LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Nov 22, 1999
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Nov 22 Note-2
Here are the final year-end stats (points, money, etc) at Hartford that I compiled:
----------------------------------------------------------------------- Rnk Team Yr-end |Round | SF & F | Total |Year Year | bonus |Robin | | |end end | $$ |w-l $$ pts | $$ pts |$$ pts |pts $$ | ----------------------------------------------------------------------| #1 Paes/Bhupathi 100K |2-1 40 180 | 50 190 |190 370 |4019 1159686| #2 Lareau/O'Brien 80 |2-1 40 180 |130 460 |250 640 |3007 924104| #3 W'bridge/W'forde 70 |3-0 60 270 | 0 0 |130 270 |2837 671632| #4 E.Ferreira/Leach 60 |1-2 20 90 | | 80 90 |2439 629572| #5 W.Black/Stolle 45 |2-1 40 180 | 0 0 | 85 180 |2275 602538| #6 Adams/DeJager 40 |0-2 0 0 | | 40 0 |2249 533806| #7 Bjorkman/Rafter 0 | | | |2097 504818| #8 Haarhuis/Palmer 35 |1-2 20 90 | | 55 90 |2072 490976| #9 Norval/Ullyett 30 |1-2 20 90 | | 50 90 |1833 442840| #10 Novak/Rikl (Alt.) 14 |0-1 0 0 | | 14 0 |1636 410000| ----------------------------------------------------------------------| $474K $240K $180K $894K | -----------------------------------------------------------------------Lareau/O'Brien jumped over Ferreira/Leach and Woodies to finish #2 .. The top-2 teams took home about half of the Hartford prize money of 900K, actually .. In team earnings for the year, LP-MB are the only team with over a million dollars .. Leander earned $705,035 this year as opposed to $610K last year, and is now at #22 in yearly earning in ATP .. Mahesh is at #30 as of today with $618,004 .. Each have earned an additional $75K or so, from mixed doubles with those grand slam titles - that is not included in ATP earnings .. LP's career earnings are now $2.26 Million, and MB's earnings are $1.61M ..
Nov 22 Note-1
I watched the tape of yesterday's match, and could only think of one thing -- Lareau-O'Brien are crazy to break up now - Olympics or no Olymics next year .. They played a tremendous game .. Flawless is the word .. LP-MB probably did not play at their best, but they weren't just giving the match away either - Lareau/O'Brien earned this win well, and completely outplayed our duo .. That is what happens when a team plays flawless tennis .. They forced LP-MB to play the low percentage angles in their volleys and returns .. Every time when LP or MB thought they had sent a good serve, it was coming screaming back right to their feet .. Volley exchanges were often won by the sure-handed American-Canadian combo .. They never gave an inch, and never let up with any mistakes .. They knew that the Indian Express is a dangerous pair who should not be allowed to ever get anything going, and that was exactly what they made sure of (they won't easily forget that Wimbledon loss after being up two sets on our boys this year).
According to the Hartford Courent, O'Brien said with a smirk, "Actually, we are not really splitting up .. We just said that at the beginning of the tournament ...", and Lareau completed it, ".. so that we could win" .. But it looks like they will be playing with other partners (Lareau with Canadian Daniel Nestor and O'Brien with American Jared Palmer) next year - if they find that they are not doing enough with other partners in the first part of the year, I bet they will be back together again .. At least by the summer north american season, and decide to do the Olympics bit only when it gets close to December and Olympics .. They are way too good together to stay away from each other .. They have done this experiment before too, and it didn't work.
"They served better than us and returned better than us, that was it!" was the succinct comment from Paes .. "All in all, just a bad day .. Unfortunately for us, it happened in the final" said Mahesh .. LP and MB have gone 3-3 in finals this year (wins at Chennai, French O and Wimbledon and losses at Australian, US Open and Hartford) .. The three losses have come to the two teams out there that I consider to be able to take our team to task - Bjorkman/Rafter and Lareau/O'Brien .. But such teams should be there for our pair to strive to get better .. Now they have something to look forward to next year, in addition to Olympics - AO title, USO title, Hartford etc .. Too much of perfect results is not good .. LP-MB now know that they need to do well in all tournaments too .. For the kind of records they are looking for, they need to go back to winning a lot more titles .. This year, their main mission was to get the monkey off their back in going past grand slam semis (boy, did they do that in style, reaching all four finals!) and ending the year #1 .. They have done that .. Now they need to get 5 titles and become #10 all-time in team titles with 20 .. The next 2 years should bring at least 15-20 titles for them to be able to look for even greater heights like 58 titles for #1 all-time .. Lots of goals to still look for .. Sky is the limit and they know it .. Games like yesterday's would build character and reinforce in their minds that nothing will come easy, and they have to work hard all the time .. But the year has proved one thing .. The torch-bearers right now are the Indian Express - accepted (actually earned it) from the Woodies and the Dutchmen, who have both lost to our boys the last time they played .. I know our boys will keep it with them for a while.
I forgot to report the break sequence yesterday - [set1: Lareau broken in game 3; LP broken in game 4 and MB in 6], [set2: MB broken in game 1 and LP in 7], [set1: MB broken in game 5 and LP in 7] .. The first serve percentage for LP-MB was 58% which was not bad - but when the opponents returns are working, it is still trouble .. L/O hit 70% of their first serves, and won 76% of their points but LP-MB won just 51% ! .. LP-MB had only two double faults too, but Lareau/O'Brien had just one .. LP-MB had no aces, and Lareau/OBrien sent down 5 .. Official time for the match - 86 minutes ..
Here is Prajwal Hegde's article in Deccan Herald about yesterday's great semifinal win over the Woodies .. Also a repeat announcement in there that LP and MB will both be coached by Bob Carmichael next year .. (Rico Piperno is Hesh's current coach, and he was at Hartford with him) .. There are some obvious benefits to having one coach for both, and coach "Nails" is a good one .. "Nails" is known as a tough task master .. Hesh reportedly said that he will be focusing a lot more on singles next year, as he realizes that he cannot keep losing time (basically about 2.5 years have gone by since he came up to #217, qualifying into three ATP tournaments in 1997 summer) .. This is the reason why he will most probably skip the next 5-6 weeks and get ready for Chennai in January .. Asia Cup starts this week and LP is confirmed to play (he leaves from Hartford today) .. More later on that.
The qualies are done at the ITF junior grade-5 tournament in Calcutta, starting today -- Jai Arora, Saurav Sukul, Mohammed Ali Salman and Siddharth Sudhakar are the one who made the main draw .. More later on that too.
Oct 21 Note-2
I have set my VCR to start recording the match in a few minutes when the tape-delayed coverage starts, but I doubt if I will ever watch the match .. Here are some numbers I kept track of from atp site's ball-by-ball .. After our guys went up a break in the first set at 2-1, they had won 16 of the first 28 pts .. They proceeded to lose 25 of the next 33 pts and it was clear that this was not a match they were in any shape to win .. S.Lareau-A.OBrien d. Paes-Bhupathi, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in 88 minutes! .. I think MB was broken 4 times and LP 2 times .. O'Brien gave up only 2 points off his serve in 26 points (6 service games) since I started countuing and Lareau wasn't coming close to getting broken either .. The point differential after the first three games of the match was 36 to 75, which shows that it was complete domination ..
LP-MB get 20+20+50 = $90K for the matches at Hartford, plus court-side bonus (around $100K I believe) for finishing the year at #1 .. Good year-end money .. Considering that they went up there stone-cold with no match practice, and that Hesh is unfit enough to be probably skipping even the Indian challengers that come up after a week, I think these two have done well reaching the final .. Have played Lareau-O'Brien before and beaten them soundly many times (5 of 9 times), so a loss to them doesn't prove or disprove anything -- except that Lareau/O'Brien is a tremendous team too .. Anyway, that ends the ATP doubles year! .. Man, what a year it has been!
Nov 21 Note-1
The Hartford final today is between #1 Paes-Bhupathi and #4 S.Lareau - A.O'Brien will be at 2 pm there (11 am PST, usa .. 7 pm London .. 8 pm Paris .. 12.30 am Monday India) .. Come to the chatroom for ball-by-ball.
ESPN Tape-delay coverage in the US starts 2 hours later at 4 pm Hartford time.
Our guys have played these two North American warriors a million times .. LP-MB lead 5-3 in head-to-head meetings over Lareau-O'Brien, the 3rd loss coming in the last meeting at the US Open finals .. For earlier scores between these two, etc, see my preview bit for the last match in the Sep 10 Note-1 in the USO week notes.
Nov 20 Note-3
So, it will be an "I can't wait to see this" final between LP-MB and Lareau-OBrien tomorrow!
Here is my late match report of our guys' semifinal first -- an onsite report from Prashant of the fanclub follows too:
In the first set, our guyswere down a break quickly at 1-3 .. They got the break back in the 5th game and then tied it up at 3-3 .. Woodforde was having all kind of problems in his service .. He made two double faults in the 9th game again and Woodbridge mishit the ball at break point .. The Indians went up 5-4, and Woodbridge threw his racket in disgust .. He collected himself very quickly and made sure that the Indian Express would be broken back immediately, with two incredible returns that LP and MB had no chance on .. MB dropped serve at 15-40 and it was all tied up at 5-5 again .. Woodbridge continued his tremendous returns and volleying and LP was down 0-40 in a hurry facing 3 set pts .. Then the Indians went to the Australian formation (or the "Indian I formation", as the TV commentators called it) with MB kneeling down .. He served three incredible ones in a row and it was deuce .. Then it was Woodbridge volleying that made it another set point at AD out .. LP missed the first serve and the Indian Express may have made a tactical mistake of staying in the I formation on a second serve - Woodbridge was able to return the weaker serve past MB, and it was 5-7, down a set .. Basically Woodbridge's volleying was simply flawless in this set - he was not bothered by the injury at all, and was possibly playing the best tennis among the four. The Woodies basically bulldozed LP-MB in the final three games of this set with 2 breaks.
Then the action was at 0-40 at 2-2 in second set .. Two nice serves from Woodforde made it 30-40, but then Bhupathi came up big (with that "oomph" scream for sound effect) a 5-volley exchange and then a terrific lob that Woodbridge couldn't go back and get. The Indians were up 3-2 .. Then they broke Woodbridge too, with two scorching returns from Bhupathi and a great lob from Paes that fell an inch inside .. Bhupathi was clearly getting hot .. It was 5-2 up for Indians and the set was over at 6-2.
The Woodies seemed to be the one dominating the 3rd set again, with our guys being troubled on their serve with the Woodies holding easily .. We move to 3-4 in 3rd, LP was down 0-30 and came up with an ace to take care of the problems - he held to go 4-4 .. Then in the 11th game, it became evident why Woodies aren't the Woodies of old .. It was all mental there - Woodforde choked on a put-away volley and missed long, Woodbridge who was so strong all through the match put a volley in the net .. The Indians were moving all over at the back and putting pressure on the Woodies .. Confidence is what top tennis is all about! .. The chest-butts started and we were at 6-5 with LP to serve for the match .. But it became evident in the next game that the Woodies were not going to go away that easily .. The tennis in this game was a thing of beauty ! .. LP-MB were down 0-15 and the Woodies were going make our guys earn everything .. Then Woodbridge did something that was astonishing - he just went and stood in the service box - ostensibly to confuse LP ! .. What LP did there said a lot about why he is a winner .. He did not budge an inch and served it right down the middle - sort of like "if you do that to me mate, here, take it!" .. The ball almost graced Woodbridge and fell inside .. The ones who got confused now were the Woodies - a surprised Woodforde behind was jammed and he hit it out .. The chest-butts again .. and the match was over a couple of points later ..
The TV announcers showed a lot of respect to our boys, but also seemed to think that somehow the Woodies experience would force the Indians to choke somewhere .. How that 1-4 record against Woodies would affect them at crucial points, etc .. And it seemed to happen exactly that way at the end of the first set .. But when it counted in the end, it was clear that the Woodies were the ones who lacked that little edge in confidence .. But the legends played a great game -- you could see how they had won those 53 titles together - so much strategy and such great net play .. They are something else .. Today, our boys showed that they are something else too .. We've got to love these two teams ..
The job isn't over for the Indian Express though .. Their 97 Hartford experience will tell them that letting their focus drift after an emotional semifinal will cause disaster the next day .. That time a close three-setter like this against, Lareau - O'Brien was followed by a pedestrian appearance in the final against Leach-Stark .. If they repeat that against their opponents (who else, Lareau/O'Brien) tomorrow, our boys will be dead-meat before they blink .. It will be another classic match tomorrow, I bet!
One to the onsite fanclub member report
on the match - from Prashant Murti who was in attendance along with Catherine
Cook-Holmes, Sudhamsu Rao and Vamsi Chelluri of the fanclub:
Just back from a terrific afternoon of tennis at Hartford. Here is my match report, since I assume most people watched the telecast I've kept it to a few observations .... In the first set, Mahesh had trouble with his serve, particularly he hit a lot to Woodbridge backhand which was sizzling. Woodforde served poorly but LP/MB couldn't capitalize. One interesting thing was that every time Lee's serve was in trouble, they switched to tandem, and it paid off much of the time. Except in the final game where Lee was broken after fighting back from 0-40 (?)
The second set was all us, Woodforde's serve totally seemed to fall apart and although Woodbridge played well, LP/MB dominated. Despite being a few miles/hour slower than the other 3 players, Leander probably came up with the most good serves.
The third set was dominated by the Woodies till game 11. Woodforde seemed to totally switch on and played lots of terrific points. LP/MB were in trouble every service game while Woodies won theirs with ease. Nail biting stuff. One moment stands out in my mind though - after the break in game 11, Lee serving for the match, its 30-30 and they come with a terrific point to get to match point - suddenly what had been a subdued match by their standards erupted with lots of fist pumping and vintage chest-butts! .. They're clearly pumped and raring to go .... One weird piece of gamesmanship, also in game 12 - Woodforde actually stood in the service box while LP was serving to Woodbridge. LP hit a good serve down the middle and MW just got out of the way - never seen that before, I don't know if he was trying to get in LP's head but it back-fired.
Watched the first 2 sets of the other semi-final. Lareau plays some points extremely well - his reflexes are astonishing. But he also missed some fairly regulation volleys. Both SL and AO hit the ball much harder than the Woodies and seem much more consistent with their serves ..
Thanks Prashant for the nice report .. They even took a big board with "tennisindia.org" inside and were captured on the big screen there ! ..
Nov 20 Note-2
Sorry for the very late update on an all-time classic match by the Indian Express .. I was out during the time when the actual match was on .. but finished watching the 3-hor tape-delayed ESPN coverage, just now .. Boy, am I happy that I did not check the score before starting to watch this game .. It was an incredible three-setter that LP-MB pulled out .. Paes-Bhupathi d. Woodbridge/ Woodforde, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 .. I have to run again, so I will give a match report after a few hours .. Hartford final again !! Black-Stolle vs Lareau/OBrien are tied at 3-6, 7-6(4), 2-2 in the second semifinal as I type .. So, it is not known yet whom our boys will play tomorrow .. I am a happy man .. Will be back a few hours later with much, much more .. Sorry that I am having a busy day ..
Nov 20 Note-1
Today's semifinal, Paes-Bhupathi vs Woodies is at 2.30 pm eastern time (11.30 am PST .. 1 am Sunday India .. 7.30 pm London) .. We will be in the chatroom, as usual .. In the US, the match will be televised by ESPN, tape-dlayed by 2 hours, starting at 4.30 pm Hartford time.
This is the 6th meeting between these two teams -- LP-MB lost to them in three sets at the Olympics in 96, then a straight sets loss to them on grass at Queens in May 97, just when LP-MB started playing at world-class level (who has ever won against the legends on grass those days?) .. Then LP-MB lost what was then their biggest heartbreak loss, after leading by a set and a break, at the 97 Cincinnatti QF to fall 0-3 against the Woodies .. They did not play each other for over a year before LP-MB finally getting the monkey off their back with a three-set Shanghai final win in 98 October .. That was followed by a loss in the final next week at Singapore in straight-sets .. Once again these two have not played each other for over a year -- a lot changed in that time, the Woodies going into a tail spin (by their standards) losing 5 finals in a row .. and they have not won a grand slam since 97 Wimbledon .. The Woodies seemed to have put everything behind this time at Hartford (where they are seeking their 3rd doubles championship title - they won the masters title in 92 and 96) .. Reports have been about how good they have looked .. Misfortune may have hit them with Wooldbridge's injury at match point .. I feel bad for the legends .. Let us hope they will be in good playing shape today and LP-MB can find a way to beat them still.
Here is some news on the Asia Cup starting in Delhi next week, from the Indian Express -- yeah, Mahesh may have to give it a miss (along with the 2 weeks of challengers that follow) due to injuries - which we know have not fully healed yet, despite him being in OK shape at Hartford .. I am told that a very strict recurperation and training plan has been set up for a few weeks for him to get ready by January for the next year .. It is needed and he may be better off that way in the long run .. Though he has had extended breaks during this year, he has always had to return just before he can even start practising, because of a grand slam or Hartford .. That is not enough. He needs a few *healthy* weeks of off-time - not offtime when he is recuperating .. That is possible only if he takes time off next three weeks and then gets to a training and practice plan in a healthy state by mid December getting ready for Chennai on Jan 3rd .. Leander is expected at Asia Cup.
Here are the teams: India: Jaidip Mukherjea (capt.), Paes, Bhupathi, Srinath, Fazal .. Sandeep Kirtane (reserve). India A: Shyam Minotra (capt.), Sunil Kumar, Mustafa Ghouse, Vishaal Uppal, Vijay Kannan; Vinod Sridhar (reserve).
One important comment on seeing 16 yr old Sunil Kumar in the India A team .. Frankly, it is distressing .. Next week we have the Calcutta ITF juniors event .. He should be playing there, not being asked to "lead India A" as the above article said .. Have people gone totally nuts ? -- have we decided that we will rush this kid into all kinds of things and ruin him, already ? .. Weren't the losses in the satellites with wildcards enough to see that the kid has to take baby-steps still ? .. When will people realize that nobody becomes top-class players just because we all kid ourselves into believeing that he may be our next savior ? .. cannot "will" someone into a top player, in other words .. There is no substitute for playing experience .. Sunil undoubtedly has tremendous talent, but he has not played enough at the lower levels to slowly build up his experience positively with wins (not demoralizing losses) .. What the heck in going on ? .. Sunil has played ONE official ITF junior tournament so far, and we are asking him to go up against the Uzbeks, Koreans and Thais of the world ? .. What, pray tell, is the point - especially coming as it does right after the satellites ? .. Does anybody think he can just start beating up people ? .. Now, if we had no choice and we have nobody else to play (pretty much the case when LP at 17 and 18 had to take the lead in our Davis Cup team), then it's one thing .. But what is being done with Sunil Kumar is lunacy .. Buy the kid a train ticket to Calcutta and let him play at the ITF juniors and get 40 points to come up in the rankings -- and get nicely seeded in the junior events in early next year in India- SriLanka- Bangladesh .. Next thing I know we will be seeing him get main-draw wildcards into all the challengers .. Don't we learn anything ? .. Shouldn't we just have Sandeep leading the second team with Mustafa, Vishal and Vijay ? .. The only thing I can think of, that could benefit Sunil Kumar next week is that he will get to meet LP, MB, etc., perhaps hit a few balls and get some encouragement .. That can always be done later -- he shouldn't be missing one of only three ITF junior events we hold each year .. Already he has missed one of the two in Delhi and Chandigarh earlier in the year, I believe (though he won the title at the one he played!) .. Looks like he will miss the ITF international in Dhaka that follows the week after next also .. I am not one of those who think he will just start doing miracles right now .. I will not make judgments on people till *enough* results are in .. Need to see him in ITF juniors first .. Then we will think about what he can do in the bigger events - may be 2 to 3 tyears from now .. Let the kid go off the limelight with his coach to Chandigarh, Chennai or Bangalore and practice, and play .. Keep the cameras and microphones away and let us stop talking about him for the next 2-3 years .. Please ?? !! .. I am mad - I don't know much tennis, but I have noticed some tennis history, and what is going on is a repitition of mistakes - once again.
Nov 20 Note-1
Here is the article in today's Hartford Courant writing about that marathon three-setter last night .. Oh boy .. Our guys had two match points off WB-SS' serve at 4-5 in the second set, and were about to put Ferreira/Leach in the semis, before Black/Stolle started their fight-back .. Sounds like it was an exciting match .. As for our boys, I am told that they were getting a bit worn out by the 3rd set and decided not to aggravate any injuries or anything - after all it didn't matter whether they finished 1st or 2nd, as they would be a playing a tough team today anyway .. Whether it is Woodies, or Lareau/OBrien .. As it turns out, it looks like the Woodies are banged up a bit too .. Woodbridge badly sprained his ankle at match point today, and was down for a few minutes [they couldn't have continued, and actually if Rikl had made a volley on that point where Woodbridge went down, the Woodies would have had to default the match!] .. They say he will be playing today, but with heavy bandage .. Let us wait and see what transpires.
Nov 19 Note-4
This was a strange match -- and things did not go our guys' way .. Paes-Bhupathi lost to W.Black-S.Stolle, 7-6(5), 5-7, 2-6 .. Since the ATP site's live updates got stuck during the first set and we had to rely on phone calls to the press box during the match, no details available yet on the match .. What we know is that it was 7-6(5), 5-5 in the second set and then LP-MB proceeded to lose 8 of the next 10 games with 3 breaks in 5 service games .. That does not sound good, and it's very unusual for our guys to lose like that .. Will find out what's up .. The match took 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete, and that's also not good when you have to play again tomorrow afternoon.
As for the standing, I may have been a bit off in my notes earlier today - the rules actually say that if two teams are tied, then the standings will be determined by head-to-head first .. So, the match score did not matter and our guys *had to* beat Black/Stolle to top the group (as of now both are 2-1 but they have beaten our guys) .. LP-MB only needed to win one set to make sure of reaching the semi though, as I said ealrier.
Really, it doesn't mater where they finished - #1 or #2 .. Woodies or whover wins the night match today between Lareau/OBrien and Haarhuis/Palmer, would be tough opponents anyway tomorrow .. As it stands, our opponents are determined, the #1 team from the green group - LP-MB vs Woodies in the semis tomorrow .. What I hear from the press box is that this may be the first match starting at 2.30 pm tomorrow (saturday) afternoon .. That is 11.30 am PST, 1am Sunday India .. The first match will be covered by ESPN in the US (perhaps second semi too), but it will be tape-delayed by 2hours I believe .. Those timings are almost confirmed, as of now..
I heard some more distressing news today - Nirupama who was to proceed to the Asutralian challengers from Thailand, came down this week with some sort of infection and the doctors have advised her to strictly take rest for the next 2-3 weeks .. So she will be going to India .. Let's hope she gets better fast and will be able to play at the Delhi challenger in 3 weeks .. Gosh -- not a good news day for me today.
Hopefully LP-MB can regroup and kick some Aussie behinds tomorrow :-)
Nov 19 Note-3
LP-MB's match against W.Black/ S.Stolle today (Friday) is at 7 pm Hartford time .. That is 4 am PST usa, 5.30 am (Fri.) India, 12 midnight London .. As usual, the chatroom will be open with ball-by-ball.
LP-MB have made the semifinals, now that Ferreira/Leach have lost the first set .. Actually, they have just lost 3-6 3-6 to PN-KU and have certainly dropped out of the running .. With that nice heroics and upset, the first-time rookies, Norval-Ullyett have kept their hopes alive! .. If LP-MB beat Black/Stolle at night in straight sets (well enough), PN-KU could suddenly come up to #2 spot and reach the semifinal (EF-RL, WB-SS and PN-KU will all have 1-2 records and 2-4 set records -- PN-KU lead EF-RL in games stat as of now) .. I hope LP-MB would do the South Africans a favor and not take their 3rd match lightly .. They do have the placement in the group as incentive .. If WB-SS win, they could become #1 above LP-MB, depending on the score .. In the Gold group today, Adams/DeJager withdrew (I guess due to injury, but also because they were already out of the running) and the Woodies beat the alternates Novak/Rikl in easy straight sets.
Nov 19 Note-2
Just got the closed entry list for the $25K New Delhi women's challenger today from AITA .. Not a bad entry list with Thailand's Tamarine "Tammi" Tanasugarn (#68) leading the pack .. The second in the list is defending champion Amanda Hopmans of Netherlands who is #80 (she was #160 when she played last year's $75K Delhi challenger) .. Nirupama is currently at #9, but in all probablity will be a seed, once some withdrawals occur .. Manisha Malhotra made it in as the 21st in the list of 25 when the entries closed .. Sai Jayalakshmi is #16 in the qualifier draw as of now, but based on last year's experience, most of the players in the qualifier entry list will not show up - expect all Indian women, and perhaps even some sign-in players to be able to make the qualies .. There is an outside chance for Sai to make it in as a direct entry in the draw itself in the end .. In any event, the India #3 will be in the main draw at least as a wildcard .. Probably same with #4 Rushmi chakravarti too .. Check out the list at the women's challenger page.
Nov 19 Note-1
I have added the standings in both groups in the note below .. As of now, the only thing already settled is that the Woodies are through to the semifinal, as the current second and 3rd place teams in their group are playing today .. Though the standings look similar in the Gold group, LP-MB are not through yet, as the matches today are between 1-vs-3 and 2-vs-4 .. If the Indian express wins a set today, they will have at least a 5-2 record in sets which will put them in the SF because the best the EF-RL and WB-SS can do would be 4-2 in sets (higher "percentage of sets won" will put our guys in SF) .. The Indian Express can miss out on the semis only with a straight sets loss to WB-SS and a straight sets win by Ferreira/Leach over Norval/ Ullyett .. That would leave LP-MB, EF-RL and WB-SS all with 2-1 record and 4-2 set scores .. Then the "percentage of games won" stat comes into play .. Let us look at that three-way tie scenario .. Since EF-RL is already +5 in the games stat, and will be at least +7 after the win, they will go to SF for sure .. If our guys lose 4-6 4-6, then WB-SS will be 30-27 in games with LP-MB at 33-31 and WB-SS will advance (it's a similar case for a 46 57 loss or a 67 36 loss) .. A 67 46 loss would however put LP-MB in the SF, as that means 35-32 for our guys and 31-29 for WB-SS ..
So, the bottom line is this - if Ferreira/Leach loses even a set in the afternoon match, then our guys can afford to lose today's night match .. If they win in straight sets, our guys need to win at least one set .. If they must lose both sets (:-)) they should take at least one of the lost sets to a tiebreaker and still make sure that they do not fall more than -2 in the next set [note: LP-MB should make sure of this even if Ferreira/Leach loses a set, to be in the #1 place going into the semis, if they want the #2 team from green group there] .. All clear ? :-)
LP-MB have not faced Wayne Black (ZIM) and Sandon Stolle (AUS) this year .. After starting the year with a title at Dubai, those two got red-hot in the two back to-back super 9s at Indian Wells and Key Biscayne, where they won the titles beating Ferreira/Leach and Becker/Gambill in the finals .. After that they have not reached any finals, though they have had a lot of decent results with many SFs and QFs .. They lost to Woodies in the AO 3rd round, to Prinosil/Vacek at the FO 3rd round, to Delaitre/Santoro in the Wimbledon QF and to Olhovskiy/Prinosil in the US Open QF .. The Indian Express faced tall (6'4") Sandon Stolle a few times last year in the company of Cyril Suk of Czech Rep .. Lost to them in the USO semi, beat them at the Paris Super 9, but lost again to them in the injury-plagued "miserable haze" that the last Hartford tourney was .. Sandon has been ranked as high as #3 this year in doubles, but is down to #9 now .. Hesh has had a chance to scout Black/Stolle just last week though, when he and Tamacchi lost to WB-SS in the QF .. All kinds of revenge angles to this match .. Go after them, champs!
Nov 18 Note-3
Now our guys have a good chance to go through to the semifinals, though it is far from a done deal .. LP-MB did do their job today, with their second win .. Paes-Bhupathi d. E.Ferreira - R.Leach, 6-4, 6-4 .. This was not a one-sided match at all, despite the straight sets win .. LP-MB started well .. The first set break came in the 5th game, and then it was a matter of holding on .. The match stats went very even throughout the match .. LP-MB got the next break at the first chance at 30-40 in game 3 of the second set .. LP had three double faults and faced a break attempt in game 8 but held after 2 dueces to go up 5-3 .. In the next game, EF-RL faced two match points at 15-40, but won 4 pts in a row to hold .. MB served out the final game with no hiccups, though .. The match took an hour and 9 minutes .. LP-MB had a first serve percentage of 59 (38 of 64), which is good .. They won 64 points to 58 by EF-RL, showing that the match was rather close.
In other scores today, W.Black/ S.Stolle d. P.Norval/ K.Ullyett 76(5) 61 in the gold group .. In the green group, the Woodies d. S.Lareau/ A.OBrien 76(3) 64 and P.Haarhuis/ J.Palmer d. D.Adams/ J-L.DeJager 64 75 .. The standings in the two groups are:
GOLD Match Sets Games GREEN Match Sets Games LP-MB 2-0 4-0 25-17 TW-MW 2-0 4-0 25-16 EF-RL 1-1 2-2 22-17 SL-AO 1-1 2-2 23-21 WB-SS 1-1 2-2 18-19 PH-JP 1-1 2-2 19-21 PN-KU 0-2 0-4 16-26 DA-JD 0-2 0-4 17-26As we can see, if EF-RL beat PN-KU and LP-MB lose to WB-SS tomorrow, there will be three teams with 2-1 records, and "sets won" would be the tiebreaker .. If there is still a tie, "games won" would be the tiebreaker .. Basically, absolutely nothing has been decided, and our guys better go out to win tomorrow also - if there were some tiebreaker advantages so far, I would have felt better .. Since all the matches have been straight sets for everyone so far, and also as our guys have not won any set by more than 2 games, no such tiebreaker advantages so far .. They may just have to play well tomorrow too!
Mahesh is writing a column in the Times of India - here it is: "We got better as the match wore on.." .. It seems they asked for a Hindi movie song to be played when they walked out on court yesterday! .. .. Here is Prajwal Hegde's article from Hartford, on the first match for LP-MB, and here is another from her, with some comments on the Indian Express by some doubles veterans.
Nov 18 Note-2
At the ITF grade-5 junior international at Lahore yesterday, 2nd seeded Sania Mirza from Hyderabad (India) lost to Pakistan's Nida Waseem, the top seed, in the singles final, 1-6, 4-6 .. Sania and Nida were partners in doubles and won the doubles title earlier .. 4th seeded Harshit Sharma pulled an upset over the 3rd seeded Shahzaib Khan Niazi (Pak) 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4), after saving two match points, to move into the final! .. He will go up against 2nd seed Malasitt Pramote (Thailand) who upset the top seed Ahmad Wahla (Pak) in 3 sets too .. Harshit and Malasitt were also in the doubles final - Top seeded Wahla and Niazi beat 2nd seeded Malasitt/Harshit, 6-3, 7-6(2) .. Only two Indians went to Pakistan, and they ended up in all four finals! .. The boys' singles final is today .. The funny story is that Pakistan Tennis Federation had to ask ITF's special permission to grant 30 ITF junior points to the girls' winner, as there was only an 8 player draw (I believe they got the permission) .. Basically, it appears that there were only 6 players (4 guys and 2 girls - the same names above) of any international quality out there, it appears .. Sania will pick up 20 points to move up in rankings .. I have not found any news from Kuala Lumpur grade-4 ITF junior event, where some Indian kids may have gone this week.
Nov 18 Note-1
At Hartford, the Wednesday scores were: [Gold Group] Bhupathi/Paes d. Norval/Ullyett 76(1) 63 .. E.Ferreira/Leach d. W.Black/Stolle 63 62 .. [Green Group] Lareau/O'Brien d. Adams/de Jager 62 76(5) .. Woodbridge/Woodforde d. Haarhuis/Palmer 64 62 .. Thursday's matches are: [1 pm] W.Black/Stolle vs Norval/Ullyett, then Adams/de Jager vs Haarhuis/Palmer .. [7pm] Lareau/O'Brien vs Woodbridge/Woodforde, then Bhupathi/Paes vs E.Ferreira/Leach.
So our guys will be playing the all-lefty combination, #3 seeds Ellis Ferreira (RSA) and Rick Leach (USA) .. The match will be at about 9 pm there (6 pm PST, usa .. Friday 7.30 am in India .. 2 am London) .. There will be ball-by-ball and chat at the chatroom as usual .. As for the opponents, LP-MB beat them this year in the SF at AO (76 63 76), lost to them in the SF of the Indian Wells Super 9 (36 26), but beat them again in the QF at FO (75 62) .. Last year they beat EF/RL at the Rome Super 9 Final (64 46 76) and lost to them at the SF of the Toronto Super 9 (67 36) .. So, it is a 3-2 record in our guys' favor against those two doubles experts .. If you count the 1997 Hartford final which our guys lost to Leach and Stark, it is a dead even 3-3 against Rick Leach, whom Bhupathi picked as the one he would most like to play with, other than Leander, in a 1998 ATP questionnaire (Hesh had said then "lots to learn from the doubles legend") .. Also, Ferreira/Leach are one of the five teams (Eagle/ Florent at Dubai, Bjorkman/ Rafter at the AO final, Arthurs/ Kratzmann at Queens and Lareau/ OBrien in the USO final being the other four) who beat our guys fair and square in a match this year when LP and MB were playing without injury or other health problems .. I saw the match at Indian Wells when LP-MB lost to them - Mahesh's first serves were badly missing and Leander's forehand was spraying .. If any such problems crop up today (both LP and MB had bad first serve stats yesterday, though they did much better by the end of the match), our champs could end up with a loss .. Those two veterans know every trick in the book, and if you give them an inch, they will gladly take it .. Ferreira-Leach had their best result this year at the Rome Super 9 where they won the title on clay.
Here is a link to an interesting article this Sunday in the Hartford Courant: Paes, Bhupathi Learn To Get Along At No. 1 .. Some nice quotes from both Hesh and Lee .. I liked Leander's final line about "doing some damage to the history books" .. A couple more links from there - At 34, Leach Isn't The Retiring Kind Yet (his wife asks him to continue playing, it seems! .. now that is something new :-)) .. Dutchman Still Flying High (on Haarhuis) .. Prevail In Opener With Eyes On Future (On the Woodies), and finally Farewell Tournament For Hartford (yes, the next year's ATP doubles championship will be at Lisbon, Portugal -- How come nobody from India had the foresight to make some money bringing this event to say Calcutta or Mumbai ? -- If I am not mistaken, only a smaller portion of the $900K prize money is guaranteed by Hartford and Phoenix Insurance - the rest is ATP's own money .. I guess ATP wanted it to be done along with the singles championships anyway, though)
Nov 17 Note-3
Back in the saddle again -- Paes-Bhupathi d. P.Norval-K.Ullyett, 7-6(1), 6-3 today in the round robin at Hartford .. The first game from PN-KU went quite long, after LP-MB went up 15-40 .. Our guys wasted 4 break cahnces, and after 4 deuces, PN-KU held serve .. Both LP and MB were having trouble getting their first serves in, as they started 3 of 11 in that category, but they were winning second serve points, and did not run into any trouble. Then the Indian Express got their break in the 7th game, converting the first chance ther at 15-40 .. The problem with first serv percentage didn't seem to improve much. Then in the 10th game, MB was in trouble at 0-30 .. He served his 3rd ace, but also had 2 doublefaults there to get broken at 5-5 .. Then it was going to a tiebreak .. It was time for our champs to put it into overdrive, and they did .. Went up 4-0 with 2 minibreaks in the tiebreaker .. The set was over at 76(1) .. MB held serve easily in the second set, and they broke PN-KU at love in the next game .. By the time LP finished serving the next game for a 3-0 lead, the indian Express had won 19 of the previous 22 points!! .. The match was basically over right there .. In game 6, our guys had 2 break chances at AD out, but couldn't force a second break .. Then MB served for the match at 5-3 and was in a spot of bother, facing 2 break attempts at ADs out, but he held on, and the match was over. LP-MB did not seem to be having a great day, especially on service .. The first serve percentage improved from a very poor 11 of 29 (36%) at the end of the first set to a respectable 33 of 62 by the end, though .. Our guys won 73 points to the opponents 60 .. Basically that 19-3 spurt in points starting from the tiebreaker, was the difference in the match .. It is nice to know that despite all the rustiness, the Indian Express was able to raise their game when needed -- it is a great sign ..
In earlier matches, Lareau/O'Brien d. Adams/Dejager, 62 76(5), and Ferreira/Leach d. Black/Stolle, 6-3 6-2 .. So, on the basis of games won, Ferreira/Leach now leads the Gold group, over LP-MB .. The Woodies have just started their match against Haarhuis-Palmer, as I type.
Good news from Vietnam .. Fazal has won two rounds and reached the quarterfinal of the $10K futures there .. No further info on match scores, or whom he plays next .. Also, Sai Jayalakshmi was at the qualifiers for the Mount Gambier challenger in Australia .. It was a 4 round qualifier with 64 players - Sai won one round and then lost in the second round, both facing top-500 players.
Nov 17 Note-2
Surprise, surprise ! .. ATP is giving live ball-by-ball updates from Hartford, for the first time .. Thank you, Lord !! .. In typrical ATP fashion, they really didn't indicate clearly that they would be doing this, at their website .. They are doing ball-by-ball for the first match that just got underway there .. Anyway, that means, for a change, we will know the match progress ball by ball during our chat sessions (and the fan club people won't have to spend money calling the press box for updates!) .. Come on into our chatroom by 7 pm EST today for our match.
Nov 17 Note-1
The first match for our champs at Hartford is at 7 pm tonight .. Let us get together at our chatroom to follow the match at 7 pm (4 pm PST, USA .. 5.30 am Thursday, India .. 1 am Paris .. 12 midnight UK) .. We will have some score updates there .. No live updates from Hartford by ATP or the tournament site, so we are on our own.
So, the first match is against Norval/Ullyett, a team LP-MB have not lost to in the past - but it's also a team that is hot right now, having won their second title of the year just last Sunday at Stockholm .. They lost to Kuerten-Lapentti in the R1 at the Aust. Open, then lost to LP-MB 57 63 46 at the French Open R3, lost to Woodies at Wimbledon R3 in 4 sets, and again to LP-MB at the US Open R1 .. They also lost to Paes-Palmer at the Montreal Super 9 .. They have strangely had bad results in the bigger tounrments, with 5 first round exits at Super 9s (to Moya/safin at Lipton, to Knowles/Nestor at Rome, to Knowles/Nestor at Cincinnatti, Florent/MacPherson at Stuttgart, Knowles/Nestor at Paris) and 3 second round exits (to NOvak/Rikl at Monte Carlo, Paes/Palmer at Montreal, Delaitre/Santoro at Hamburg) in the 8 Super 9s they played (they did not play Indian Wells, but Ullyett lost played with W.Ferreira and lost in the second round, to who else - LP-MB) .. They have had excellent results on carpet lately this year though .. At Basel in October, when they beat Adams/DeJager, Novak/Rikl and Florent/MacPherson on the way to the final .. Then they won the Lyon event on carpet, beating W.Ferreira and Sandon Stolle in the final next week .. They lost in the first round in the following two weeks at the Stuttgart and Paris Super 9s to Florent/MacPherson and Knowles/Nestor in close matches (57 67 and 62 26 57) .. Then they won their second title at Stockholm last week, beating Black/Stolle on the way .. In other words, they are a really hot team right now .. I was rather happy to see them as the first opponent for LP-MB at Hartford, but that initial reaction was not correct .. The way Norval/Ullyett have played in the last 5 weeks on carpet, they may give all kinds of trouble to the Indian Express playing their first carpet match together this year.
I think Prajwal Hegde of Deccan Herald is the Indian correspondent at Hartford this year .. Prajwal's article today says that Paes is in good physical shape after all the orlando training .. Bhupathi also is in good shape - still bothered a bit with the earlier injuries, but not bad enough to affect their playing, they believe ..
Some more good news about the Goldflake Open in January .. Young and talented Marat Safin (#25 now) has entered the tournament, as the 4th top-25 player there (alonmg with Kafelnikov, Pioline and Moya) .. Great.
By the way, a tidbit item (thank Raghu Ramachandran of the fanclub for reminding me to mention this) - 14 year old Sunitha Rao of Florida (USA) is among the latest young "phenoms" in the US .. She beat a whole bunch of much older players and won the Van Der Meer ITF junior international last week (actually she won the final over 18 yr old Kelly Simkin of Britain, a top-300 player, 6-2, 6-0 !!) .. The girl turned 14 only 3 weeks back, and has already reached ITF world junior ranking of #132 .. Sunitha and Nicole Pitts of the USA (5 months younger than Sunitha) are the youngest two players in the ITF world junior top-150 !! .. At the age of 13, she had already won three titles this year, before the Van der Meer event .. That is 4 titles in the 5 ITF junior events Sunitha has played this year .. She had won two grade-5 events in Canada and one in Costa Rica - actually she beat 123 ranked Ashley Harkelrod, the other 14 year American girl in the top-150, in the Costa Rica final, 6-3 6-2 too .. Holy mother, is all I can say! .. I think it's fair to call her a "phenom" right now .. Keep that name in mind, folks ..
Nov 16 Note-2
Just got the draw from the Hartford tournament office -- and it's about as close to a "dream draw" as it can get for the Indian Express .. They have the 3rd, 6th and 8th seeds in their group (the "Gold Group"), and they get their first match against the 8th seed .. LP-MB have #3 Ferreira/Leach, #6 Black/Stolle, and #8 Norval/Ullyett in their group .. Their first match tomorrow will be against the Norval/Ullyett, at 7 pm .. The "Green group" has #2 Woodies, #4 Lareau/O'Brien, #5 Adams/DeJager and #7 Haarhuis/Palmer .. The other matches for tomorrow are: L/O vs A/D at 1 pm, F/L vs B/S following that, and W/W vs H/P following the Indian Express match .. More later.
Nov 16 Note-1
We should know about the Hartford draw later today (the draw is at 12 noon there -- will try to get the info as soon as possible, after that).
To my surprise, a couple of Indian kids have gone to Lahore, Pakistan, for the grade-5 ITF junior international (Clay), which started on Sunday, according to The Dawn, Karachi .. 14 yr old Sania Mirza of Hyderabad (#2 in AITA u-14 rankings and #4 in u-16) is the second seed behind Pakistan's Nida Waseem .. Only eight players are in the girls draw, and Sania is already in the semis after beating Bilquees Ajam of Pakistan 60 60 .. Don't be surprised - the top three seeds won their QF matches with 60 60 double bagels ! .. Man, this must be the worst draw ever in ITF junior international history :-) .. Sania and Wijeratne Sanduni of Australia are the only foreign players .. Sania is playing with Nida Waseem in doubles, and is already in the final too - the same eight players played as four teams, which meant the first round itself was the semifinal! .. By the way, 17 yr old Nida Waseem is ranked around 150 in world juniors and is a very good player .. Nida was in the group of 3 kids that the Pakistan Tennis Federation sent across the border to the Indian ITF junior events earlier in the year - she lost in R1 to Sheetal at Delhi but then reached the final at Chandigarh beating Sheetal before losing to Radhika Tulpule in three sets .. On the boys' side, again there are only two foreigners - Harshit Sharma, seeded 3rd and Pramote Malasitt (Thailand), seeded 4th .. Harshit is 9th in AITA under-16 ranking .. They had a few more Pakistani kids show up on the boys's side, and had 24-draw .. 16 yr old Harshit is ranked about 950, and is playing only his second ITF junior international .. He had a first round bye and then won his pre quarterfinal yesterday, 61 60, over Hashim Zaman (Pak) .. In doubles, Harshit and Malasitt are seeded 2nd with a bye to the QF and are in the semis after a 62 62 win over Saif Noor and Ashiq Rasool of Pakistan .. The top seed is talented Ahmad Wahla, ranked around 200 in ITF juniors, who was also in the PLTA team to India this February .. If I am not mistaken, this is only the first or second junior international for both Sania and Harshit, and they may pick up some very nice points for taking the "bus-ride" to Lahore, where even the Pakistanis seem to be scared to go (or so it seems!) .. Once again, fortune favors the brave, right ? :-) .. But, it is a good sign that Indian kids (and parents) are showing the hunger to go out and play .. You know my 2-cents bit -- "play, play more, play anybody, and play to win always" ..
Nov 15 Note-3
Fazal is at the $10K Vietnam F1 futures this week in Ho Chi Minh City .. He is seeded 5th there, and plays unranked wildcard, Nick Greenhouse of Britain, who is a junior player ranked #116 in the ITF junior ranking (no idea how he got that wildcard - perhaps some arrangement with some junior tournament he won) .. Good draw for Fazal .. If he wins he goes up against qualifier Bob Borella or wildcard Duc-Quynh Tran in the second round .. There are some good players at this futures .. 18 yr old Danai Udomchoke of Thailand is the 3rd seed and 19 yr old Aisam Qureshi of Pakistan is the 6th seed .. By the way, Danai and Aisam were in the final of the Thailand futures this Sunday and Danai won it .. I am rather surprised that the diminutive Danai has come up this high (he is #325) this fast .. He was in the Indian satellites last November and did well - though I remember Harsh Mankad beating him in the masters leg .. Paradorn and Danai will be a nice one-two punch in that Thai Davis Cup team for the next few years.
Nov 15 Note-2
This is the Hartford week .. The eight teams making the ATP doubles championships at the Hartford Civil center (wednesday through sunday) are all decided .. Here they are:
1. Mahesh Bhupathi (IND)/ Leander Paes (IND) [3650 pts]
2. Todd Woodbridge (AUS)/ Mark Woodforde (AUS) 
3. Ellis Ferreira (RSA)/ Rick Leach (USA) 
4. Sebastien Lareau (CAN)/ Alex O'Brien (USA) 
5. David Adams (RSA)/ John-Laffnie De Jager (RSA) 
6. Wayne Black (ZIM)/ Sandon Stolle (AUS) 
7. Paul Haarhuis (NED)/ Jared Palmer (USA) 
8. Piet Norval (RSA)/ Kevin Ulyett (RSA)  ..
[Bjorkman/Rafter are the #6 team right now, but aren't playing at Hartford due to Rafter's injury] ..
Format at Hartford: It's same as in the previous years .. The top 2 teams are placed in two round robin groups of 4 teams .. Then a draw is done between #3 and #4 to place them into either group, followed a by a draw between #5 and #6 and then #7 and #8 .. The draw will be done tomorrow (Tuesday) .. Then each team plays the other three teams in their group - one match each over three days, starting this wednesday .. The semifinal follows on Saturday between the #1 in each group with the #2 of the other group, based on the round robin win-loss record (ties will be broken based on sets won, followed by games won) ..
The points from Hartford wins are used only to determine year-end team rankings - the points do NOT go into the 52 week individual ranking point list .. There are some good prize money incentives to win and pick up points at Hartford though, as there are "courtside bonus" money which depends on the year-end team ranking .. This is in addition to the prize money for each win at Hartford .. The points are determined as follows - 90 pts each for each round robin win ($19.5K prize money for the winning pair to share - no money for the losing team), 180 pts for a semifinal win ($40K money for winner) and 270 points for the final win ($70K for the winner) .. The maximum points any team can gain is 720 .. The maximum money for wins is $168,500 (that is, 3*19.5 + 40 + 70) .. The courtside bonus for the year-end #1 team was $90K, and for #2 it was $70K .. I believe the prize money amounts have not changed this year .. Last year, Eltingh/Haarhuis won all three round robin matches and went on to win the title and end the year as #1, taking home $258,500.
Nov 15 Note-1
The events of interest to us this week are the Hartford doubles championship, the Vietnam futures (I believe Fazal was supposed to make a trip there), a junior grade-5 ITF international in Pakistan (not sure if any Indian kids would have gone there, considering the current political situation), a grade-4 ITF junior international in Malaysia and the AITA subjunior (u14/u16) ranking event in Pune .. There was an AITA subjunior ranking event last week in Mumbai too, but I have not seen the results yet.
The new ATP singles rankings are out, and Fazaluddin Syed, with the points from the just-concluded satellites has reached a career-high top-400 ranking at #396 !! .. Srinath is at #321 .. LP is at #200 and MB is at #296 .. Though he did not play at these satellites and lost a few points from last year's satellites, Harsh Mankad stays at #5 in India at #662, followed by Vinod Sridhar, Sandeep Kirtane and Vishal Uppal .. I find that ATP has given 1 point to Sunil Kumar even though he did not make the masters draw .. Those who made the playoff for the masters leg after three regular legs received 1 point each .. 16 yr old Sunil has entered the ranking at #1301 .. 17 yr old AV Rao is the other new entrant in the rank list from India, and he is at #1161 with 3 pts .. Rohan Bopanna made the biggest jump, of over 300 spots to #905 ..
By the way, 20 year old Kamil Patel of Mauritius won the Swiss satellites that ended last week, and will now reach a career high top-400 ranking - this guy was in the 900s just about 3-4 months back .. I know nothing about him, except that he has Patel as the last name :-)
According to the Telegraph, Calcutta, the grasscourt nationals will be held at the CFCC courts in Calcutta starting March 6th nect year .. I had heard earlier that AITA might try to find a February date for the nationals ..
.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Nov 15 ..