Notes for week ending on Nov 17, 1997
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Nov 18 Notes
Finally, got the draw for the Hartford Doubles tournament..Minor difference from what we reported earlier. #1, #4, #6 and #8 are in one group and #2, #3, #5 and #8 are in the other. So Woodies, Leach/Stark, Lareau/O'Brien and Johnson/Montana in one group. The other group has Eltingh/Haarhuis, Ferreira/ Galbraith, Dynamic Duo, and Knowles/Nestor. Still not a bad group for LP/MB.. LP-MB are in the Yellow Group.. The other is called the Green Group
FORMAT: All teams will play the three other teams in their round-robin group, with the top two teams from each group moving into Saturday's semifinals. The No. 1 team from the Green Group will play Yellow #2, and Yellow #1 will face Green #2.
1.00 (3) Ferreira-Galbraith vs. (5) Bhupathi-Paes....<\/P>
followed by (4) Leach-Stark vs. (6) Lareau-O'Brien....
7:00 (1) Woodbridge-Woodforde vs. (8) Johnson-Montana....
followed by (2) Eltingh-Haarhuis vs. (7) Knowles-Nestor....
Nov 17 Notes
The Hartford lineup is set, with as we had been guessing, Kafelnikov/Vacek not showing up like last year (what's up with them anyway ?.. :-)).. It is Woodbridge/Woodforde, Eltingh/Haarhuis, Ferreira/Galbraith, Leach/Stark, Bhupathi/Paes, Lareau/O'Brien, Knowles/Nestor, and Johnson/Montana, in the rankings order (11th ranked Johnson/Montana took the final spot freed up by Kaf/Vac)... The order should be #1, #4, #5, #8 in one group and #2, #3, #6, #7 in the other (not sure of this; will confirm soon); if so, LP/MB will have the Woodies, Leach/Stark, and Johnson/Montana in their group. They are 0-2 vs the Woodies (losses at Queens and Cincinnati), 1-0 against L/S (Singapore) and 2-0 against J/M (Montreal and Cincinnati) this year... Certainly not a bad group to be in, The Woodies notwithstanding.. The draw for the schedule of matches, etc, will be on Tuesday.
Leander dropped a few spots in the singles rankings, after losing 7 or 8 points from the Reunion Challenger from last year. He is now at #114.. He will drop all the way to 125-130 next week after losing the Mauritius challenger points as well; then he can come back up at the Indian challengers. The doubles, and team rankings remain the same for Paes and Bhupathi. Mahesh moved up 3 spots to 228 in singles, with the same point total.
LP and MB have been in Hartford from Saturday night; so is our friend, Kannan Srinivasan of Hindustan Times. Depending on computer access for him there, Kannan may send us some match reports. I am told The Hindu has also send a reporter (Kamesh Srinivasan) to Hartford. Good to see such press coverage for this event, which has hardly got any coverage outside of India, so far. Kannan had an article in yesterday's Hindustan Times about how even the people at the Hartford Civic Center (which is where the event will be held) had not much idea over the weekend, and asked him to come back Monday to get more info !.. Our old pal Kim Das (remember his great job reporting from the US Open ?) should also be getting to Hartford soon.. look for enough news here starting late wednesday (it may be slow till then).
Nov 17 Notes
Looks like Paes and Bhupathi have been doing their homework. The Hindu had an excellent article by Kamesh Srinivasan yesterday with Leander's analysis of the top-10 teams, where he also rated the top teams on a 1 to 10 scale (1 being the best). Here is a slightly edited version of the article (hope The Hindu doesn't mind me quoting the article!):
Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde (Australia): The most experienced doubles team. They totally understand how the game of doubles is played. They keep it very simple and have been consistent in their results. That is why they have been No.1 for so many years. Woodbridge is the best doubles player in the world in my view. It is amazing what variety he has in his doubles game. He has got a very consistent serve and backs it up volleys. He has solid returns, and his best return is his chip backhand return. He is one player I like to model my doubles game on. Woodbridge is getting a little older and his movements are not as sharp. He has a soft lefty serve, which swings a lot on the court. He has good hands and good volleys. His experience in a lot of doubles play really pays off at the net. His returns are his best shots, especially his doublehanded backhand return. We have played them thrice and had very close matches twice. Every time we have won the first set comfortably and even had chances to break them in the second. Their experience pulled them out of trouble. We start, and we have to maintain that level of play a little longer. Regardless of what the score is, they make you work for points. They don't make silly mistakes. They will rate the best, but I wouldn't mind being in their group.
Jacco Eltingh and Paul Haarhuis (Netherlands): I would love to be in their group. Played them three times and the record is 2-1 in our favour. Haarhuis has very good returns and is very hard working on the court. Eltingh is a talented player, but has good days and bad ones. Obviously, his good days outnumber bad ones, and that is why they have been so good over the years. They have a lot of experience as a doubles team. But we like playing against their style. They will rate 3. When we play them, we must make a lot of returns, and look to cross a bit, as most of their volleys are crosscourt. They have set patterns of playing, which we have got accustomed to, having played them so often. On the fast surface, they are a very solid doubles team.
Yevgeny Kafelnikov (Russia) and Daniel Vacek (Czech): One of the toughest teams to beat. They have the capacity to blow us off the court. They have big serve and returns. Played them at the U.S. Open semifinals and lost in two tie-breaks. Vacek has good inside-out backhand returns, big first serve and good volleys to back it up. He is a little shaky on second serve, so doublefaults likely on big points. Kafelnikov has a big lefty first serve, and follows it up with average volleys. His best shot is his return of serve, especially off the backhand side. He can return either way, and likes to hit the ball low to set Vacek up at the net. They play the big points well. Their communication on court is not very good, and thus they go through highs and lows in a match. We must get a lot of first serves in, and come in quick to make the first volleys. At the net you must be very fast, as Kafelnikov has a lot of variety in his groundstrokes. When they serve, we must get their first serve back. Once we start off the point, have to work on it. As they are one of the toughest teams for us, perhaps tougher than the Woodies themselves, I wouldn't like to be in their group. They will rate close to the best, at 2 in my assessement.
Ellis Ferreira (South Africa) and Patrick Galbraith (US): Never played them before, but know that Ellis has a big lefty serve and good volleys. Returns are average. Galbraith has a very soft serve, average volleys and sits right on top of the net. His backhand return is good. He likes to block the return and come in. Very vulnerable to the lob. Not very quick on court. They will rate 4. Against them we must be solid with volleys and not give them a chance. But when me and Mahesh are at the net they can't pass us. Their groundstrokes are good and we should look to knock the returns to the lines, as both like to cross. It doesn't matter whether they are in our group.
Rick Leach and Jonathan Stark (US): Played them once this year, and beat them in straight sets in the final of the Singapore event. They are a top class team on any surface, especially indoor carpet. Leach has tremendous experience at the highest level of doubles. Stark has a big serve. If he is playing well, they are a tough team to beat. Leach has a very good lefty serve and extremely good hands. Stark has a big serve and big returns, but volleys not particularly well. His favourite is indoor. They will rate 4 in my view. We know that we have to keep a lot of first serves in, and be consistent with our volleys. Leach comes in with the returns, and so we have to be very quick with our hands. We have to aim our down the line, as both like to cross a lot.
Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes: It is a feather in our cap just to qualify for Hartford. But we are not satisfied with that. We would love to end the year with a win. We have recovered from our illnessess and are in good physical shape prior to the event. We still have time before our first match, so we must try and do everything right for the next few days. Our strength lies in Mahesh's power and my speed and experience. We must try and milch it to the maximum. Over the last three years we have developed very consistently. We won most Challengers last year, and we have won most Tour events this year. The toughest part for us would be to get comfortable with the environment, the weather, the surface, the hype about playing such a big event, the crowd, etc. Mahesh and I usually get into a tournament, playing tough first or second rounds. Once we are into the quarterfinals and semifinals, we get stronger and stronger. But at Hartford, the top eight are going to compete. We have to start playing very well from day one. If you lose your first match, you are in trouble. And you just can't afford to lose your first two matches, for you will be out of the race for the semifinals. Our goal is to peak at Hartford. The Asia Cup was a good event to sharpen our skills as well as a good chance for us to rest and recover from the illnesses we had been suffering in the weeks before.
Sebastien Lareau (Canada) and Alex O'Brien (US): This year we have played against this pair thrice. Won the finals at Montreal and New Haven, and lost to them in the pre-quarterfinal at Stuttgart after having four matchpoints. Both are very good returners of serve. Lareau has good hands at the net. O'Brien has a very ordinary kick serve as well as very ordinary hands. But, they compete very well. Lareau returns very well on indoor carpet, and that is what makes them so tough. It is better to have a team like them in our group, whose game we are so familiar with. We know that they have a certain set patterns of play, and we work on them. They will rate 5 in my opinion.
Mark Knowles (Bahamas) and Daniel Nestor (Canada): We have not played against this pair. Knowles plays the deuce court, has good returns, a decent serve and solid volleys. Nestor has a very big lefty serve, decent volleys and average returns. Their movement as a doubles pair is not bad. If we play them, we will have to make them play a lot of volleys. Work on Nestor's movements. I will rate them 6.
Luis Lobo (Argentina) and Javier Sanchez (Spain): Played them in Dubai. They have strong return of serves and ground strokes. Can run all day, retrieving everything. On their serve they are quite mediocre, and you can look to break their serve a few times. We have to serve well and once we hold our serve comfortably, we have a good chance against them. They will rate 7.
Jonas Bjorkman and Nicklas Kulti (Sweden): I played with Marcos Ondruska against them at Indian Wells, and lost easily. Mahesh and I have played them in Davis Cup last year, and lost. Bjorkman has been concentrating on singles, and thus Kulti has been playing with other partners. He has a very good all-round doubles game. He has one of the best returns in doubles, and backs it up with a decent serve and good volleys. Kulti hits his first and second serves as hard as he can, as his volleys are not that good. His best stroke is his return of serve, which he also hits very hard and firm. We have to serve smartly against them and volley crisply. When they serve, particularly when Kulti does, we must use the full court for our returns. They will rate 6.
Leander is refreshingly candid in his comments. Pretty darn good detailed analysis there. Hope our dudes can follow through and win it all !
Nov 14 Note-2
Here is the point allocation at the Hartford ATP doubles championships: 80 points for each win in the round robin (three matches), 190 points for a semifinals win, 280 points for the finals win. So, basically, unless you get to a semifinal, you get hardly much points (two round robin wins will normally be needed to reach the semis, even though a 3-0, 1-2, 1-2, 1-2 record is a possibility for 4 teams in a round robin group). If you win the finals, you will normally get at least 630 points. If you win 3 round robin matches and then win the title, you get the maximum of 710 points, roughly equivalent to a grand slam title which gets you 750 points (in a grand slam, however, you will end up with about 50 to 100 bonus points too, for beating some top teams.. At Hartford, there are NO BONUS POINTS allowed..). A loss in the finals will get you normally 350 points. In other words, two teams end up cleaning up most of the points.
Prize money from last year were: $15K for each round robin win, $25 for a semifinal win, and $60K for the finals win. Last year, The winners (Woodies) got 630 points and $115,000 (2 wins in the round robin, then semi and final wins). Sebastien Lareau and Alex O'Brien, the second team (2 wins in the round robin, and a semifinal win), got $55,000 and 350 points. The third team, Byron Black/Grant Connell (3 wins in the round robin and a loss in the semis) got $45,000 plus 240 points. The remaining 5 pairs (four of them with 1-2 records in the round robins, and one with a 1-2 record in the round robin and a loss in the semis) got $15,000 each and 80 points each. The prize money amounts added up to $290K last year, and the amounts may be different this year. (Thanks, Kannan Srinivasan, for digging up the last year info, and thanks, Sanjeev Bordoloi for the points info !)..
Nov 14 Note-1
Still not much news on anything. Prahlad Srinath lost in the Quarterfinals to Wayne Arthurs of Australia, 6-1, 6-3, in the second leg tounament of the Thailand ATP satellites, thursday. Last week's winner Hideki Kaneko (Japan) and runner-up Paradorn Srichaphan (Thai), are also in the semifinals. Prahlad had beaten Udomchoke (Thai) in the 2nd round, wednesday. Prahlad needs to do very well in the next couple of weeks to get some useful points out of this tourney.
Nov 12 Notes
There was really nothing much to report for a couple of days. This week's new rankings show no difference from last week in points for Leander or Mahesh in singles, doubles and team, except that Leander moved down one spot to #109 in singles with the same 427 points as last week. Can't wait for the Mumbai and Ahemedabad challengers to get done, to see if he can stay at around the same rankings.. He will lose 7 points this week from Reunion last year and 66 points next week from Mauritius, and will be down about 15-20 spots before picking up points at the two Indian challengers (a title at either challenger will give him 60-65 points each). Hopefully he will stay at least around the current rankings by year-end, after those two challengers.
The 8 top spots for Hartford are all set, with Knowles/Nestor staying at the #8 spot. Lobo/Sanchez is at #9 and Bjorkman/Kulti is at #10. Don't know who is willing to go up to Hartford to be the stand-by 9th team. Probably not Bjorkman/Kulti, as they have the Davis Cup finals to play against US in Sweden the week after Hartford. If it were up to the organizers, they would rather have the #15 Jensen brothers as the stand-by. As it stands, the Jensens (big crowd favorites for all their funny antics, though getting a bit routine these days!) are already scheduled to be there later this week at Hartford for some build-up exhibition tennis, etc.
A small correction from earlier on. ATP lists the Ahemedabad challenger to be on a hardcourt surface. I can swear that the last year's challenger there was on clay. May be that was not at the AGETA (Ahemedabad Govt Employees Tennis Assoc) courts where it will be held this year. Hardcourt is the preferred surface for LP than clay, though his baseline clay game has improved tremendously this year. Mahesh may have started to be favorable to clay a little bit after this year's results, but again he is perfectly fine with a hardcourt.
Indian/Asian Tennis Notes: Prahlad Srinath (Karnataka, ATP #623) is at the 3 week $25K ITF satellite tournament in Thailand. Last week he did poorly, losing in 2 sets, 6-2, 6-4, in the first round to the promising 16 yr-old Thai junior #1, Danai Udomchoke. Paradorn Srichaphan (18; no longer a junior) upset the #1 seed Igor Gaudy of Italy in the first round last week and reached his first pro-final, losing it to Hideki Kaneko of Japan. Prahlad has won the first round this week, beating Paradorn's more-experienced older brother, Narathorn Srichaphan, this Monday. He goes up against the same Danai Udomchoke in round 2 today. Paradorn has upset Igor Gaudi, again, this week. The satellite final standings and points will be published by ATP after the four weeks (legs) with separate tournaments are completed. Prahlad needs to reach at least the semis this week and next to get some 20+ points at least, which could move him up closer to top-500 in ATP. Go Prahlad! The other guys at this satellite include Wayne Arthurs of Australia (remember Arthurs/Kitinov who lost to LP/MB at the US Open doubles?), and Galimberti of Italy.
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 ?..