than that many points at Stockholm, the best-14 and the point totals for LP and MB will be identical, which would place LP above MB at #3, since MB has played a couple more tournaments .. I don't think Mahesh would mind it one bit, though ! .. LP-MB cannot get to #1 even with another title this week, but can cut the gap from the Dutchmen down to about 50 points.

7 of the teams have qualified for Hartford already - #1 FlyDu, #2 IndEx, #3 Woodies, #4 Knowles-Nestor, #5 Ferreira-Leach, #6 Stolle-Suk and #7 Delaitre-Santoro .. At the eighth spot currently are Bjorkman-Rafter, but unfortunately they won't be playing at Hartford , as Rafter has a knee injury which forced him out of both Hannover and Hartford (he would have been the only player to qualify for both the singles and doubles championships - oh well..). The next spot is up for grabs right now between Johnson-Montana and Eagle-Florent .. Teams 2 through 7 do not seem to be playing this week .. Some interesting pairings at the Kremlin Open - Eltingh is playing with Knowles .. Damm-Grabb and Stolle-Suk have swapped partners, and we have Grabb-Stolle and a Czech pair of Damm-Suk .. I have no idea why Stolle-Suk would try these stunts a week before Hartford !

Nov 9 Note-1

Flying Dutchmen could not fly high or fast enough not to get hit and run over by the speeding Indian Express .. The final score of the match yesterday at the Paris final was deceptive - 6-4, 6-2 win for the world #2 (as of today) over the world #1 .. It wasn't even that close .. Basically, Eltingh-Haarhuis hardly had a game where they were not threatened to be broken - and Paes-Bhupathi hardly came close to being broken .. After taking the Flying Dutchmen to deuces in 2 service games, though not to many break chances, LP-MB got the break in the 7th game of the first set, to go up 4-3 .. They held serve a couple more times to win the first set .. The second set showed even more domination from the Indian duo, who, after missing a break chance in the first game, got the break in the 3rd .. Then in the 7th game, Fly-Du were serving at 40-0, and before they blinked, LP-MB had sent that game into 3 deuces and broken them again to go up 5-2 .. Then it was up to Leander to finish it off, and 4 straight points later, the match was over and LP-MB regained the career winning record over the Dutch pair after losing the previous two against them. That gave them 50 more bonus points for a total of 474 points, their career high point total from any tournament, and a prize money around $150K ..

Some terrific numbers from 4 tournaments in the last 5 weeks for LP-MB: four finals, two titles, 1361 points, 13-2 record, and about $275K to share .. They are 17-3 in the last 20 matches (5 tournaments, starting with the US Open) for a fantastic record of 49-11 in 60 matches - an 82% winning rate .. They have 6 titles this year, which is right behind Eltingh-Haarhuis who have eight (The Woodies have 5 titles and a shared title on an abandoned final) .. LP-MB now have a 12-2 record in ATP tournament finals (or 12-3 including Hartford) .. During the hot streak over this past month, they have a 4-1 record against the top-10 teams as of this monday, with wins over #1, #3, #6 and #7 (and also a loss to #3) ..

Most importantly, our dynamic duo made sure that a year-end #1 ranking is within striking distance, as they find themselves less than 200 points behind Eltingh-Haarhuis .. Actually, only the Indian pair has a chance to topple the Flying Dutchmen, as the Woodies are about 600 points behind .. The onsite bonus prize money at Hartford also depends on the final ranking, and that's an extra incentive.

This is the first win over a number 1 team for Paes-Bhupathi - though they have 3 wins over the Dutchmen and the Woodies, none were when they were ranked #1 .. It is an impressive accomplishment - rarely have Indians beaten the best team in the world in any world sport .. I am not sure if any of you saw my little tirade at the Leander Page about the sleeping Doordarshan folks .. I am told that there has been no coverage of what LP-MB have been up to in the last 4-5 weeks of hot tennis .. The TV news today probably was filled with only the stuff the cricket team did against Zimbabwe .. By the way, it's not just the Doordarshan this time - The Indian newspapers, who have been doing an admirable job covering the satellites, and normally cover what the duo is up to, have all strangely chosen to skip the Stuttgart and Paris Super 9s altogether - I thought their news items were not making it to the online editions due to the late evening timing of the matches, but I am told that there has not been much mention in the print editions either .. Folks, these are some of the best results Indian tennis has ever seen .. If tennis does not become popular now, and if Indians do not understand which sport they can be good at even now, when will that happen ? .. It's frustrating to say the least .. (I know I am preaching to the choir here - those of you who read this do understand the importance of tennis in Indian sports success, and the brilliance of our dynamic duo - but the thought that these pathbreaking, pioneering accomplishments completely go unnoticed by vast numbers of Indian sports fans, is just plainly sad)

Nov 8 Note-2

So, how huge is today's final at Paris between the #1 and #2 teams, by tomorrow's ranking ? .. Really, really, HUGE !!.. Let us see why .. As of now, Eltingh/Haarhuis have 3963 points (including the pts so far here) in team rankings. LP-MB have 3620 .. So the Dutchmen are 343 pts ahead .. A win today will give the Dutchmen 150 more points; A win would give the Indian Express 155 more points .. Effectively it is a 305 points swing between the #1 and #2 teams .. Win today, and our guys will find the Dutchmen just 188 points ahead .. A loss would leave the Dutchmen 493 points ahead .. In other words, a win today leaves our guys with a chance to reach #1 at year end with a better showing than Elt-Haar at Hartford, whereas a loss would all but mathematically eliminate our guys' chances for a year-end #1 ranking .. So, get yourself a cup of tea and some munchies and come to the chatroom .. This is going to be a fun match, about to start now ..

By the way, ATP has been using the 14-tournament cap in their point listing for the "Road to Hartford" press releases, but their team rank lists continues not to put the cap, thus they are confusing everybody for now (Thanks go to our resident doubles points expert, Ajay Verma, who pointed that out)..

The draws at Stockholm are out - Leander plays Vince Spadea of USA, ranked 47 .. Thanks, Vas Param, for alerting me to the draws at the tourney site .. Vas says LP had beaten Spadea in their only meeting before, at the Binghampton challenger in 1995 .. In doubles, LP-MB are the top seeds, and the second seeds are Eagle/Florent .. Our guys face a yet-to-be-determined qualifier team in the first round (ouch .. tough to go through qualifiers, only to face the top seeds and the #2 team in the world, in the main draw) .. I will post the draws shortly.

Nov 8 Note-1

LP-MB play Eltingh/Haarhuis today in the finals at the Paris Super 9 .. After winning the first 2 or 3 meetings against the Dutchmen, LP-MB had lost to them two times in a row .. First was a 6-2, 6-3 loss in the round robins at Hartford-97 .. Then the 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5 loss in a heartbreaker at the Monte Carlo Super 9 semis with some incredible heroics from Eltingh to pull out 5 games in a row after LP-MB were up 2 breaks at 5-2 in the 3rd! .. LP-MB even had a match point serving at 5-3 .. The veterans didn't give up and pulled a rabbit out of their hats .. So, now, they again meet .. LP-MB can make an extra 155 points including 50 bonus for a win today, to add to the 319 they already have here .. The singles final starts at 2.45 pm - so the doubles final that follws should be at around 5 pm there (11 am EST, 8 PST, usa .. 9.30 pm India) .. There will be live updates in the chatroom ..

Forgot to post news from Kannur yesterday, though I had updated the men's satellites masters page .. The 4-week circuit is all over .. Frederico Rovai made it 13 wins in a row, beating Srinath Prahlad, 7-5, 6-2 in the final .. Srinath once again looked somewhat drained yesterday, and the Swede had control throughout the match .. Srinath's service also wasn't at its best .. Congrats go to Rovai, who lost to Srinath in the semis in the first leg, but then won the next three legs, including finals wins over Srinath in legs 2 and 4 .. We will wait till the new ATP ranks come out, to see how many points each got from the whole circuit .. I would guess that Srinath made at least 20 ATP points and Rovai at least 25 or 30 for the whole circuit ..

In other news, according to The Telegraph, two Uzbeks are in the list at Calcutta for the $15K futures next week - Oleg Ogorodov (#217) and Vadim Kutsenko (#260) .. I have no idea why these two are wasting time at a futures, especially a one-week deal .. I guess it is a short flight for them from Tashkent and they probably like Indian food - they never miss a tournament in India .. Other than these two, all other entries are ranked below 500 !! .. Oleg, of course was ranked near the top 100 at around #125 within the last year .. He then went through almost a year of no wins at all, to drop even below 300 in a hurry .. He has picked up some points lately from a couple of future titles, to come up to #217 .. Kutsenko is also very talented (remember him beating Leander Paes in the semifinal of the Ahmedabad challenger last December ?) .. These two will be very very tough for every one else to beat .. I think Fred Rovai is not going there, as he said at Kannur that he would like to rest his knees ..

Nov 7 Notes

Four tournaments - four finals ! .. that's pretty good, I would say .. LP-MB didn't even break a sweat today in the semis, beating Richey Renebeg (USA) and Jonathan Stark (USA), 6-2, 6-3 in 55 minutes flat .. The match started with RR/JS holding serve, but that was the only game they would win on their serve in the first set, as LP-MB easily broke them in games 3, 5 and 7 .. In between the Indian Express dropped serve once, in game 6, but there was no problem in winning the set .. It was the same story in the second set with the opponents hardly threatening, and LP-MB getting easy breaks in games 3 and 9 .. That was it .. LP-MB gets 265+18+24+12 = 319 pts including those bonus pts .. with that LP-MB move to #2 in the world .. actually, they were #2 after the QF win, but I didn't say so, because ATP has all their team rankings messed up right now .. ATP has so far forgotten to place the best-14-tournament cap on team points (they did that last year, but has not done so yet this year - it doesn't make sense to not have the cap) .. They have Woodies with 3575 points last week and will show them to gain 92 more this week for 3667 total even though with the cap, thay have only 3398 points .. Right now, with the cap, LP-MB have 3620 points and without the cap, they have 3669 points - either way, they have gone above the Woodies .. Their opponents in tomorrow's final are yet to be determined, but #1 Dutchmen are leading Knowles-Nestor, 6-3, 3-3 as I type .. with a final here, Eltingh-Haarhuis would make it would make it very difficult for LP-MB to overtake them for the year-end #1 ranking (but they cannot elminate the possibility, as Hartford involves up to 600+ points) .. Anyway, first things first, LP-MB need to break their 2-tournament final losing streak tomorrow.

Nov 6 Note-2

Only two teams have managed to beat LP-MB twice in a row in the last 2 years - #1 Eltingh/Haarhuis and #2 Woodies .. Stolle/Suk were trying to do that today, as were Lareau/O'Brien yesterday - so far, both have failed .. LP-MB beat Stolle/Suk, 6-4, 6-3 today at the Paris Super 9 .. This match started ominously with Mahesh dropping serve, but they broke back immediately to tie it at 1-1 .. Then it went with serve till the 10th game when LP-MB converted the second break point they had in the set to wrap up the set .. In the second set, they had one break chance each in the second and 6th games, the latter one during about 10 or more deuces that SS/CS had to serve in a game that took about 20 minutes .. they managed to hold at 3-3 .. then came the burst from the indian express when they won about 12 points in a row, including a quick break in the 8th game, and they were serving for the match at 40-0 at 5-3 .. SS/CS fought off two match points but the inevitable was only delayed, as the set ended at 6-3 .. The win gives our dudes 202 total points (correction from what I said yesterday - they got 18 bonus pts yesterday and 24 today, not 24 and 36) .. Also, Leander has just beome the #4 ranked player, jumping over the Woodies, as the Woodies lost their quarterfinals late at night today, in a surprise against Richey Reneberg and Jonathan Stark, 4-6, 7-6 .. That means LP-MB face Reneberg/Stark in the semifinals - two veterans with a lot of doubles experience, though they were the last entry into the main draw here .. Incidentally, this is the first time LP-MB are playing Jonathan Stark in a year, since their loss at the Hartford finals to him, in Rick Leach's company then .. The semifinal line up is: #1 Dutchmen vs #4 Knowles-Nestor and #3 Indian Express vs Reneberg/Stark..

Good news ! .. Leander made it into the direct entry for singles at Stockholm next week due to a couple of late withdrawals, by Friday night .. Late in the evening at Stockholm, they were saying Leander was still not in the main draw, but was under consideration for a wildcard, two of which were to be decided by night time there (one had already been given to 17 yr old Andreas Vinciguerra, 3rd in the world in junior rankings, and considered by all to be the next Swedish phenom - remember that name; I am told there is a chance he might consider coming to India for the January satellites) - when I called later, they said LP had just made it to the draw anyway, and did not need a wildcard. What that means is that it will be at Stockholm, not Moscow, where LP and MB will be, next week.

Oh, what a show Vijay Kannan is putting on at Kannur - At the Men's satellites masters, Vijay played great tennis once again and almost had a huge upset win .. Srinath had to dig deep, to somehow find a way to beat Kannan in the end, after a scare with Kannan leading, up a break at 3-0 in the 3rd set .. Srinath's experience won out in the end over the 18-yr old .. Final score, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(1) .. So the final tomorrow will be between Srinath Prahlad and Frederico Rovai (who had a semifinal walkover) .. Srinath said he is still having some trouble adjusting to the particular clay surface there ..

Nov 6 Note-1

At the Paris Super 9 today, LP-MB play Sandon Stolle (AUS) and Cyril Suk (CZE), the US Open doubles winners .. Both are very experienced players, but I feel that they normally do not play at the high level at which they played at the USO (That was some dream run they had, pulling off wins after being down at match points in about 4 matches) .. LP-MB have beaten them - in the second round of the Italian Open, before losing to them at the US Open .. LP-MB got 104 points for the win over Lareau-O'Brien yesterday, including 24 bonus pts, and can get another 116 pts (including 36 bonus pts) for a win today over Stolle ranked 16th and Suk ranked 11th.. the match is scheduled for around 5.30 pm there (11.30 am EST, 8.30 PST, usa .. 10 pm India) .. There will be live score updates at the chatroom ..

I got a couple of emails from press friends who saw the final of the women's satellite masters .. The opinion is unanimous on the huge potential that 16-yr old Shruti Dhawan has. She is of average height, but is still growing, and has an all-round game .. Pretty good serve, but can improve there .. Her best quality seems to be her intelligence and the cool demeanour .. She is able to take advice from anybody and immediately go execute the plan, which is tremendous for someone so young, and shows her natural talent in tennis .. Has a double-fisted backhand cross-court that she can place at acute angles to keep the opponent running .. Finally, most importantly, she is well-behaved and has a very likable demeanour .. Only positive words from everyone .. Great !! .. Now the crucial question - how about some top-notch coaching for her, and some funds to send her to foreign tournaments ? .. Hope she does not lose time as in Uzma's case - she effectively wasted a year and half .. Uzma is finally getting out and going to US for college coaching, and had to basically use International Tennis Federation's nice gesture to relax the usual age guidelines to be taken for a 5-week European tour this year, after nobody came up with anything to send her somewhere for playing top competition.

Some news on the ATP Futures tournament in Calcutta next week .. I hear it is a $15K futures, unlike the $10K futures we had in January this year .. The ITF list I saw has it as a $15K tournament too .. It is rather rare for 32-draw futures to have $15K prize money (normally the $15K futures are the 64-draw tournaments as in the case of the USTA circuit tournaments) .. The ATP points at a $15 K tournament are: 16 for winner, 12 for runner-up, 8 for the losing semifinalists, 4 for the losing quarterfinalists, 1 for winning the first round .. The surprise to me is that there are only 10 foreign participants in the tournament, which is probably due to this being just a single tournament, as opposed to a series as in January - I guess it will be basically the same foreign players who are in the satellite circuit .. 5 Indians have direct entry based on the ATP ranks - Srinath Prahlad, Harsh Mankad, Sandeep Kirtane, Nitin Kirtane and Vijay Kannan .. Fazal Syed would have had a direct entry, but since he was at the US satellites, he wouldn't have been allowed to enter here, and so is given a wildcard entry .. The other three wildcards go to three deserving youngsters - Saurav Panja, Mustafa Ghouse and Vinod Sridhar. Since there are only 19 now in the entry list, it appears that there will be 13 qualifiers .. For now, Vijendra Laad, Sansaruz Zaman, Manoj Mahadevan, Vishal Gupta, Ravi Kiran Bhat and Praveen Sreenivasan have got wildcards into the qualifiers, though they would anyway be able to sign in for qualies easily .. So, 17 yr old Manoj Mahadevan, the one I was disappointed in not finding at the satellites, makes his appearance in his first senior tournament with ATP points, if I am not mistaken ! .. Not sure what's up with Vishal Uppal, who got injured in the final of the DSCL juniors and withdrew after a match in the satellites .. he's probably still recuperating ?

Incidentally, ATP seems to have officially reversed the names for Prahlad and Fazal .. They are now listed as Srinath Prahlad and Fazaluddin Syed (They had PS and SF before) .. The Indian players constantly give trouble to the ITF and ATP databases with first names and last names appearing in strange orders - We see P.K.Sreenivasan, Praveen Kumar, S.K.Praveen, Sreenivasan P.Kumar, etc, in various news reports - all referring to the same guy .. It took me a while to figure out that S.K.Tara and T.Kambargimath are one and and the same .. V.Kameshwari and K.Vadali is another .. ITF listed the doubles winners at last week's women's satellites as C.Rushmi and J.Sai - I hope they have the last names right in their database .. I got a note this week from Steve Gocha, who archives all the men's tennis results in a nicely accessible form, asking whether he should change his database now that it is Srinath and Fazal as first name .. I am really not sure in PS' case which is the true given name and which is the surname; in Fazal's case, Fazaluddin as the first name seems right.

Nov 5 Note-2

You thought North American Commuter Rail would beat the Indian Express twice in a row ? .. Well, think again .. LP-MB won today, 7-6(4), 6-2 over Seb Lareau and Alex O'Brien, to improve to 4-2 over them in the last 16 months - These two have played each other so many times now.. Today's match also started in the usual style, with neither team getting broken in the first set - actually the only break chances were when LP was serving at 5-6 and 15-40 .. LP served off two set pts to send it to a tiebreaker.. Then in the first game of the second set, MB was serving at 15-40, but again held serve. That seemed to deflate L/O enough - they got broken in the 4th and 8th games and it ended at 7-6(4), 6-2 .. Now LP-MB will play Stolle/Suk in the quarterfinals - they will be looking for their second win in a row over our guys, too .. we will see..

I did not have the complete draw for the satellite masters, and had feared that Vijay and Harsh would have to play each other - that was exactly what happened today in the semis .. I don't know if I jinxed Harsh by writing a lot on him yesterday, but Vijay Kannan (is he the real deal or what ?) went and beat up Harsh, 6-1, 6-1 .. Harsh was reportedly "off- color" the whole match. So, what do we have now ? .. Well, the 24th entry is in the semifinals ! .. Unfortunately, he goes up against Srinath next - one of them will have to lose ! .. Oh well .. Srinath got a walkover from Gerhard Fahlke who has shoulder trouble .. In the upper half of the draw, Johan Hede won the QF but withdrew immediately with a knee injury, giving the top seed Frederico Rovai a semifinal walkover straight to the final day after tomorrow. Rovai beat Erhardt easily today in the QFs.. So, it will be Rovai vs either Vijay or Prahlad in the final on saturday. The results are at the men's satellite masters page.

Good news keeps coming in from Vijay and Harsh .. After they played each other, they went out and won the doubles title in a three-setter over Chvapil/Erhardt .. They get 15 ATP pts here, but should get more based on the circuit points from earlier, I believe.

Nov 5 Note-1

Move over Hingis, Here comes Shruti !! .. OK, I kid .. Just got the info (thanks!) that 16 yr old Shruti Dhawan won her first satellite title just now, beating the top seed Sai Jayalakshmi, 7-5, 6-3 !! .. Wow, incredible ! .. 5 WTA pts for her, and 4 for Sai .. The doubles title went to Rushmi Chakravarti and Sai Jayalakshmi, who beat Orawan Wongkamalasai and Montika Anuchan, 7-6(4), 1-6, 6-2 .. Tremendous .. Shruti has got to be the youngest Indian ever to win a satellite title ?? .. No info yet from the men's masters semis today, but the women's results are at the women's satellite masters page.

At the Paris Super 9, LP-MB are scheduled to play Lareau/OBrien in the final-16 today at about 5.00 pm (11 am EST, 8 PST, u.s.a; 9.30 pm India) .. There will be live scores at the chatroom .. 4th seeds Knowles/Nestor beat Kafelnikov/Vacek yesterday to reach quarterfinals .. 6th seeds Stolle/Suk also are in the QFs, but 8th seeds Delaitre/Santoro were upset by Norval/Ullyett .. The other five final-16 matches are all today ..

Nov 4 Note-3

Today was the day of the teenager in the satellites - 16 yr old Shruti Dhawan made everyone at AITA's Dhaita tennis academy proud by upsetting the 2nd seed Rushmi Chakravarti in the semifinals of the women's satellite masters at Delhi today .. She faces top seed Sai Jayalakshmi in the finals tomorrow .. This gives Shruti 4 WTA points .. Rushmi, despite the good showing in the first 3 legs will have to be content with 2 points .. This is the second win in a row over Rushmi for Shruti (she beat her in the DSCL national championships QFs) .. She has lost three in row to Sai though (SF of DCSL, SF in leg-1and QF in leg-2) .. Anyway, Sai, Shruti and Rushmi are the best three Indian players at these satellites, thus fully justifying their selection into the Asiad squad along with the top 2, Niru and Uzma, and Manisha Malhotra .. Sai faced some serious resistence from Anna Nefedova of Russia, but made it through in 3 sets. Rushmi and Sai later reached the finals of the doubles, and will play the Thai pair, Montika and Orawan .. See the results at the women's satellite masters page .. by the way, even though thge four WTA points would place shruti inside the top-900 in the rankings, I think WTA only lists players with a minimum of three tournaments, and she will not show up in the rankings as I believe they count satellites as one tournament (she was a qualifier into the Delhi futures in March, but has not been in any other point-worthy tournaments if I am not mistaken) .. She will be a wildcard into at Delhi challenger, at least to the qualifiers, and that might put her in the WTA rank list .. In any event, these are all wonderful achievements for a 16-year old.

Following up on the last note on the results at the men's satellite masters, there was another heart-breaker for the Kirtanes today, in addition to Nitin's and Sandeep's losses to Vijay Kannan in successive days - their 12 match unbeaten streak in doubles ended at the worst possible time, in the semis of the masters, to Ondrej Chvapil and Patrick Erhardt in a 3rd set tiebreaker, costing them some srious ATP doubles points .. With the large number of circuit points they had accumulated, they would have picked up 40+ ATP points, but are looking at around 20 or so now .. but there is good news, and once again it's our favorite kids doing it - Vijay Kannan and Harsh Mankad have reached the final ! .. Thy had lost in the first round of the first leg, and then lost in the final and semifinal of the next two legs to the Kirtanes, but now find themselves in the masters final with a chance to pick up a lot of ATP doubles points .. It's heartening to see the youngsters showing the knack to win when it counts .. That's one intangible found in champions. Go VK-HM !! .. incidentally, Saurav Panja and Sanzaruz Zaman also played hard today, the former taking Prahlad to 3 sets, and the latter losing to 8th seeded veteran Gerhard Fahlke in a 7-5 3rd set .. The results are at the men's satellite masters page.

There is a reason why I said I was happy to see Harsh doing well here .. I have some comments that I have wanted to write here for a long time, and I perhaps should do that now .. This guy has gone through a terrible time for the last year and half, ever since he left the Dhaita academy as a 17-yr old .. Out came all kinds of stories in the press and from a lot of other sources about him being arrogant, not willing to work hard, wanted too much from everyone, etc, etc , etc .. in my opinion, Harsh made a mistake of leaving Dhaita then - for one thing, it made him a marked man in the eyes of the establishment; for another, he did not really have an alternate plan and ended up wasting a year in Mumbai with hardly anybody to even practice with .. Then in early 97 summer he had reached his highest ITF junior rankings at around 45 and was in the US for the US Open juniors .. He then missed the Davis Cup trials, as he was to play in the New Orleans sugar bowl junior tournament .. Another blackmark falls on him for doing that .. Harsh, when he was in the US recently told me about a highly-placed official in the tennis establishment telling him the "he did not care for India and had no patriotism" - mind you, this was the first phone conversation I ever had with Harsh and it showed me how much it affected him .. The first thought I had was how anyone dared to say something like that to Vinoo Mankad's grandson (not to mention Nirupama Mankad and Ashok Mankad as parents) .. This was followed by his non-selection into the India-A team for the Asia Cup, and Vishal Uppal of Dhaita was taken in, on the basis of Vishal going a round farther and losing to the same player (I am speaking from memory here, as I was keenly following Harsh then) at Sriram Trophy .. Nothing against Vishal, but he just did not have the stellar record Harsh had as the highest ranked junior in 1997 (with 6 different national titles at various ages from 1993 onwards) .. That cost Harsh some serious financial rewards, but it affected him even more mentally .. Nobody even contacted him for over a year to see how the best junior in 97 was doing in 98 - he would have been a junior even in 98 had he had a date of birth a couple of months later .. Then we saw a wildcard go to Wesley Whitehouse of South Africa at the Vadodara challenger in April 98, which certainly should have gone to Harsh (Vijay, Fazal and Sandeep had the other three) - Harsh did his part anyway, making it into the main draw as a lucky loser after losing the final round of qualies to Jan Krejci (who incidentally went on to the semis, beating Whitehouse on the way) .. It was the friday before the challenger when Harsh came to know he would have no wildcard, as Whitehouse who was about to leave home from the Chennai tournament was called up and asked if he would like a wildcard to Vadodara (he was at Chennai with a wildcard from the Australians organizers of the Chennai ATP tournament) .. Then a wildcard in doubles went to Guardiola-Krejci, and Harsh and Mustafa ended up in the qualies of doubles too .. Does anyone not see how unfair things became for Harsh ? .. I am not sure if anybody was doing anything to deliberately punish Harsh (I would like to think that was not the case), but that is how things went .. We in the fanclub noticed all this, but I wonder if anybody was worrying out there if we were treating our junior players fairly.

As I said, the very first time I chatted with him (after we were put in touch by Nick Rainey in the fanclub), he talked to me for 2 hours, and there was no doubting that this young man's confidence and psych had been seriously affected by how he felt everyone treated him, ever since his mistake of leaving Dhaita .. It's bad enough for one to leave from the junior ranks and stare at no sponsorship and no easy way to travel to play in the senior tournaments; .. to also face constant criticism from everywhere can be a killer .. Some said he was arrogant (..and I feel he is a bit reserved till he gets to know you, from my personal experience - he is a very friendly guy) .. Then of course, people feel that he is a bit short at 5-9 to do well in tennis, that he is soft, and they say he does not work hard - even though everyone agrees he has shown tremendous talent, intelligence and an ability for beautiful strokeplay .. What I saw was somebody who takes tennis seriously - one who sat at my house at 1 am at night, watching the tape of the LP-Godwin final at Newport, going over LP's inside-out forehand frame-by-frame so many times, saying he wanted to work on that shot with LP's as the model, but wanted to build his arm strength first to get there ! ..

Well, those who are in the inner circles of the tennis-scene in India certainly know more about the truth behind all the criticisms on Harsh - I certainly don't know and have only heard Harsh's feelings on it .. I do know one thing though, which is that no talented 17-year old should be treated this way, not to mention that it is somebody we considered our future just as recently as 18 months back that we are ill-treating this way .. Youngsters make wrong decisions some time, but rather than advising them and nurturing them, some go after them to make them pay - nobody comes out a winner in the end .. I did feel that Harsh had come to mature a lot lately, and left from the the 3-month training stint in the US in a positive frame of mind in July .. I hope he doesn't read this, as I am sure he wouldn't like to see me bring up these things now, but I thought I should, if for nothing else, to show how we all need to be careful in criticizing or putting unnecessary pressure on our teenage players .. By the way, Harsh is just one example - there are other former players, some that nobody even remembers anymore, who have written to me about how they felt totally unwanted and unappreciated by the tennis establishment in India .. Does anyone remember Anirban Barua ? (no, he did not write to me - does anyone know even where he is ?) .. Even a phone call to find out how they are doing and what their plans are, can do wonders to make these junior players feel that their efforts are appreciated ..

In any event, AITA has taken a very good step lately, in putting someone in charge of nurturing the junior talent - that is Mr. Gajendra Singh, coach at Dhaita, who is well-liked by the youngsters from what I hear .. The Harsh saga also seems to have all been put behind .. Harsh said after today's win to advance to the QFs, that a big reason for him doing well in the latter legs of the satellites was AITA's help in coaching, and he specifically thanked Gajendra Singh (according to Indian Express) .. In fact, I believe Gajendra Singh has been there from the Hyderabad leg of the satellites, specifically to help out a few of the youngsters - Vijay Kannan, Harsh Mankad, Vinod Sridhar, etc in particular. Hopefully we won't have to hear of unpleasant stories as in Harsh's case anymore .. Now you see why I was very concerned when Vijay and Harsh came up empty earlier on in the satellites, and was very happy to hear of today's results .. Things are looking fine - Vijay has anyway stayed away from any trouble, and Harsh seems to have matured and is moving on - and it's nice to see that they are doing well as a doubles pair too .. Another good news recently was the appointment of Ramesh Krishnan in charge of overseeing the 5 regional academies for sub-junior players .. Ok, that's the end of my comments on that (sorry about the length of this piece - once in a while I get into the mood for these long sermons - hadn't done one in a while)

Nov 4 Note-2

I am a happy man .. The two guys I really wanted to see do well in the satellites came through with flying colors today ! .. Harsh mankad beat 3rd seed Danai Udomchoke in straight sets and Vijay Kannan beat 6th seed Sandeep Kirtane in straight sets too ! Man, it can't get better (sorry, Sandeep - I have a soft corner for the younger players!) .. Prahlad beat Saurav Panja, Vasu reddy lost to Patrick Erhardt, Vinod Sridhar lost to top seed Frederic Rovai, S.Zaman lost to Gerhardt Fahlke, Hede beat Karagiannis, and Barockszy beat Leysek .. So there will be three Indians in the final 8 and two of them are our best two young talents - It can't get better ! .. Now, can I get all those people who have been bad-mouthing Harsh Mankad as "washed up" and "too soft" and "not-working-hard", etc, get off his back and consider him in our plans once again ?? (Damn, I have been waiting to say that for a while - more on that later) .. For now, Prahlad, Harsh and Vijay have work to do - the latter two should earn around 7-8 ATP points for this, but reaching the final 4 gives the bigger rewards - that will be tough, but at least Prahlad is expected to. Will update the Satellite results pages later today..

Nov 4 Note-1

The prequerterfinal draw at the $2.3M Paris Super 9 is now:

1-J.Eltingh/ P.Haarhuis     vs    J.Bjorkman/ B.Black   \
8-O.Delaitre/ F.Santoro     vs    P.Norval/ K.Ullyett   / \
4-M.Knowles/ D.Nestor       vs    Y.Kafelnikov/ D.Vacek \ / \
5-E.Ferreira/ R.Leach       vs    N.Kulti/ D.MacPherson /    \
6-S.Stolle/ C.Suk           vs WC-J.Golmard/ G.Roux     \    /
3-M.Bhupathi/ L.Paes        vs    S.Lareau/ A.O'Brien   / \ /
7-M.Damm/ J.Grabb           vs    R.Reneberg/ J.Stark   \ /
2-T.Woodbridge/ M.Woodforde vs    L.Lobo/ J.Sanchez     /

No upsets in the first round, and it is a pretty good draw with possibilities for 2-3 seeds not making it to the quarterfinals .. LareauO'Brien toyed with wildcards Dupuis/Huet today in 2 sets and advanced .. LP-MB vs Lareau/O'Brien will be tomorrow (Thursday) .. Three of the final-16 matches are today.

No updates yet on whether Leander has made the direct entry at either Kremlin or Stockholm for next week, he was 2-3 spots out of the direct entry at both places, last I heard a couple of weeks back .. For now, I expect it to be Moscow for LP-MB next week .. stay tuned for updates .. LP will miss the qualifiers, if they reach the doubles QF and win on Friday at Paris ..

By the way, the new WTA rankings show Nirupama Vaidyanathan dropping a few spots to #183 this week from 175 last week .. She lost 3 or 4 points from the Houston challenger last year .. She loses 5 more points this week (from the Austin. TX challenger last year) and will drop a few more spots .. She has only 2 or 3 points out of her total of 115 to defend till the Australian Open in late January .. After a 5-week break for yoga, training, reading, recuperating, etc, she now goes to Australia to play in three $25K challengers and then the $75K challenger in India (I am still upset that AITA did not make it two or three $25K challengers .. oh well .. I guess somebody needs to start proposing to organize those - it is a lot of work to find sponsors for 2-3 events all by one organization).

Nov 3 Note-2

Eight Indians will be in the final-16 at the Men's satellites masters leg at Kannur ! .. Four under-19 kids moved on today, which is always great news - Vijay Kannan, Harsh Mankad, Vinod Sridhar and Saurav Panja (Harsh turns 19 next week, though people consider him a senior as he has been around for so long .. Vijay turns 19 in February) .. Vijay, who ran into some seeds and generally struggled in the first three legs, made it in here as the last entry after a playoff with Ravikiran Bhat, but all of that is forgotten now, as he upset Nitin Kirtane in three sets (though the leg cramps Nitin got at 5-5 in the 3rd was a lucky break for Vijay) .. Good job, Vijay ! .. Harsh had no problem with Mike Boulding of Britain in 2 easy sets, 6-0, 6-4 .. Vinod beat Ondreaj Chvapil (CZE) in three sets too .. Chvapil is not a bad player, having finished in the top 3 in one of the recent satellites somewhere that I noticed, but had a pretty forgettable time in India ending today.. Saurav Panja is the 4th teenager to move on, with a straight sets win over Timo Negri of Germany (ranked 761 and a seed in the first leg, but another one to have a forgettable Indian tour) .. The 5th teenager in the prequarters will be either S.Zaman or the youngest of the lot, Vijendra Laad - their match was in the second set when it was postponed .. Vasudeva Reddy is also in the final-16 after beating Praveen Sreenivasan. Also, Nik Karagiannis won, and Mustafa Ghouse (inconsistensy continues) lost to Zoltan Barockzy .. Prahlad and Sandeep are already seeded into the next round. See the men's satellite masters page .. I still have not seen a draw - no idea who faces whom in the next round, except that Prahlad plays Saurav ..

At the Women's satellites, the forgotten girl, 16-year old Anna Nefedova (Russia) who was the #2 seed when it all started but did hardly anything in the first three legs, came up big today, upsetting the other Thai girl, Orawan Wongkamalasai, the 4th seed .. Sad to see the Thai girls, Montika and Orawan, do so well in the first three weeks but bow out here with just 1 and 1.5 WTA points to show for all the hard work .. Also makes me wonder if Anna was goofing off knowing well that only this leg counts for points .. She faces #1 Sai Jayalakshmi in the semi .. The other semi is between Shruti and Rushmi .. The big bonus (relatively speaking) comes in the semis. All four have 2 pts now, but the winners get 4 each, with the final title fetching an extra point .. We will see .. In doubles, Shruti and Sheetal had three match points in the 3rd set tiebreaker, but still lost to the Thai pair, who stay alive at least in doubles, and reach the semis .... See all the results in the women's satellite masters page.

Nov 3 Note-1

Here is a CHAT ALERT ! .. ATP is organizing a chat with LP-MB today (Tuesday) at 6 pm Paris (12 noon EST, 9 am PST, usa; 10.30 pm India) at http://www.atptour.com/en/viplounge/ on the web, and also on IRC (server: streams.atptour.com, channel: #ATPCenterCourt) .. IRC may be better, faster and trouble-free; so I suggest downloading the simple mIRC program from http://www.mirc.com - it takes just a couple of minutes to install and operates as a separate program (not connected to your web browser), directly on the internet connection (i.e., TCP/IP stack, normally) .. Many have had problems with the java code at the ATP site's chatroom on the web; hence my suggestion for IRC .. See you all at the ATP site .. Sorry for the late notice; ATP's notification came in only now.

.. Previous notes at Weekly Notes, ending Nov 2 ..