Notes for the week ending on Nov 25, 2002
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Nov 25 Note-1
Monday was turning out to be an absolute disaster at the GA Ranade courts in Mumbai for the MSLTA $25K ITF challenger, till Sania Mirza put some smiles back on Indian faces .. First, all three Indians in the final qualies went down, only 16 yr old Ankita Bhambri giving a good three-set fight .. Then 17 yr old wildcard Isha Lakhani fought till the end before falling to 4th seed Dominika Luzarova (CZE,279), 36 57 .. But there was the nice upset win by Sania Mirza, who moved up to the 4th in India with a #600 WTA rank today .. Sania inflicted a 63 63 shellacking on Olena Antypina (UKR,383) .. The win gives Sania 4.5 more points including one quality (bonus) point .. Her win streak is at 16 matches and she has picked up 19.5 of her 22.25 points from those wins .. Her ranking will now go up to around #525, pretty much all of that from just 4 events - boy, the 16 year old is cruising now .. This is her first challenger-level win and it comes at her birth place, Mumbai .. Sania runs into Luzarova next - I hope she can make her a "loser-ova" in the second round .. The top three Indians, #366 Manisha Malhotra, #388 Rushmi Chakravarthi and #479 Sai Jayalakshmy are all in the main draw .. They will all play tomorrow .. Radhika, Karen Paterson (GBR) and Ankita Bhambri are the top three waiting for lucky loser spots if anybody fails to turn up by tomorrow when the remaining first round matches are played .. See the Mumbai challenger page.
Nov 24 Note-2
Hesh is done with singles and has moved on to doubles for life .. He is now married to Shvetha Jaishankar! .. Congratulations go to the couple from all of us in the fanclub! .. Mahesh is not just Bhupathi anymore, but Shvethaapathi also (showing off my samskruta paandityam! :-)) ..
At the $25K Mumbai challenger's qualies today, Preeti Rao pulled a surprise, upsetting the 2nd seeded Keiko Tameishi (JPN,626), 76(3) 76(3) - Preeti has a tough final round against the talented Akgul Amanmuradova (UZB) .. #8 seed Ankita Bhambri who recently turned 16 is in the final round of qualies after beating younger sister Sanaa .. Radhika is the 6th Indian in the final round, the highest seed remaining after #1 Chantal Coombs .. Shruti went down to #7 Paterson .. See the Mumbai challenger page.
Nov 24 Note-1
Today's Telegraph (Kolkata) reports that Leander has got a singles wildcard at Doha also .. That is the same week as the Chennai event .. The newspaper quotes LP to be saying that David Rikl, his doubles partner for next year, is keen on playing at Doha and LP has not decided which of the wildcards to refuse .. Doha ATP is a $1M event while Chennai is $400K - that may be one reason for Rikl to prefer that (also, Novak-Rikl were runners-up there last year) .. Interesting that Leander has got the WC at Doha .. I don't know if he asked for it .. If he did, then it's an indication that he may still have some interest in playing singles (I am always looking for *any* indication that he has not given up on singles) .. According to the newspaper article, LP said he would be back in Florida soon for off-season workout .. But first, he was going to Mahesh's wedding .. It's a small private affair and only the two families and close associates were invited - actually the newspaper seemed surprised that LP still belongs in that group, and that he was going for the wedding. Funny.
No news yet from the Yokohama challenger qualies, on RB and Mustafa.
Nov 23 Note-2
The first round of qualies got done today at Mumbai for the $25K challenger .. The top three seeds who played were all upset .. #3 Sonal, #4 Chattida and #5 Sheetal lost .. Archana beat Sonal .. Shruti, Radhika etc have reached the second round, as are Sanaa Bhambri and Ankita Bhambri who go up against each other in the Q2 .. See the Mumbai challenger page.
Nov 23 Note-1
See the Mumbai challenger page for the qualifying draw there .. Sonal, Sheetal and Radhika are all seeded, with Shruti, Megha, etc also in the draw .. Not that easy for anybody to qualify in, though .. There are some talented players in that draw like Akgul Amanmuradoa (UZB), Chattida Thimjapo (THA) etc ..
Manisha, Rushmi and Sai are in the main draw as direct entries .. The wildcards were announced yesterday for Sania Mirza, Isha Lakhani and Ivanna Israilova (UZB) .. Nice to see Isha getting one .. The Uzbek girl is very talented, and I believe she got the wildcard on Asian Tennis federation's recommendation (she was runner-up at the Asian Championships, though she Sania has had her number in a recent match and also earlier this year).
Rohan Bopanna and Mustafa Ghouse are listed in the qualifying draw for the $25K+H Yokohama challenger in Japan this week - RB is the 6th seed and MG the 8th .. Rohan plays Tomoaki Kuwazima (JPN) and Mustafa plays Laurence Tieleman (ITA) in the Q1.
I believe all the four Indians (Nihal Advani, Abhay Prakash, J.Jayanth and Iciri Rai) went down in the first round of the first round of the grade-4 ITF juniors in Surabaya, Indonesia, this week.
Nov 22 Notes
I have added the entry list for next week's $25K women's event, in the Mumbai challenger page.
Prakash Amritraj (USA) went down to Danny Westerman (USA), 64 36 76(3) today in the second round of the Malibu $15K futures .. PA still has some ways to go before beating these guys on a consistent basis .. DW is somebody who used to routinely lose to Harsh Mankad in the Big-10 conference play for three years, but he may be playing well now, considering his upset of the 4th seed Brandon Hawk in the first round .. One has to feel that the Chennai wildcard is probably a bit too early for PA - but let's hope he has some surprises in him ..
Speaking of Chennai wildcards, here is quite a critical Hindustan Times article from S.Kannan (he is one who speaks his mind often!) - "Bopanna deserves wild card entry" .. Can't disagree with SK on most of it (except the part of PA getting one; I have said that I didn;t have a big problem with it) .. Not giving one to Rohan is just not right, and they should do that with the remaning wildcard .. Or at least say that they would give it to him barring any surprise entry (which will HAVE to be a top-100 player or some really big name ranked low) .. But that kind of stuff is too much to expect from the folks who run this event ..
I had almost given up and stopped criticizing the shamelessness of this tournament's organizers (by "organizers" I mean the IMG foreigners who run it, not TNTA, AITA, etc who all are listed and probably made use of) lately .. This being after all the only tour event in India, I have generally only hoped for the best for the event and has done my part in positively spinning the event and not dwelling on what appears to be incompetence on the part of the organizers in improving the player field; it has consistenly been getting the worst field for a $400K event year after year .. Kannan's article reminded me of my own criticism over the years and I thought I should write again on this ..
First, really, why is this tournament still having a foreigner as the tournament director? .. I have not checked this year, but I do remember three years back when Chennai Open was one of only 2 or 3 events in the whole ATP tour of some 75 odd events that had somebody from outside the country as the tournament director .. When Sheila Maniam of IMG Switzerland was doing it for a couple of years, I thought we were going to have an Indian running the show sometime (I am not sure if she was Indian ethnicity, perhaps she was) .. OK, you could agree that the first couple of editions needed some experienced hands from abroad, but now after six years of the Chennai Open, it's ridiculous to see a guy from Spain running it (Fernando Soler from IMG Barcelona -- I have nothing against him, and I don't know him from Adam to have anything against him anyway) .. Isn't there anybody in India or whoever from the Indian IMG group who is competent enough to run it? .. It's not like the foreigners have been doing wonders and bringing in so many top-75 players .. Their record has been absolutely PATHETIC - six to eight top-75 players has been the norm, and that is absolutely silly after this many years of running the event, and it being in a week when the maximum number of players play the tour - the first week of the year.
For old times' sake, let me give you this page I put together about 3.5 years years back .. A collection of my various notes about what stinks at Chennai Open .. Do read .. Those were my younger (:-)) days when I used to be even nastier in my comments .. There is some really interesting stuff in there, about a certain newspaper correspondent following up on my inside info from Sweden about a wildcard deal which the tournament denied and openly lied about, the newspaper reporter actually publishing it, etc .. Disgusting stories about Fazal and Srinath not getting the wildcards when they could not even play the qualies due to weekend Davis Cup (the wildcards instead going to guys like Brian Phau and Wesley Whitehouse, not even to any really proven up-comers) .. The sad thing is, after all these years, the organizers still show no concern to the feelings of a lot of people in India about our players getting wildcards .. And there are still a lot of people just standing and watching it .. I am sad about how few in India have really spoken out against this crap .. Kannan's article today is spot on.
Look, I am not saying some naive stuff here .. I know there are some of you about to say, "well, some private party is running it, and they can do whatever they want" .. Yes, they can, but hell no, they shouldn't .. And they won't get away with it this many times in most places around the world .. They still do it in Chennai, where they seem to have the whole elite group all under their control .. It is not like IMG is pouring foreign money into this, folks! .. After all, it's all the Indian sponsors' money that goes into it (the title sponsors are the icons of Indian industry - the Tatas) .. Isn't there anybody out there who can stand up to IMG and ask them to do it with some class. GIVE THE DAMN WILDCARD TO RB, WILL YOU?
Anyway, I will of course shut up and be eternally thankful to the great Chennai organizers if they give that final wildcard to Rohan ..
Nov 21 Note-2
Prakash Amritraj (USA) won the first round at the Malibu $15K futures, beating Calle Hanson (SWE), 57 62 75 and faces Danny Westerman (USA) next .. PA and Willem Petrus Meyer (RSA) are the doubles second seeds and they are in the QF ..
Nov 21 Note-1
Just saw the entry list for the Chennai Open that starts on Dec 30th .. Here it is - Guillermo Canas (ARG,15), Paradorn Srichaphan (THA,16), Sjeng Schalken (NED,20), Juan Ignacio Chela (ARG,23), Andrei Pavel (ROM,26), Rainer Schuettler (GER,33), Kristian Pless (DEN,74), Lars Burgsmuller (GER,77), Albert Montanes (ESP,80), Mark Philippoussis (AUS,83), Karol Kucera (AUT,84), Albert Portas (ESP,87), Dick Norman (BEL,96), Sargis Sargsian (ARM,100), Zeljko Krajan (CRO,101), Justin Gimelstob (USA,102), Michael Llodra (FRA,103), Jean-Rene Lisnard (FRA,104), Julian Knowle (AUT,107), Juan Balcells (ESP,108), Cecil Mamiit (USA,109), Jan Vacek (CZE,110), Jerome Golmard (FRA,111), Mario Ancic (CRO,113), Jiri Vanek (CZE,201) ..
So there are a couple more top-25 players coming there, 6 from the toip-26, which is about the best they have had at Chennai .. 6 players from top-40, which is par .. The one missing name is #43 Max Mirnyi, who was earlier reported to be returning to Chennai .. He is listed for Adelaide the same week .. The entries closed at #113, which is the best cutoff Chennai has had, slightly better than the #117 last year .. I believe Jiri Vanek gets an entry with some sort of injury protected ranking (he was off the tour for six months till August) .. No big surprises, but not a bad field .. Quite a few return visitors which is an indication that the tournament is well-organized, from the players' stand-point .. I am curious about how #80 Montanes of Spain will do - I think he is one of the guys who made a big jump last year, and the 22 yr old is making his first trip to India .. Unlike last year, there are at least a couple of big names that everybody in Chennai would look forward to - Srichaphan and Philippoussis, along with the defending champ Canas .. Quite a few good doubles players among the final entries - there should be some decent doubles teams there .. The above field will be augmented by four qualifiers, and three wildcards (Paes and Prakash Amritraj, with a 3rd one to be announced).
Nov 20 Notes
Nothing much going on with almost all Indian players taking this week off .. The women have a challenger and a satellite to go in the next two weeks but the men's season is basically over except for anybody who goes to the Thai challenger week after next (Bopanna was reportedly going) .. The few kids in Indonesia will be playing the grade-4 event in Surabaya this week .. Prakash Amritraj (USA) is at the Malbu futures.
I will post the entry list for next week's $25K Mumbai women's challenger soon .. Nirupama is not playing .. I was in touch with Niru recently and she said she basically realized that she needs quite a bit more practice and training needed before she is ready to hit the tour and use up the chance to enter a few events with her injury-protected ranking .. She didn't say it so, but I am sure Niru realized at Asiad that it she needs a lot more work (and I guess that is why she decided not to waste time at the Asan championships) .. She said she is looking at some futures in Florida early next year to start things off .. I am glad that she is doing it the serious way and thinking about what she needs to do .. I would have been much more concerned had she been paying lip-service to a comeback and assuming that she can just do that without hard work! .. I am surely hopeful of seeing her back out there next year; she is quite a determined and disciplined player.
Manisha and Rushmi are in the main draw for the Mumbai challenger .. I have not heard of the wildcards yet, but I am sure Sania will be a wildcard with Radhika and Sonal from Mahsrashtra with a chance to get one or two .. I do hope that Isha gets a wildcard or plays the qualifying rounds.
Nov 18 Notes
No big event to report on, this week .. I am travelling, and so the next update may be on wednesday morning, US time.
Sjeng Schalken (NED,20) has confirmed his entry to the Chennai Open, making it the 3rd top-20 player to confirm, after defending champ Guillermo Canas (ARG,15) and runner-up Paradorn Srichaphan (THA,16) .. Schalken is coming to Chennai for the first time .. With entries closing today, I guess there are no other top-20 players coming in, though it is a slight improvement over last year when there were two top-20 players in Canas and Johansson (then #18) .. I am curious about which other top-40 players will be at Chennai .. Last year, there were Santoro (#22), Pavel (#28), Mirnyi (#35), Hrbaty (#36) and Tabara (#64) .. This time we have heard of Mirnyi (#43) and Philippoussis (#83) also so far .. I hope there will be at least another 3 or 4 top-60 players coming to Chennai .. So, once again there is no high-ranking big name there .. Well, the big name is really Paradorn .. With the Indian Express not obliging to make an exception and come out of the shed for a nostalgia-run there, it is all up to Chennai's adopted son, "Mr.56" Paradorn .. It's his tournament and he will have to carry the event.
Prakash Amritraj and Rajeev Ram of USA won the doubles at the $15K Costa Mesa futures in California .. Their big win was the upset of the second seeds Ye-Tzuoo Wang and Raven Klaasen .. Rajeev had fallen in the singles semi to 3rd seed Doug Bohaboy (USA) .. I had very busy days this week and could not make it down to Costa Mesa to catch some action.
.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Nov 18 ..
I am getting some inquiries from US college coaches who are interested in Indian junior players .. I would like to be able to contact Indian players (some of the coaches are inquiring about specific names) .. If any of the junior players are reading this, please contact me .. Or if any of the other readers know the contact emails/address for any junior player, let me know .. I would like to have a mailing list where I can post general announcements and inquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.