Notes for week ending on Nov 24, 1997
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Nov 24 Note-3
Here are some scores from Mumbai today (The only Indian to play today was Vasudev Reddy, and it's the same story of inconsistency, yet again, for Vasu..) :
1 Leander Paes (India) vs. David Nainkin \ Sandeep Kirtane vs. Goichi Motomura / 8 Daniele Musa (Italy) vs. Nitin Kirtane Vladimir Vitchkov vs. ??? 3 Andrei Merinov (Russia) vs. Martin Lee \ Mahesh Bhupathi vs. Luke Milligan / 5 Orlin Stanoytchev (Bulgaria) vs. Stoliarov Martin Hromec (Slovakia) d. Vasudev Reddy 6-4, 6-2 4 Eyal Erlich (Israel) vs. Harsh Mankad 6 Frederic Fontang (Fra) d. Vadim Kutsenko (Uzb) 6-1, 7-5 7 Eyal Ran (Israel) d. Jamie Delgado (GBR) 6-1, 6-1 2 Oleg Ogorodov (Uzb) d. Falenti Rainer (Aut) 7-6 (8-6), 6-4 Emanuel Couto (Por) d. Herbert Wiltsching (Aut) 6-2, 6-0 Julien Chauvin (Fra) d. Dimitri Tomashevic (Uzb) 6-2, 4-6, 6-2
Nov 24 Note-2
Haven't seen a full draw for the Mumbai Challenger yet. There was a small mistake in the earlier news.. The Hindu and Deccan Herald say Harsh Mankad is playing Eyal Erlich (ATP #156, 4th seed.. poor kid, Harsh .. tough first round match).. Mahesh called up Mumbai Sunday evening and asked if there was a way he and leander could play the first round on Wednesday.. The tournament head says it's not possible, as ATP prohibits first round matches on Wednesday unless the final is on Sunday (at a challenger like this, they want to finish by Saturday to avoid expenses for an extra day).. Unless the ATP supervisor (Michel Willems) can bend the rules as Deccan Herald hoped (;-)), LP and MB will have to get there early morning Tuesday, get over the jetlag and play by evening 5 pm at least.. I say delay the matches as much as you can, start it and then stop due to poor light ! .. Here is what I can piece together from various newspaper reports (the matchups are correct, and hardly any report on the bottom half so far, as all the Indians but one are in the top half):
1 Leander Paes (India) vs. David Nainkin Sandeep Kirtane vs. Goichi Motomura 8 Daniele Musa (Italy) vs. Nitin Kirtane Vladimir Vitchkov vs. ??? --> \ 3 Andrei Merinov (Russia) vs. Martin Lee \ Mahesh Bhupathi vs. Luke Milligan (may be flipped) 5 Orlin Stanoytchev (Bulgaria) vs. Stoliarov / Vasudev Reddy vs. Martin Hromec --> / 4 Eyal Erlich (Israel) vs. Harsh Mankad 6 Frederic Fontang (France) vs. ??? 7 Eyal Ran (Israel) vs. ??? 2 Oleg Ogorodov (Uzbekistan) vs. ???
Nov 24 Note-1
Here is what the Hartford Courent wrote about Paes-Bhupathi after the finals loss yesterday:
The year for Bhupathi and Paes began on Jan. 6 with a first-round victory over Chad Clark and Thomas Shimada in the Singapore Men's Open Challenger. They won the tournament and split $3,100, and were ranked No. 36 in the world. They finish the year at No. 4 and split $80,000 for the tournament. With the top-ranked Australian team of Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde looking at retirement in 2000, (the Olympics are in Sydney that year), and the No. 2-ranked Dutchmen, Jacco Eltingh and Paul Haarhuis, saying 1998 will be their last season, the tournament's youngest team could dominate the sport for years. "You put the whole picture in front of us,'' Paes said. "If you had told us that we would make Hartford, we would have been excited. But to get to the final ... well, we've had a great year and we feel proud of ourselves...I believe we can be the No. 1 pair in the world. Now, we have to prove it.''
They also report that Leach and Stark are parting ways (as good friends, though). Rick Leach who has played great doubles, consistently with so many different partners, including Mahesh, will now form a team with Ellis Ferreira for 1999 (which means Galbraith may be looking for another partner), and Stark will now be playing with Byron Black next year (Black and Stark have played together a bit this year).
Here is what Kamesh Srinivasan (The Hindu) got from Leander as a running commentary of his final shot in the semifinal win: "I hit a kick serve. I thought that he would throw up a lob and I was hoping that Mahesh would jump up and hit it; he is the tall one. I came in really tight and I knew if he had come at me, I would have a relatively easy ball, and the next thing I saw the ball going up and Hesh coming towards me and I was like, okay, it's mine. So I took off, and chased it down. And once I saw the ball coming, I took a look at them to see what they were doing. And I saw Lareau covering the middle and I saw Alex a step slower but coming in. And I said, I mean, Lareau's got too good a volley, I am not going to go at him. The first thing that came to mind was to throw up a lob and I said `go for it'. In times of doubt, I just go for the shot. And I'm happy that it came off today,'' ... Leander, as is well-known, is never at a loss for words !!
Here is what a crybaby Australian Newspaper scribe (Alan Attwood) wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald after the Woodies lost:
Woodies, Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge, spent time last week in Mark Twain's one-time hometown, Hartford, Connecticut. They were playing in the event described as the world doubles championships - though it wouldn't be hard to sit down with pencil and paper and come up with many combinations more imposing than several in action in Hartford. Just as it did for Hingis, the Woodies' season ended prematurely. It hardly matters. They've already proved themselves to be one of the best men's doubles teams ever. But the lineup at the "world championships" demonstrated the main problem with doubles as a spectator event: few of the top men play it. Even many tennis buffs would have difficulty recognising some of the men in action in Hartford. Anyone know much about Mahesh Bhupathi? Francisco Montana? Don Johnson? (NOT the actor). The Woodies were the only pair in which both players are ranked in the top 50 men's singles players. (The third-ranked doubles team in the world, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Daniel Vacek, are both more than handy singles players, but they didn't make it to Hartford). Nor did Australia's B team, Rafter and Mark Philippoussis.
Anyone has heard of Mahesh Bhupathi ?? 930 Million in India know, my friend ! .. and how many people are there in Australia ? huh ? Run that by me again ?.. And the "tennis buffs" know him as the player who made the biggest jump into the top-10 in ATP rankings this year (singles or doubles) .. John McEnroe knows a bit more about tennis than you, when he called Mahesh one of the most improved players this year (at the Pilot Pen).. And you will be reporting on him from down under in January when Mahesh and Leander beat your guys.. and, oh, by the way, in case you didn't know, Rafter and Philippoussis have lost to Mahesh this year (semifinals at the LA Infinity.. I know.. I was there seeing Bhupathi's two-handed backhand whizzing past Philippoussis to win the tie-breaker in that 2-sets job!).. and also, now that you bring it up, Rafter/Phil did not qualify even as an alternate into the Hartford draw; ... Mahesh was playing the finals there and I didn't see the Woodies anywhere (actually the Woodies have been televised for one match here in the US, and Mahesh has been for two !) .. Now, go and crawl back under that rock, OK ? .. Boy, do I hate nagative journalism.. If you have nothing to report, just take up some other job !
Nov 23 Notes
All good things must end.. And all too often, it happens faster than we like after the highs.. After they spilled guts and emotions all over the carpet yesterday, the steps seemed a bit slower and the "You"s seemed a bit softer.. Against wily veterans who have been on a roll (Leach/Stark), Leander needed to be there in full flow. The heart did seem to show up often, but wasn't enough to attack and dominate at crucial junctures as yesterday. Mahesh was there as the steady companion, but he needs Leander's fieriness to bring out the best in himself too. It was over with Clinton getting revenge on Gujral for the straight sets loss in Singapore. LP/MB lost to Leach/Stark, 3-6, 4-6, 6-7 (3-7)... OK, enough of crapping from me... They now move up to #4 again. The final rankings should show 1. Woodies, 2. Eltingh/Haarhuis, 3. Leach/Stark, 4. Bhupathi/Paes, 5. Kafelnikov/Vacek.... In individual doubles, MB should probably be #7 and LP #9.. Incredible numbers for two guys who started the year as #89 and #105 (and a team rank of #36).
By the way, a correction: I misheard Kannan Srinivasan over the phone yesterday.. he was telling me about the line that Alex O'Brien said at the press conference, about LP's final shot ("Egyptian magician"), as Kannan reports in his Hindustan Times article today.. Anyway, now it makes me wonder.. doesn't Alex know there are better magicians in India than in Egypt ?.. :-)
News from Mumbai Challenger: The draw is out. 5 of the 6 Indians are all in the tougher upper half of the 32-draw. Both LP and MB are in the upper half and can meet in the semis. In the first round Leander Paes faces David Nainkin of South Africa (ATP #277), and Bhupathi has drawn Britain's Luke Milligan (ATP #294). Leander had lost to Nainkin at Beijing in October 1995 and then in the final round of qualifying at Wimbledon in Jun 96. Nainkin has been ranked near #150s a couple of years back and has really fallen a bit over the last year or more, and Leander is quite a different player since the Olympics last year. So, most of his head-to-head records before July 96 do not mean much. If Leander has a comfortable plane ride and gets to sleep Monday night, and gets to play the featured evening match Tuesday (both Mahesh and Leander are playing Tuesday evening), he should be able to handle Nainkin. Same with Bhupathi, who should be able to beat Milligan if he plays his game. If he wins the first round, Leander faces the winner of Goichi Motomura vs. Sandeep Kirtane match. If Bhupathi wins, he will face either third-seeded Andrei Merinov (#156), who won the 1997 Indian Satellite, or Britain's Martin Lee, the junior world No 1. Nitin Kirtane is drawn against eighth-seeded Daniele Musa, Vasudev Reddy meets qualifier Martin Hromec. The top half also has 19-year-old Vladimir Voltchkov (Belarussia), who won the junior Wimbledon last year. Harsh Mankad is the lone Indian in the lower half, but he faces the tough Uzbek, Dmitriy Tomashevich. (most of this news based on the Indian Express story today). See the Nov 22 Note-1 below for the list of 22 direct entries and the 8 seeds.
According to Indian Express, 19 yr-old Vishaal Uppal (Delhi) is the only one who made it to the final round of qualifying. He fell to Vadim Kutsenko (Uzbek) 2-6, 1-6. Dimitriy Tomashevich (Uzbek), Jamie Delgado (Britain) and Martin Hromec (Czech) are the other qualifiers. Paes and Bhupathi are not in the the doubles draw (it is unfair to others for the ATP #4 team to play doubles in this challenger !). The Kirtane cousins, Sandeep and Nitin, Vasudev Reddy-Anand Radhakrishnan, and Gaurav Natekar-Vikram Venkataraghavan, all got wildcarded into the doubles. Anand, Garav and Vikram had all lost in the first round of quals for the singles.
Nov 22 Note-3
Final score 6-1, 2-6, 7-6 (7-5).. Good to finally see a doubles match on TV (though tape-delayed) here in the US. Only two ATP doubles matches are televised in the US, and we get to see the Indian Duo in those two.. How about that ?..As for the match itself.. WOW!! That final shot by Leander should disprove all myths about Indians and killer instinctt. Boy, but for a period in the second set when L/O made some adjustments and our guys were readjusting, it was all-out attack mode for DD. Just look at the way they went for the kill in the tie-break going up 5-0 (two loud "YOU"s by LP egging MB on for that overhead smash was classic!).. They were not worried one bit about missing the shots. They wanted to not let up and finish the tiebreak, which caused L/O to pull up to 6-5. And then one of the most aggressive shots one will ever see, by LP.. Great lob by O'Brien.. Not too many people will have the confidence to run back (yell a "primal scream", as Patrik McEnroe called it), and hit a perfectly timed forehand down the line there ! LP wanted it and he didn't care about missing the shot. That is KILLER INSTINCT ! Having said that, though Leander stole the show in the end, Mahesh's Aces at the critical points were a real big key here. Our Duo won over 90% of the points on his first serve !
Kannan Srinivasan (Hindustan Times) called after the game and said "just see the final shot; it's Egyptian magician out there".. he didn't say anymore details.. have to completely agree after seeing the match.
OK, now they have got 350 pts so far (will get an additional 280 for a win tomorrow). As of now, Leach/Stark are #3 in the world, and LP/MB are #4. They have made $55K, and will also get $25K in courtside bonus for finishing at ATP #4. If they win tomorrow, they will move up to #3 in the world, get an extra $60 for the win, and will get $30K bonus for finishing at ATP #3, for a total of $145K. Money is good too ! Right now MB is at around #7 in doubles rankings (LP around #9). Win tomorrow, and they will be #6 and #7 in the world !!
Leach/Stark won against Eltingh/Haarhuis, surprisingly easily today (6-3, 6-4).. Tomorrow's final against Leach/Stark is at 1 pm EST (same time as today's match). The ESPN tape-delay coverage in the US is 5 pm EST (an hour later than today..).
Almost can't sleep tonight, out of excitement. Go LP/MB !! Took care of Germans in Germany.. Now let's take care of Americans in America !! Kannan called this the "Clinton vs Gujral" match... :-) ...Go Go Go.
Nov 22 Note-3
Here are some excerpts from a report from Kamesh Srinivasan in today's The Hindu: "Nursing a bruised right forehand, as he was throwing himself at everything apart from slipping a few times, Leander was spilling blood and guts literally on court, as he attacked in tandem with his deputy, who was providing the punchy hits, whenever he called out `you'... The Indian pair was in trouble in the second set, especially in the tie-breaker, but the rivals let them in with a double fault. It was indeed a brilliant finish by Leander after trailing 3-5 in the tie-breaker.. The Indian pair played sharp especially in its service games to clinch the first set, without much trouble. In fact, the Indian boys could have taken a lot less time than 39 minutes to take the first set, but for messing up a series of sitters, especially at the net.... Trevor Kronemann, deceptively fluent for his balding forehead and bulky frame, faced five breakpoints, four of them in his first service game. He saved them all. The Indians more than 10 years younger than their rivals, in cumulative age, failed to grab those chances. The rustiness of the US-Australian combination was understandable, as the pair had precious little practice, jumping into the fray as alternate to Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor in the Yellow group. No doubt, Kronemann and Macpherson may have an enviale track record of making the semifinals in the last edition here, and few in the circuit could boast of having beaten the Woodies, which they did in style in straight sets at Paris on indoor carpet recently". Here is a classic Kamesh line in his report in The Hindu on Thursday's loss: "..if the Indian pair could be blamed, it was definitely not for want of effort. They did play their hearts out, but ran into a heartless wall, rather an error-free machine"...
It is rather troubling to hear of Leander hurting himself throwing himself at everything. That's the exciting style that he goes to whenever he really needs a win, and invariably have caused him to play sub-par soon after, due to the injuries. Can't complain about anybody showing heart, and hopefully he is alright to come back and do it again today!
Indian Newsbit: Arati Ponnapa crashed out to Korean Chung Yang-Jin, 6-4, 6-2, in the $10K ITF/WTA event in Manila, Philippines, in the second round...
Nov 22 Note-1
Will post a match report on the win against Kronemann/MacPherson very soon. In the meanwhile, here is some news on next week's Mumbai Challenger: It's a $50K challenger. Leander Paes is the top seed there ! It's a 32-men draw and the direct entries are as follows (country and ranking from a couple of weeks back in parentheses): 1 Leander Paes (India, 108), 2 Oleg Ogorodov (Uzbekistan, 135), 3 Andrei Merinov (Russia, 151), 4 Eyal Erlich (Israel, 163), 5 Raviv Weidenfeld (Israel, 185), 6 Orlin Stanoytchev (Bulgaria, 193), 7 Frederic Fontang (France, 198), 8 Daniele Musa (Italy, 207), 9 Eyal Ran (Israel, 208), 10 Rainer Falenti (Austria, 211), 11 Martijn Belgraver (Netherlands, 224), 12 Gerald Mandl (Austria, 229), 13 Mahesh Bhupathi (India, 231), 14 Julien Chauvin (France, 236), 15 Andrei Stoliarov (Russia, 248), 16 Charles Auffray (France, 249), 17 Goichi Motomura (Japan, 251), 18 Emanuel Couto (Portugal, 263), 19 Gabrio Castrichella (Italy, 267), 20 Joao Cunha-Silva (Portugal, 274), 21 Martin Lee (Great Britain, 282), 22 David Nainkin (South Africa, 284). In addition the 4 wildcards are Sandeep Kirtane, Nitin Kirtane, Vasudev Reddy and Harsh Mankad. The 4 qualifier spots are being decided over this weekend. There are also two special exempts spots. (Courtesy: The Indian Express). It appears that the field is rather weak compared to other recent 50K challengers, especially the ones going on in the US right now (the Amarillo Challenger this week for instance had some 6 or 7 top-100 players such as Sargsian at #55 in it ! Apparently the Isreal challenger 3 weeks from now also will have some 3-4 top-100 players. Just getting two top-150 players is not very good (perhaps the players don't know how nice the whether is in India at this time! .. the late announcement of the Indian challengers in the ATP schedule may be another reason) .. not complaining though, as it makes it easy for Leander and Mahesh to clean up some good points ! There are some very good players in this field though.
Other items: It appears that Leander will get the Asian wildcard at the Australian Open (his rank will be down to about 125-130 this monday). If Leander picks up about 60-70 points from the two challengers (two final appearances, or one title and another semifinal appearance, or even one final appearance and a semifinal apperance), he should stay at around the #110 ranking, and squeeze into the Australian Open main draw. In this case, it was earlier assumed that Mahesh could have had a chance to get the Asian wildcard if he got some 50 points from the challengers and moved up in front of Yong Il Yoon (#203) of Korea (It is not clear if Oleg Ogorodov would be considered for the Asian wildcard). In any event, apparently the Aus-O officials are saying that they would prefer to give the Asian wildcard to somebody from a country not already represented in the main draw. Now that means Mahesh cannot get the wildcard in any case and it will be Ogorodov or Yoon. We will know soon what shakes up. ATP basically closes their ranking for the year as of the coming Monday (Nov 24th); even though the challenger points from the next few weeks will count, they will not update the rankings and release them till about January 1st. If Aus-O uses the year-end rankings as of this coming Monday, then it should be Leander getting the wildcard (right now LP has 420 points, and will be down to 355 on Monday; Ogorodov is at 327 now; not sure if he is playing a challenger somewhere, but he will probably need to get to the finals to overtake LP on Monday). Will try to confirm more details on these speculations and report here soon..
Nov 21 Note-3
Well, well, well... How about that ?! The Woodies lost just now, to Lareau/O'Brien, 6-7, 5-7.. earlier Bhupathi/Paes defeated Kronemann/MacPherson, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5).. So, what it means is that Lareau/O'Brien and Leach/Stark are #1 and #2 from the other group, and our dudes will be playing their old friends, Lareau/O'Brien tomorrow in the semis !! More news and reports coming soon (like, probably tomorrow morning here)..
Nov 21 Note-2
Kamesh Srinivasan comments from Hartford on the loss to Eltingh/Haarhuis yesterday: "Basically Eltingh/Haarhuis played an unbelievable match here. They seemed to want revenge on the losses to our Duo earlier, and made sure they gave nothing to the Indians. LP/MB could only get FIVE points off their opponents' service games !! .. That's amazing.. The percentage of first serve points won by Eltingh/Haarhuis was something like 92%, which means they were firing on all cylinders. Leander got broken on the 8th game in the first set, and then in the second set, Mahesh and then Leander got broken once each. That doesn't mean the Indians weren't playing well. They were playing their game, and there were several exciting long rallies in this match.. they just came out short on most of them. There were some classic retrievals by Leander and Mahesh was serving well too. Only about 2 or 3 mistakes (a couple of volleys into the net and a misjudged overhead smash) by LP/MB, but it didn't matter against Eltingh/Haarhuis on a day which clearly belonged to them. Their return game was superb to boot, along with their services.. That's deadly.. Kannan Srinivasan asked Elt/Haar in the press conference whether this was for revenge, and they seemed to not diasagree.. They said they still had trouble dealing with the 3-set loss earlier this year to LP/MB, despite playing well then..Leander, Mahesh and the coaches, Carmichael and Piperno, are all taking this match as one that you have to just forget about and move on. They are prepared for Kronemann/MacPherson today.. They have beaten Kr/Mac in two tiebreaker sets before, and expect a tough match from them (Kr/Mac has beaten the Woodies recently too).. Looking forward to the excitement today!"..
Nov 21 Note-1
Hmmm.. Now the plot realy thickens at Hartford. Just found out that Knowles/Nestor have withdrawn due to an injury, and are being replaced by Trevor "The Tank" Kronemann and David MacPherson who are the alternate (stand-by) for today's match aginst the Dynamic Duo. This makes the scenarios even better for LP/MB. Now the scenario combination 4-A below will have LP/MB advancing. That is, they can advance even with a straight set loss today, provided Fer/Gal also lose by straight sets to Elt/Har. The scenario 4-B favors Fer/Gal (that is, our guys lose in straight sets, and Fer/Gal lose a three-setter). That is 11 out of 16 scenarios for LP/MB advancing, and 5 out of 16 favoring Fer/Gal..
I know.. I should stop thinking about all these losing scenarios.. Our dudes will win today, and that will be that !
Bhupathi/Paes have beaten Kronemann/MacPherson this year (at the Montreal DuMaurier Super 9). Hope they can repeat it here..
Nov 20 Note-3
OK, Leander-Mahesh seem to have had a bad day today.. Lost to Eltingh/Haarhuis, 3-6, 2-6. However, as it stands, they are still in good shape to make it into the semis. Eltingh/Haarhuis are already in the semis, and Knowles/Nestor are hanging by a thin thread. There are several different scenarios possible now. Following is the complete possibility analysis.. The tiebreaker rules are to use head-to-head result for two-way ties, and set won-lost ratio for three-way ties. The numbers in parentheses show the sets won-lost.. Here goes !
Legend: E/H - Eltingh/Haarhuis F/G - Ferreira/galbraith B/P - Bhupathi/Paes K/N - Knowles/Nestor E/H F/G B/P K/N ----------------------------------------------------------------------- Current record 2-0 (4-0) 1-1 (2-3) 1-1 (2-2) 0-2 (1-4) Game Score tomorrow tomorrow 1. B/P vs K/N 2-0 2-1 (4-2) 0-3 (1-6) 2. 2-1 2-1 (4-3) 0-3 (2-6) 3. 1-2 1-2 (3-4) 1-2 (3-5) 4. 0-2 1-2 (2-4) 1-2 (3-4) A. E/H vs F/G 2-0 3-0 (6-0) 1-2 (2-5) B. 2-1 3-0 (6-1) 1-2 (3-5) C. 1-2 2-1 (5-2) 2-1 (4-4) D. 0-2 2-1 (4-2) 2-1 (4-3) There are 16 Combinations between the scenarios 1 thru 4 and A thru D and the pairs who will advance are as shown next : A B C D 1 E/H, B/P E/H, B/P E/H, B/P E/H, B/P 2 E/H, B/P E/H, B/P E/H, B/P E/H, B/P 3 E/H, B/P E/H, B/P E/H, F/G E/H, F/G 4 E/H, K/N E/H, K/N E/H, F/G E/H, F/G
What it all means is that out of the 16 possible scenarios, 10 favor Leander/Mahesh making it into the semis. 4 favor Ferreira/Galbraith, and 2 favor Knowles/Nestor. Win tomorrow, and LP/MB are in, regardless of what Ferreira/Galbraith do tomorrow. Lose in a three-set match tomorrow, and LP/MB still have a chance to make it in, but Ferreira/Galbraith will need to lose to Eltingh/Haarhuis (doesn't matter if it's in 2 sets or three)... Got it ??..
Nov 20 Note-2
The scores from Hartford are:
Mark Knowles/Daniel Nestor (7), lost to Ellis Ferreira/Patrick Galbraith (3), 2-6, 7-6 (8-6), 5-7 Sebastien Lareau/Alex O'Brien (6) def. Donald Johnson/Francisco Montana (8), 6-3, 3-6, 6-3
The losers in these two matches will be virtually out of the tournament with 2 losses each..
Nov 20 Note-1
Today's match against ATP #2 Eltingh/Haarhuis is at 7 pm. Hopefully there will be some occasional score updates in our chatroom (see the link above).
Here is part of the report in The Hindu from Kannan Srinivasan (who is at Hartford and has just joined our fan club) on the win over Ferreira/Galbraith:
With two brilliant winners, one each by Leander and Mahesh, setting up a breakpoint for them in the seventh game of the second set, the sixth-ranked Indian pair pulled off a memorable victory with precision play in a contest that lasted just over an hour. The Indian engine took time to accelerate and gain momentum in the first set, but once it did, it just mowed down the opposition without much trouble. Leander and Mahesh got the crucial break in the 11th game, converting the third breakpoints, with Mahesh smashing an inside- out winner. Leander had set up two breakpoints in that game with a lunging backhand volley, but the lefty combination wriggled out of that situation, only to lose way eventually. Leander served out the set with a couple of sharp volleys to boot, to clinch that set. The Indian pair had done well earlier to save a breakpoint each in their first two service games, and come out of 0-30 situations in the third and fourth service games.
By the way, Bhupathi at 23 and Paes at 24 are the youngest two players among the 16 who are at Hartford this time.. The Woodies themselves said this week that our Duo has a chance to be good for a long time. Go guys!
Nov 19 Notes
Sorry we are not able to bring you the match reports. Technical difficulties such as computer availability at the Hartford Civic Center are giving us problems. Hopefully we will have things worked out later in the week and bring you some match reports and score updates here... By the way, I will leave the notes from 14th onwards in this file, as some Hartford info is there below.
The good news is that our Duo is off to a very good start, beating the ATP #4 team, Ferreira/Galbraith in straight sets, 7-5, 6-4. In other matches, Eltingh/Haarhuis defetaed Knowles/Nestor, 6-4, 7-6 in the last match of the day. The winners of today will play against each other next (losers play each other too), so it will be Eltingh/Haarhuis for our guys tomorrow. In the other Group, The Woodies murdered the 8th seeds Johnson/Montana, 6-4, 6-1 in a night match, and Leach/Stark defeated Lareau/O'Brien, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in a tough afternoon match.
A Note on the prize money at Hartford: Even though the prize money from the tournament wins itself is as given below (Nov 14 Note), the teams end up making bonus money (courtside bonus, as it is called) based on the year end ranking after the tournament ($50K for #1, $35K for #2, $30K for #3, then $25, $20, $20, $10, $10..). That makes it $300K for tournament wins, and $200K for bonus prize money..
Other tennis news: Prahlad Srinath was again out in the early round of the Thailand ATP/ITF satellite tournament (3rd leg) on Monday, losing to the top-seed Igor Gaudy of Italy. This satellite tournament is quickly becoming a wasted trip for Prahlad..
The wildcards for the Mumbai challenger next week were announced yesterday: Vasudev Reddy, Sandeep Kirtane, Nitin Kirtane, and the young Harsh Mankad. Leander and Mahesh are already in the main draw. Once again, Prahlad Srinath, the 3rd highest ranked Indian player, misses out (that's the price he pays for being away trying out the international pro tour.. Pity.. He has one more week of Satellite tournament to go through in Thailand.. Prahlad has really not been at the Indian Tennis scene for a while, actually).
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.
WEDNESDAY SCHEDULE 1.00 pm (3) Ferreira-Galbraith vs. (5) Bhupathi-Paes 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 !)..