Notes for week ending on Nov 10, 1997
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Nov 9 Notes
Current #11 Bjorkman/Kulti lost in the semis at Stockholm to Goellner/Reneberg, probably killing their chances to unseat Knowles/Nestor for the 8th spot at Hartford. Then Goellner/Reneberg upset the top seeds Ferreira/Galbraith in three sets in the finals, making sure that NONE of the top 8 teams will come into Hartford with a win in the previous match... The Woodies, Lareau/O'Brien, Bhupathi/Paes, and Knowles/Nestor had lost last week and didn't play this week. Leach/Stark, Kafelnikov/Vacek, Eltingh/Haarhuis and Ferreira/Galbraith all lost this week. In fact, you can add last week's #9 Lobo/Sanchez, #10 Johnson/Montana, #12 Broad/Norwal (one of them should be at Hartford as a stand-by) to the "loser" list too... None of the top 12 teams have a win-streak going.. How about that ?..
Nov 8 Notes
India won the Asia Cup !! Here is the report from Kannan Srinivasan from New Delhi on the matches concluded a couple of hours back:
What an anti-climactic end to the Asia Cup tennis championship. India won with ease, after Mahesh Bhupathi needed two tie-breaks to get past Kim Nam Hoon 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (8-6). There was tension after Mahesh won since it was no easy match. But Leander Paes was a treat to watch. Such was his domination, at one stage it looked Lea was giving coaching lessons to Kim Dong Hyun. With Korea's main player Il-Yoon not fit, the two Kims had to sweat it out the whole week. Mahesh seems to be having some kind of motivation problem, as he played a bit floppy. The forehand was erratic and finding its way all over the place. His serves were great but overall game very shaky. Time and again, when he was holding an advantage of having won the first couple of points on the rival's serve, Mahesh faltered. In the tie-breaks he managed to stay cool. As for Leander, he was in great shape. The crowd liked it initally, but once it got monotonous everybody was waiting for the doubles. Korea conceded it as their doubles pair was unfit. Earlier, Uzbekistan beat Indonesia 2-0 in the playoff for the third place. Frankly speaking, the final was not what we had anticipated.
Hats off to the Korean kids, who played a ton of matches this week after Yoon had his back problems, and they earned every bit of the runner-up $$$.
Asia Cup certainly gave an indication of what to expect next year at the Asiad. In fact, Leander (who is still upset about not getting a gold in 94) had given this as the biggest reason why he wanted to play at the Asia Cup. It is not going to be easy next year, by any means, with guys like Ogorodov, Yoon and a few top-250 caliber Japanese guys also expected to be there. Asian tennis news: 18-yr old Paradorn Srichaphan is in the finals of the Thailand ATP satellite tourney, beating Wayne Arthurs of Australia in the semis. He is going to make a big jump into the ATP top-500 or so now.. Need to keep an eye on that guy for next year too.
Hartford Watch: Eltingh/Haarhuis lost to Damm/Suk and Kafelnikov/Vacek lost to Adams/Santoro, both unseeded teams, yesterday in the semis at Kremlin. This means that, other than Ferreira/Galbraith who is in the finals at Stockholm after beating the 3rd seeds Eagle/Rafter, none of the top 8 teams will be going into Hartford with a win in their previous match (The Woodies, Lareau/O'Brien, Leach/Stark, Bhupathi/Paes, Knowles/Nestor being the others with a loss in their last matches).. That's strange, but it's good to know that LP/MB will have the company of a bunch of "losers" (ok, I jest..) at Hartford.. !
Nov 7 Notes
Surprising to see that Mahesh lost a three setter to the Indonesian, but good for the crowd, as that made sure they would see LP/MB in doubles ! Here is Kannan Srinivasan reporting from New Delhi on today's matches:
India finally made it to the final of the Asia Cup championship, but not before giving the spectators some anxioius moments. Jaidip Mukherjea, the non-playing captain, thought Indonesia would be cannon fodder. So, he let Sandep Kirtane play the second singles. The Pune man, known for stroking freely on synthetic surfaces, did crush Silstyo Wibowo 6-3, 6-2. But Mahesh Bhupathi struggled against rank outsider Andrian Raturandang. Mahesh lost 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 7-5 in a two and a half hour contest, which set up the much awaited doubles tie. Through the week, Leander and Mahesh had not played the doubles. But after the singles were split, there was no choice but for LP and MB to play. They were terrific, even though the combination of Bonit Wiryawan and Sulistoyo Wibowo was no big deal. LP/MB won 6-2, 6-4, treating the crowd to their own brand of doubles play......... Mahesh looked out of sorts today in singles. The Indonesian, displaying no signs of emotion, fired himslf up remarkably. Firing winners and matching Mahesh's pace, one did get the impression the underdog was barking and biting! If Mahesh generated pace in his singles match, Raturandang matched him. His forehand was a big weapon, and improvisation was the key. We have all seen in the past leander run around and convert. But it was Raturandang who did it today. IF Mahesh tried to slow down the pace, then the Indonesian was readily prepared and began slicing to hang on. Mahesh, who has loved crowd support, did find more spectators in the stands. But most of them were a nuisance, cheering and jeering at the wrong time. I would not blame them as the Delhi crowd is not the tennis-type, but follows cricket better. Why then do they come here? Well, because, there are virtually no tickets, but passes! Keep it going, as that is what happens in Davis Cup here....... Mahesh must have gained a lot from the singles, most importantly, practice for the Challengers after Hartford. It is a good deabte whether Asia Cup is the best place for LP/ MB in their preparation for Hartford. But, then, apart from money and dollars on the circuit, there is something called national duty which Lea always believes in. He is a great guy, isn't it.... We should not forget that till Lea won the Atlanta bronze, he was known just for his heroics in Davis Cup. Maybe a few guys will beg to differ with me. This being the first year of Asia Cup, the presence of LP/MB was essential. if they do not play next year, it is OK....... Let me also add, the weather here has helped in the duo recovering from cold and flu. There is nothing like wining, even if it be Asia Cup. Sunday is a big day, and we as Indians would savour it. That will also be an indicator of what we can expect in the Bangkok Asian Games in 1998......... Back to Asia Cup, India meet Korea in final. The Koreans beat Uzbekistan 3-0, even though Yoon Yong-Il, their key player, was not there. Fitness and focus made the difference. Korea are superior to us in fitness and speed, but LP/MB and company will be ready for them. This Asia Cup is finally getting a bit hot....
Surprised to see Kannan commenting that Korea is that good with their speed ? wow.. I thought there were only two or three players in the top pro circuits who can be considered quicker than Leander.. Interesting to see that the Koreans have hardly played Yoon so far. He is their trump card, but I think LP should take care of him. Looking forward to Sunday !
Nov 6 Notes
S. Kannan had sent this report promptly by evening Delhi time (thanks).. sorry it took a while to put it up here.. busy day !
Not a great day for India tennis. Leander and Mahesh had a good workout since there were no matches. They are geared up for the semi-final against Indonesia; should be a straight win as I see it. The weather here is good and helping our heroes recover. The India-A team -- Vasudeva Reddy and Gaurav Natekar failed today. They lost to Philippines 1-2. Reddy lost to Bryan Juinio in three sets and Natekar to Joseph Lizardo in three sets. I hardly feel like saying much as the two basic ingredients, fitness and focus were missing. Reddy said he had a sore shoulder, as he won the Nationals last week and playimg without a break was tough. A bad excuse since top pros should be ready for the grind. Maybe, he will learn the lessons. As for Natekar, his best is over, and seems to be playing from memory. Started serving and volleying, but faded after that as Lizardo's groundstrokes were good, moving the Indian well. The inconsequential doubles was won by Vishal Uppal of Delhi and Vikram Venkataraghavan with little trouble in two sets. Vikram is the son of cricketer S.Venkataraghavan.
Actually, that may be a bit too harsh on poor Vasu here.. The guy actually has been playing rather continuously.. 8 singles matches in 9 days (and a couple of doubles too), is pretty tough for somebody like him who isn't used to such a schedule, but Kannan is right that being ready for such grind is what makes anybody top-brass.... The India A team got $7000, which isn't bad. If they shared it equally, it is some Rs. 60K each. Add that to the 40K Vasu made last week at the Nationals, and he has had a good couple of weeks that should help heal the hurting shoulder !
Nov 5 Note-2
#3 Leach/Stark lost today, and #4 Kafelnikov/Vacek won. There are only 22 points separating these two teams, and Kafelnikov/Vacek may retake the #3 spot next week (perhaps they need one more win). Why is this significant ? Because that would mean Kaf/Vac will be in the same half of 4 teams as LP/MB (expected to be the #6 seed) in the round-robin at Hartford (that is, assuming Kaf/Vac will play there).. Also, Broad/Norwal and Johnson/Montana lost in the first rounds this week, probably ensuring that they will both miss Hartford. Bjorkman/Kulti won, and they look to be the #8 or #9 team now (They can move ahead of the current #8 Knowles/Nestor, who are idle this weeek).. Bjorkman is already in the draw for the Hannover singles top-8 ATP championship (next week), and could become the only player in both the singles and the doubles tournaments.
Good news on Indian Tennis: Manisha Malhotra (singles preseason #13, playing for #10 U. of Tennessee) won the ITA Rolex Southeast regional tournament singles earlier this week, beating a couple of US top-50 collegiate players (both from the #4 ranked Duke). She lost in the doubles final, but advances to the National collegiate indoor championship in Feb 98, the 3rd leg of the "collegiate grandslam" (There are 8 such regional tournaments going on right now in the US). She has looked every bit as good or better than her preseason ranking so far. It is very nice to see another Indian woman doing well; so far Nirupama Vaidyanathan (at WTA world ranking #151 in singles and #126 in doubles) is the only Indian woman who has done anything outside of India. She lost in the final round of the qualifiers for the $75,000 WTA challenger in Austin, TX a few days back.
Nov 5 Note-1
Lareau/Obrien lost yesterday at the Kremlin Cup; so they will not move above LP/MB, and it looks pretty sure that our guys will go into Hartford as the #6 team (probably the #6 seeds too).
Uzbekistan was a tougher test, but we came through fine.. Nice to see Leander finally winning a match against Tomaschevic, after losing to him two time in challengers (Andijan and Fergana in 96 early summer).. S.Kannan's report follows (Thanks!):
Today was the bigger test for India, playing Uzebkistan in the concluding Pool A league match of Asia Cup tennis championship. Our friend Mahesh Bhupathi is on a roll. Serving cannons, covering the court probably at his best, and moving even front and back well, he beat Vadim Kutsenko 6-3, 6-4. The hardcourt here seems to be suiting his style of hitting on the rise. What impressed most, apart from the backhand winners, was his solid forehand. Improving with every match here, Mahesh is in great shape. Happy, the warm sunshine, doing his health a lot of good, and the effects of influenza seem over. Many who have watched Mahesh before feel he has improved by leaps and bounds. Of course, Leander was tested all the way by Dmitry Tomasevich, winning 7-5, 7-5. Dmitry had beaten Leander twice in the past, according to our records. Today was a revenge match. As JK pointed out the other day, his backhand looks healthier. The patience to wait and play from the baseline is a good sign, since chip and charge is now not an integral part of his game, unless it is grass. Delhi here had so many girls admiring his personality. In fact one of the line umpires said he could not concentrate as the girls said such nice things about Leander ... don't need to elaborate. Anway, three years back, Leander was described as the darker version of Andre Agassi _ charismatic. It seems to be coming true. Leander played solid tennis, not the one which works in patches. Good preparation for Hartford. The crowds are still waiting for Mahesh and Leander to play doubles. That will probably materialise only Friday, when they play the semi finals againt Indonesia. On Thursday, India-A play for the fifth position. Today, India-A beat Chinese Taipei 2-1. Not bad for a team which was asembled at the last minute!
Nice to hear of India-A coming back to win 2 matches and contend for the highest spot outside of the seeded teams which are all in the semis..
Nov 4 Note-1
India is into the semifinals after thrashing Thailand today.. Here is the prompt report from S.Kannan (thanks!) at New Delhi:
It was another good day for LP/MB and Indian tennis. Mahesh played a terrific single match, serving bombs, hitting strokes with superb control and crushing Thailand's Vittaya Samrej in straight sets. After a lot of doubles, one would have thought he would not be sharp in singles. But the kid played great tennis today. It was worth watching, whatever be the quality of opposition. His father, who was in the TV commentary box for that match, must have had to restrain himself. Leander is also having a ball. He did not play singles today, but doubles with Nitin Kirtane. Another new doubles combination, but lost just two games against Baerrohim and Vorapol of Thailand. India won the tie 3-0 and are in the semi-finals. They play Uzbekistan on Wednesday. ``Quite funny how Uzbeks come into Asia,'' as Mahesh commented. Leander and Mahesh are reaching Hartford on Saturday Nov 16. The Asia Cup is quite a nice break. They are with friends and girlfriends, which is good relaxation. By the way another Indian, Vasudeva Reddy from Hyderabad played superb tennis for India-A. Though the team lost and have no hopes of a semi-final berth, it was time to experiment in Indian tennis. India-A lost 1-2 to Indonesia, but Reddy has served a notice that he will be a tough competitor, even though he is not exactly young.
Nice to hear of Vasu playing a good match; for someone as telented as he is (I would say he's still rather young at 23) he should be able to do much better than he has done in the past.
Nov 4 Note-1
Well, my calculations a couple of days back were slightly off. Ferreira/Galbraith managed to move ahead of LP/MB to the #5 spot with 2408 points. Our guys have 2402. Leach/Stark has moved up to #3 now, with the finals showing at Paris. The funny thing is that they have lost so many finals this year, and do not have a single title !.. Anyway, the 62 points from the Ahemedabad challenger doubles title last year fell off the computer, being replaced with about 60 and 45 points each for LP and MB.. So their individual doubles point totals are down a little bit to 2420 (2435 last week) and 2519 (2521 last week). MB is now #11 and LP is now #14. Mahesh also lost the 7 first round win singles points from Ahemadabad, and his total is down to 176 from 182. MB's rank is now #131. LP's point total remained at 427 but he slipped down to #108 in ranking.
The good news is that ATP announced yesterday that LP/MB are officially in the Hartford draw. The seven teams who have qualified are: 1. Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde (4624), 2. Jacco Eltingh and Paul Haarhuis (3589); 3. Rick Leach and Jonathan Stark (2487), 4. Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Daniel Vacek (2465); 5. Ellis Ferreira and Patrick Galbraith (2408); 6. Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes (2402); 7. Sebastien Lareau and Alex O'Brien (2386)
There is a dog-fight for the 8th spot. The possible teams are, 8. Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor (2017); 9. Luis Lobo and Javier Sanchez (1919); 10. Jonas Bjorkman and Nicklas Kulti (1834); 11. Donald Johnson and Francisco Montana (1791), 12. and Neil Broad and Piet Norval (1746)..... K/N are not playing this week. Lo/Sa, B/K, J/M, and B/N are playing this week and one of them can replace K/N. By the way, a ninth team usually gets invited as stand-by if any last minute injury-withdrawal occurs. Plus, the Hartford Courant reports that #3 Kafelnikov/Vacek may not play (as last year, when they didn't play; don't know why).. We will just have to wait and see how things play out, in a week.
LP/MB could get pushed to #7 next week by Lareau/O'Brien, who are playing this week. #1, #4, #5, and #8 will be in one group for the round robin, and #2, #3, #6 and #7 will be in the other group. So, unless Kafelnikov/Vacek withdraws, LP/MB should be in the same draw with E/H, Lea/St, and L/O; a much more preferable group since our duo is 5-1 against them over the last year or so (and the only loss to L/O after 2 wins against them, was last week at Stuttgart where LP/MB had 4 second set matchpoints on them). Against the other group, they are 0-4 (3 losses in a row to Woodies and 1 to K/V; they haven't played #5 F/G). Two teams from each group move to the semifinals where #1 from each group plays the #2 from the other group.
Indian Tennis Note: US College Tennis: Manisha Malhotra is now a senior at the University of Tennessee in the US, and is ranked #13 in preseason singles rankings. Her doubles team with Margie Lepsi of U.of.T is ranked #4 in the preseason. Tennessee itself is ranked #10. These are all terrific rankings (there are 100s of colleges and perhaps a couple of thousand or more college players in the US). The season is only getting underway now and won't heat up till January. Another Indian name in the preseason rankings is Trishna Patel, ranked #66 in singles, at Brown University. She is credited with a large role in the surprising show by Brown over the last year or two in the Ivy league tennis (they are the Ivy league champions). Brown is ranked #33 in the preseason among colleges, which is a big accomplishment for them.
Nov 3 Note-1
Here is the report from the Asia Cup at New Delhi (Thank you, Kannan Srinivasan!):
LP and MB really enjoyed themselves in the warm sunshine today. Playing Philippines was no big deal and India won 3-0. The India_A team lost to Korea 0-3. The Indians are so confident nowadays they could afford not to play Mahesh in singles. Leander did play singles and beat Joseph Lizardo 6-2, 6-4 with consumate ease. It was more like playing a practice match, or warming up and testing strokes from the baseline. Poor Lizardo, his pony-tail swaying from one side to the other, just did not know how to tackle LP. LP looked solid from the baseline, his forehand a real big weapon. What surprised me more was his backhand, which was never so good. Maybe, the confidence of winning more and more has made the difference. By the way, when LP was playing Mahesh was sitting in the non-playing captain's chair since the captain himself Jaidip Mukherjea was not too well. The rules do allow a player can sit on the chair. Wearing dark glasses, Mahesh was enjoying himself under an umbrella. Asia Cup isn't all that boring. Sandeep Kirtane, a good national-level player won the second singles in straight sets. Mahesh played doubles with Nitin Kirtane and won in straight sets.
Interesting comment on Leander's backhand. The fan club has been discussing this all year, and the consensus has been that he should be using more topspin backhand rather than the slice shots. He has always had a pretty good topspin backhand but has for some reason preferred the slice shot, which while he plays it beatufully, does not often prove the winner that his stronger backhand shot is. The guess has been that his coach "Nails" Carmichael must have impressed upon him a bit on using this more often. His baseline game has certainly improved a lot this year.
Rather disappointing that the India-A lost 0-3 to Korea, though. Three of the team members got in only just before the matches, as they were all at Bombay where they were playing the National Hardcourts Tournament during the weekend. Must have affected their game a bit...