Notes for the week ending on Nov 11, 2002
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Nov 11 Note-1
Just got an email from Manila .. Marathon classic from Sania Mirza today where she made several fighting comebacks, at the $10K ITF satellite final in Manila! .. She was down 26 04 to I-Ting Wang (TPE), before she really started playing .. She won six in a row to even the sets .. She was again down 26 64 03 before evening it with a break in the 5th game to 3-3 .. Now she was down again at 4-5 facing I-Ting serving for the championship .. She raised her game again to win three in a row and take the championship .. [F] S.Mirza d. I-T.Wang, 26 64 75 ..
How about this girl? .. She really should stop getting broken as many times as she does, but that's women's tennis I guess .. What is impressive about Sania is her confidence to fight till the end and her ability to raise her game when it matters .. She is quickly building up a reputation as a player to be feared, and that is important too .. This is the 10th consecutive win on the ITF satellite circuit for her .. She has only played three satellites this year - Lost in the first round to Sunitha Rao of USA at the Mumbai 10K in February (news on Sunitha below!), and won the Hyderabad $10K two months back; she had also picked up some points from the Delhi challenger qualies where she reached the final round .. Sania's point total goes up to 12.75 and her ranking will be near top-675 soon .. Congratulations to Sania who is still only 15 and celebrates her 16th birth day this week! .. There is one more satellite, this week, at Manila and she will be in it .. After that I suppose that she will be at the Delhi challenger and Pune satellite followed by the ITF grade B2 Delhi Asian Closed juniors .. I am still waiting for her to get back on the training courts wth Krishna Bhupathi down in Bangalore .. She has hardly had much time to get coached for quite some time, with the RSA trip, then representing the India u16, then Asiad, then Asian championships etc .. On the other hand she has been a player who has steadily improved her abilities by playing a lot in the international circuit, and there has been a step-up in her results in the last 5-6 months for sure.
Ran has delayed the start of the qualies at the Manila-2 satellites .. Sonal, Radhika, Geeta etc are again there.
The only one to beat Sania in an ITF satellite this year, Sunitha Rao of USA, also just had a great week .. At the $25K Mexico City challenger, Sunitha, who just turned 17, was the 5th seed and she reached the final! .. This is the first event for her since reaching the Bahia Tier-II WTA event second round in early September, and making a big jump into the top-250 (I had reported that earlier) .. She beat Maria Fernanda Riveroll (MEX), 62 60 and qualifier Vanina Garcia Sokol (ARG) 60 16 61 to reach the QF where she had the big upset of the 3rd seed Seda Noorlander (NED,155) 64 36 64 .. She then beat Dimana Krastevich (BUL,464) 62 67(6) 60 to reach the final where she went down to the 4th seed Olga Blahotova (CZE,230) 67(2) 63 .. Congratulations to Sunitha whose dad had earlier mentioned in passing that he might consider his daughter playing for India when she played in India in February (no news on that matter after that though, and I did not see her name in the entry list for the Mumbai challenger starting in two weeks) ..
Nov 10 Note-2
Nothing much going on, to report .. There was rain trouble at the Manila $10K satellite today, and so the singles final between Sania and I-Ting Wang is postponed to monday morning .. They did complete the doubles SF postponed from Saturday though - Sania and Radhika got affected by the break, as the 2nd seeded Yan-Hua Dong/ Yao Zhang came back from 2-4 down in the 3rd set to win 57 76(6) 64 .. The only other remaining match to report was the doubles SF at the grade-4 Hilton Head ITF juniors where Caitlin Arnould (USA) and Tara Iyer lost to the top seeded American pair, Jessica M Kirkland/ Liberty Sveke, 16 26 yesterday ..
Big crowds of spectators already, even in the qualifying rounds at Davangere in Karnataka, for the India F8 futures .. They are running behind schedule as the brand new courts were ready only in the nick of time, late last night - nobody should complain; it's the hard work of the locals to make things happen, that deserves credit .. The first round matches are postponed to Tuesday and the draw will be made only tomorrow .. Rohan and Pavel Ivanov will be missing, but all the rest of the top players will be there.
Nov 9 Note-2
OK, quick - who thought Vinod Sridhar had it in him to win a futures title? .. Yeah, yeah, I know - you are all saying you knew it all along and that it was only a matter of time :-) .. Vinod did exactly that today, and in style, that too - at the $10K Delhi futures, [F] V.Sridhar d. A.Ramaswami, 62 64 .. I admit that I was never a Vinod Sridhar believer .. You would have seen me giving him a lot of kudos for showing up at each and every domestic tournament, fighting hard in every match, etc, etc .. Never counted him out in any match, but nobody (not the press for sure) was ever saying that he was equipped to win one of these - and I had never seen him play anyway .. But heck, it is time to take Vinod more seriously .. Indeed it would seem that the DSCL harcourt national title two weeks back on the same courts was no fluke either .. And finally we get one of the Krishnan Tennis Center products to go right to the top .. It took a while for Vinod, who was always just on the fringes of the second-string, looking in .. But that is over now .. Like I said, sometimes all that our players need is to believe in themselves, to be able to go to uncharted waters without fear and surprise themselves and everybody else .. OK, enough cliches from me -- Go Vinod! Congratulations .. Ajay comes up on the wrong end of the scoreline for the second time in a futures final this year, but he too did great work this week to show that he was not turning into just a doubles specialist or anything.
Vijay Kannan and Vishal Uppal had won the doubles final yesterday against Saurav Panja and Nitin Kirtane in a 62 64 final .. See the Delhi futures page for all the scores.
The players now make the trek down south to Davangere, Karnataka .. That is a new tour stop, with four synthetic courts, floodlights, and a 3000 seat stadium .. The Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association (KSLTA) needs to be congratulated for taking the "spread tennis to the grassroots" idea very seriously .. They had introduced another tour stop, Gulbarga, for a futures a couple of months back .. Harsh Mankad who won the doubles title there had talked about how unbelievable it was to see something like 4000 people (basically local college/school students) show up even for the doubles final there - probably the biggest crowd ever to watch a futures final, I guess .. Apparently Davangere is also excited about a big international event coming there and kids have been queuing up for tennis classes around there too .. Pity that Karnataka's own ace-meister Rohan had to withdraw from the futures due to injury.
Nov 9 Note-1
Big win for Sania Mrza today at the $10K Manila satellite! .. She beat the Asian Championships runner-up Ivana Israilova (UZB) 64 62 to reach the final! .. Though Ivana is only 16 years old, she had upset quite three top-400 players (including top-200 Rika Fujiwara) on the way to almost getting an Australian Open wildcard at Tashkent; she had upset the top seed Iijima in the QF at Manila too .. Sania, on the other hand, seems to be playing terrific tennis for the last couple of months and really does seem to have taken a "next step" recently .. She has an earlier win against Israilova too, at the Asian junior fed cup regionals in May .. This is a 9 match win streak for SM in ITF satellites .. She faces I-Ting Wang of China in the final .. Sania and Radhika were also close to winning a doubles SF match against a Taipei pair at 75 42 when rain postponed it to tomorrow.
At the Nike Junior Tour World Masters in Sun City, RSA, Sanaa Bhambri lost in the semifinal yesterday to the top seed Magdalena Kiszczynska (POL), 63 16 36 in the u14 draw .. Congratulations on the fantastic work by Sanaa to reach the final four of the biggest world championship at that age level!
At the grade-4 Miri ITF juniors in Malaysia, 16th seed Kartiki Bhat lost 36 16 to the second seed, Yan-Chong Chen (CHN), who is just too good.
I have not seen a score for the doubles semi at the grade-4 Hilton Head ITF juniors for Tara Iyer .. I think she plays today.
Nov 8 Note-2
Good news from Manila .. At the $10K satellites, unseeded Sania Mirza reached the semifinal with a 63 61 win over Kim Kilsdonk of Nederlands .. Not sure whom she plays next - probably the very talented Uzbek, Ivana Israilova who was red-hot at the asian championships with a runner-up finish .. Sania is now on an 8 match win streak in ITF satellites, going back to her title in India recently.
IMG announced today that Leander Paes and Prakash Amritraj will get wildcards into the Chennai Open .. I may have mentioned this in our forum discussion on this earlier - but I had pretty much guessed that they would give a wildcard to Prakash .. Much as I like Prakash who is a very good kid and a very good friend of mine down here in LA, I would have liked to see Rohan or Harsh or Sunil get one - after all, these three have been toiling hard in India .. Prakash on the other hand did show something in singles a couple of weeks back in the Texas challenger when he beat a top-150 player which is the biggest win by any Indian other than LP in a few years (though RB also came close in Tashkent wth a couple of top-200 wins) .. Who knows, Kash may have it in him to surprise us - and he has shown time and again that the big stage is where he plays his best too .. Plus, I think there will be some very good fan response towards Prakash, who is the son of one of Chennai's own greats - and the tournament organizers of course must have an eye on that! .. It's quite amazing how many wildcards Kash has got in how many different places; but to Prakash's credit he also went and earned a couple of wildcards - into the doubles at the LA ATP by winning a shootout, which he and Stephen followed up with two upsets to reach the semis, and then at Kalamzoo where he won a title thus earning a US Open wildcard .. And he justified the Tyler TX wildcard with a big upset recently as well .. What a strorybook year this has been for Prakash, that started with his biggest win in college over Harsh Mankad in March - to be the MVP in the collegiate tennis national championship as a true freshman (one of the most improbable upset run ever in college tennis history), then to reach a Tour event doubles SF, to play in the US Open main draw, and to finish the year in late December by playing at his ancestral hometown's biggest event!
Actually I should probably wait for further news on this -- the news release I saw is a bit vague; they gave a wildcard to Prakash and Stephen in doubles, and it wasn't clear if he is being given one into singles as well .. I think he gets both, but I will confirm soon .. The organizers are as usual holding on to one singles WC for any last-minute surprises - hopefully they will not waste it like they did last year when they offered it to a lowly ranked foreign player who did not even care to show up!.
Nov 8 Note-1
Confidence is contagious, and right now a lot of our players believe that they can beat any of the other players out there in our circuit .. Really, that is the #1 item that has been missing in a lot of players in our futures circuit over the last few years .. Vinod Sridhar upset the second seed Juraj Hasko to reach his first futures final today! .. Sure, Hasko was a bit banged up with a foot injury, but there have been countless times in the past when our players have let go of such gifts simply due to a lack of belief that they deserved a win .. Ajay Ramaswami was going to be a handful for 18 yr old Jaco Mathew to upset and he secured his spot in the final, which will be his second future final this year .. See the Delhi futures page.
So, we will have an Indian win his first ITF futures title tomorrow .. Since Fazal beat Srinath at the Chandigarh grasscourt futures in early 1998 right after ITF introduced the futures events into the tour (there were only 4 week satellites before), we went for over three years without any of our players winning a futures title, till Harsh pulled off the only foreign futures title by any Indian, in Canada last June .. Then Srinath won two titles at this time last year, both beating Rohan .. Rohan won two titles this year, Ajay reached a final in Canada, Harsh reached two finals in India, and Sunil won a title as well .. We will have a 5th Indian after Faz, Sri, HM, RB, and SKS tomorrow .. And it is not that the players in this year's tour are particularly weak or anything .. Hasko for instance has been in finals in India, and Borgula, whom Vinod upset this week has won futures titles in India .. Definitely the standard of tennis and competition have improved among our top 10 or so players now and they can all beat each other on any given day .. That is good! .. Long way to go still, though .. This crowd (RB, HM, SKS, Ajay, Vinod, Vijay, Manoj, Mustafa) are all in the 19-23 age range .. Over the next two years, we need some of these guys to be doing this in the challengers and hopefully higher levels as well .. Even if they all do not do that, we need tough play from this crowd for the NEXT string of youngsters to learn tough tennis .. The Jacos, Amanjots, Gajjars, Somdevs, Rastogis, Liberhans, Rupeshs, Sumits and Jeevans out there, that is.
Guillermo Canas (ARG,15), the defending champ over Srichaphan at Chennai this year, has confirmed his entry for the Tata Open (starting Dec 30th), according to today's news release from the organizers .. #16 Paradorn, #43 Mirnyi and #83 Philippoussis are the other we have heard of so far .. I assume a few ore top-40 players will be joining .. The entries close in a couple of weeks for Tata Open.
Nov 7 Note-2
At the prestigious Nike Junior Tour world masters in Sun City, South Africa, Sanaa Bhambri is in the semifinal of the u14 draw ! .. She was seeded 3rd witha Bye in the R1 .. Today she beat Pauline Bisset (FRA) 63 64 in the second round and then the 6th seed Magda Rybarikova (SVK) 63 60 in the QF .. She now has a tough match against the top seed Magdalena Kiszczynska (POL) .. Don't forget that this is an event where players from so many countries played qualifying rounds .. I saw somewhere that the world wide participation was over 10000 kids! -- In India itself about 3 or 4 hundred kids took part in the regionals in four cities from where the masters draw at Bangalore was decided .. It is really the only individual world tournament for kids in the u12 and u14 age level .. It is a big achievement for Sanaa to get that far, and also be seeded 3rd! .. The seedings may have been also based on the performance in the team events at Sun City earlier this week .. V. Poojashree unfortunately went down in the QF to the 3rd seed Vitalia Djachenko (RUS) in the u14 girls draw today, 06 75 .. In the u14 boys draw second round, 8th seeded M.Jeevan (who had an R1 bye) lost to Pilt Arnold (GER) after a fight, 36 75 06 .. In the u12 boys section, as I reported yesterday, Sreeram Balaji had lost to the top seed in the second round .. There are also back draws for the second round losers, and Sriram did win his first match there .. I believe CGK Bhupathi is down there with the kids in RSA .. Good show so far there. [source for scores - Supersports, RSA]
At the Hilton Head Vander Meer grade-4 ITFs, our other most talented 14 yr old (and teammate of Sanaa Bhambri in the Indian u14 girls team that finished 7th in the world this year), Tara Iyer could not pull off an upset over Theresa Logar (USA), but she did hang in there with her .. 46 46 loss in the QF to the 5th ranked USTA 18s player .. Tara and Caitlin Arnould (USA) have reached the SF of doubles though .. They upset the 3rd seeds Jennifer Elie (USA)/ Ann-Sophie Fankam (FRA), 63 62 and then beat Marlene Ryan (USA)/ Melissa Ryan (USA), 63 63 in the QF .. They run into the top seeded American pair, Jessica M Kirkland/ Liberty Sveke in the SF. [source: Chanda Rubin tournament website]
15 yr old Kartiki Bhat is also doing well, as she reached the QF today at the ITF grade-4 juniors in Miri, Malaysia, with a good 62 61 shellacking of Julianne Welford (AUS) in the 3rd round .. She faces a very tough foe in the QF though, the talented 2nd seed Yan Chong Chen .. She had lost to the same girl two weeks back in straight sets .. The other Indian kids down there did not do much, losing in the first or second rounds .. [source: Sarawak Tribune]
Nov 7 Note-1
Ajay and Vinod are playing very well at the Delhi futures .. Ajay beat Kedar Tembe and Vinod beat Pavel Lobanov .. The youngster Jaco Mathew came up big against experienced Rishi Sridhar to reach his first ITF semifinal as well .. I am sure nobody expected three Indians in the semis after the bloodbath of seeds on the first day .. Manoj Mahadevan played well against the second seed Hasko but went down today .. Ajay vs Jaco and Vinod vs Hasko in the semis tomorroe .. See the Delhi futures page.
At the $10K Manila satellite today, Sania Mirza beat Diana Julianto (INA) 61 64 to reach the QF against Kim Kilsdonk (NED) who upset the 7th seeded Radhika Tulpule, 46 62 63.
Later, with the juniors' news from Sun City (RSA), Hilton Head (USA) and Miri (Malaysia) ...
Nov 6 Note-2
Some junior news .. The individual events have started at Sun City, RSA, at the Nike Junior Tour World masters .. 24-player draws with the seeds having byes to the second round .. I saw the first round results from today for the u14 boys and girls; I assume Jeevan and Sanaa are seeded to the second round .. Two rounds were done in the u12 girls/boys .. Poojashree is seeded 7th and had a bye .. She then beat Maria Bayon (MEX) 76 62 75 .. In the QF, I think she will run into #3 Vitalia Djachenko (RUS) .. In the u12 boys, unseeded Sriram Balaji beat Danie van Zyl (RSA) 75 60 in the R1, but then ran into the top seed, Jordi Samper (ESP), losing 36 06 ..
Tara Iyer, the 14 year old powerhouse who is mostly in the USA, is seeded 4th in the Grade-4 Chanda Rubin Van Der Meer ITF Junior Classic at Hilton Head, South Carolina .. She has reached the QF with two good wins .. In the first round she beat Lyndsay Burdette (USA,352), 61 63 .. Lindsay is the 7th ranked 14s player in the USTA rankings .. In the second round Tara beat Alina Sufiarova (RUS,359), 61 61 .. Alina is two years older, actually! .. She runs into a tough match in the QF though - against 17 yr old Theresa Logar (USA) who is ranked low in the ITF, but is the 5th ranked 18s player in the USTA ranks .. If she beats Theresa tomorrw, it will be a big upset, though Tara is seeded 4th with her #166 ITF rank .. You may remember that Tara was the #2 singles player for us in the world u14 finals, behind Sanaa Bhambri ..
Kartiki Bhat and a host of others like Abhay Prakash, Nihal Advani, J.Jayanth, Iciri Rai, Jharna Nansi, Nidhi Shah, etc are at the grade-4 ITF juniors in the beautiful coastal town of Miri in Sarawak, Malaysia .. Haven't seen scores, but I saw a blurb in the Sarawak Tribune that Kartiki has reached the final 16 of the 64-size draw.
Nov 6 Note-1
Hey, how about that? .. Just yesterday I was feeling terrible seeing the first stringers lay an egg at the Delhi futures, but the news is completely different today as the next string showed up ready to play! .. Ajay upset Pavel Ivanov, who was on a 6 match win streak, Vinod upset the 6th seed Borgula and Rishi upset the 7th seed Masik .. Jaco beat the top-seed-killer Si of Malaysia, Kedar Tembe showed his newfound confidence with a win over Uppal and Manoj Mahadevan rounded it out as the 6th one in the QF .. We are again guaranteed to find an Indian in the finals! .. Way to go .. See the Delhi futures page .. Sunil Yajaman from the AITA clarified today that there is no cheap ball problem in the circuit .. Chandigarh used Nassau balls last week and Delhi is using Wilson this week ..
Here is Sukhwant Basra's Times of India article on the matches yesterday .. Here is Kamesh Srinivasan's account in The Hindu .. Both seem puzzled at Sunil Kumar's 16 16 loss (he looked like a "zombie on court", says Sukhwant :-)) .. I wonder what's up .. During a stretch in his junior career, there was the occasional disappointment at Sunil losing to those he shouldn't have lost to, but that was quite a while back .. He has been playing hard in all his matches during this year and has been steadily rising .. The loss yesterday was odd .. Come on dude, buckle up - there is a long ride ahead!
At the $10K Manila satellite, Sania Mirza beat the 4th seed Sonal Phadke easily, 61 63 to advance to the second round .. She faces qualifier Diana Julianto (INA) in the second round .. In the same quarter of the draw, 7th seed Radhika Tulpule beat qualifier Eun-Hee Sung, 63 61 .. She plays Kim Kilsdonk (NED) in the R2 .. Geeta Manohar went down, 36 26 to Akgul Amanmuradova (UZB) .. In doubles, Sania and Radhika play Diana Costa (ESP) and Po-Kuen Lam (HKG) in the R1, while Sonal/ Geeta play Kim Kilsdonk (NED)/ Diane Matias (USA) ..
Nov 5 Note-2
The swinging pendulum of our (second string) tennis players' fortunes swings bakwards again .. Or, the "1.15 step forward and one step backward" scheme continues for them .. I was quite happy last week when I said we had just gone into a sustained streak of seeing our players in the finals of the Indian futures and all that .. I guess I jinxed things (as usual!) .. Delhi turned out to be a wasteland today, with Harsh, Sunil, Vijay, Mustafa and Nitin all falling by the wayside in the first round, to add to Rohan's withdrawal from the futures due to injury .. Take a look at the Delhi futures page for the gory details from today .. The draw is now wide open and it is anybody's title now .. Perhaps it is time for Ajay Ramaswami to come through? .. Or Manoj or Vinod? .. I hope so, but chances are quite low for us to see an Indian in the final or even the SFs, barring some good work from the above three .. Kedar Tembe's win over Nitin was another indicator that the youngster has perhaps turned a corner in his career.
Kamesh Srinivasan had mentioned in The Hindu that there was a change in the type of balls used, from last week to this - I wonder if that had anything to do with the poor show today .. The Indian players constantly complain about the cheaper balls used in our events and how they hate it .. I am not sure if they changed from good Wilson balls to something else this time, or vice versa (the official fact sheets for both futures list Wilson though) .. In any event, that is not an excuse because the foreign players are less used to the balls used in India and everybody is playing with same balls at the same time anyway .. Today was a bad day for our players, plain and simple .. They should all be doing better!
Nov 5 Note-1
At the $10K Manila-1 satellite in Philippines, the draw is interesting for the Indian girls .. 4th seed Sonal Phadke plays Sania Mirza in the first round .. They are in the same quarter of the draw with 7th seed Radhika Tulpule who gets a qualifier, Eun-Hee Sun (KOR) first .. Relatively easy draw till the SF - hopefully one of the three will make it there .. Geeta Manohar is unseeded and faces the tough Uzbek, Akgul Amanmuradova .. I think Megha was also in the entry list, but she was not in the draw.
India lost 27-28 in games over the 7 matches in their tie against 4th seed Croatia yesterday in the QF at Sun City in the Nike Junior Tour World Masters .. The same Croatia has gone on to beat the top seeds Spain 33-21 to advance to the final against Russia; so the Indian kids have done a tremendous job down there, after being unseeded in the field of 25 teams and easily beating Italy and 7th seed Israel on the way to a very close QF loss .. Congratulations to Sanaa Bhambri, Jeevan, Pujashree and Sriram Balaji who represented India!
As I await other tennis news, let me shed a tear for my Kerala team who were upset in extra time 2-1 by Manipur today in the Santhosh Trophy final .. I know, perhaps nobody in India cares for the Santhosh trophy like they do down in God's own country, 11-time finalists and 4-time holders .. Congratulations go to Tomba Singh and the Manipuri team for upsetting the defending champs.
Nov 4 Notes
There was only a very light schedule of matches at the Delhi futures today, with everybody in the Deepaavali mood .. Nothing much surprising today .. Vinod Sridhar took out Vishal Punna and Kamala Kannan beat the recent u18 DSCL champ, Arun Prakash .. See the Delhi futures page.
Late news - Rushmi and Sai finished as runners-up at the $25K Cairo challenger yesterday at the Cairo challenger! .. I had reported the R1 win earlier .. The big win was in the QF, where they upset the 2nd seeded Czech pair of Gabriela Navratilova and Hana Sromova in a tough marathon, 57 76(6) 76(4) .. They then got a walkover in the semis to the final, and lost 26 16 to Kyra Nagy (HUN) and Maria Wolfbrandt (SWE) ..
The main draw of the $10K Manila satellite starts tomorrow and a few of our girls, including Sania Mirza are in the entry list.
It turns out that Indian u12/u14 team had beaten Italy in the first round before upsetting the 7th seeds Israel at the Nike Junior World Masters at Sun City, RSA .. They seem to have gone down today in the QF .. No details with me yet, but still a good job by our team to be unseeded in the 25 team world competition and to reach the QF.
.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Nov 04 ..
I am getting some inquiries from US college coaches who are interested in Indian junior players .. I would like to be able to contact Indian players (some of the coaches are inquiring about specific names) .. If any of the junior players are reading this, please contact me .. Or if any of the other readers know the contact emails/address for any junior player, let me know .. I would like to have a mailing list where I can post general announcements and inquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.