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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Nov 27, 2000

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Nov 27 Notes

According to Vece Paes, Leander is doing fine with his knee tendinitis rehab in Florida but had not started practising last week .. He is taking it safe to make sure that there would be no recurrence of the injury (Telegraph, Calcutta) .. Also, LP is now expected to play in the $100K challenger in Costa Rica next week .. So, he will be in Bangalore immediately after that for 2 or 3 days to get over the jetlag and practice .. The Bangalore WDC starts the wednesday (13th) of the week after next.

AITA announced some details of the new format for the Asian Tennis Federation Cup in Delhi, starting on Dec 19th for 4 days, in the week after the WDC .. I suspect the name has now been changed to the much more official-sounding "ATF Cup", as opposed to the less interesting name "Asia Cup" before? .. If so, that is good - it should have been done earlier, actually!  .. The event will include a 4-nation women's draw and will reduce the men's draw from 8 nations to four, which is also good news .. The price money has gone up from $84K the last two years to $90K this time with 50K for men and 40K for women .. The countries taking part are, on the men's side, India, Uzbekistan, Thailand and Korea .. The format is for three days of league matches and a final between the top two .. On the women's side, India, Thailand, China and Indonesia will take part .. It sounds much more interesting than in the past .. Also, Paes and Bhupathi are expected to play for India .. I would expect the other two to be picked from among Sri, Fazal, Harsh, Nitin and Sunil Kumar .. On the women's side, Niru and three names from among Manisha, Sai, Rushmi, Shruti and Sonal would probably make up the team, in my opinion ..

In other news, the field for the World Doubles Championship is getting set .. The #2,, #3 and #4 teams will be there, but it looks like #5 Novak-Rikl may not be, along with #1 Woodies (as their wives are both expecting babies then) and #6 Ferreira/ Kafelnikov (Kafelnikov has skipped the event in the past too, though he has qualified for it, as he needs rest at the eend of the year after all the singles he plays - can't blame him) .. That leaves the field as, Ellis Ferreira & Rick Leach (2); Paul Haarhuis & Sandon Stolle (3); Alex O’Brien & Jared Palmer (4); David Adams & John-Laffnie de Jager (7); Joshua Eagle & Andrew Florent (8); Donald Johnson & Piet Norval (11); Jaime Oncins & Daniel Orsanic (14); Leander Paes & Mahesh Bhupathi (55), and the alternates , Swedes Simon Aspelin and Johann Landsberg (16) [according to Telegraph, Calcutta] .. Some terrific teams in there, and it should be a lot of fun in Bangalore.

No news from Tucson on Nirupama yet.

Nov 26 Notes

No news to report today, as nobody was playing anywhere, as far as I know .. For next week, Nirupama is expected at the $50K Tucson challenger in Arizona .. The draw is not out yet .. I saw the draw at the Urbana (Illinois) men's challenger, and LP is not playing there.

Nov 25 Notes

Hey, some news finally coming in from Philippines .. Sai Jayalakshmi and Rushmi Chakravarti won another doubles title today, at the $10K satellites in Manila .. They were the top seeds and beat Miho Saeki and Remi Uda of Japan, 53 41 42 to win the title .. In the semifinals they had beaten Shruti Dhawan and Andrea van den Hurk .. According to some patchy reports in Satu-sport (Indonesia), the 4th seeded Sai was also in the singles semifinals yesterday, going down 41 14 14 45(6) to the second seed, Kyung-Yee Chae (KOR) .. Today's final was won by the top seed Alicia Ortuno of Spain over Chae .. Shruti Dhawan was drawn as the 7th seed to face #1 Ortuno in the QF, and Rushmi was the 6th seed drawn to face #4 Sai in the QF; so those two were out by QF or earlier.

At the ITF grade-5 junior international in Bangkok today, the second seed Megha Wakharia won the singles title with a 61 64 win over Danee Hollands of New Zealand .. Unfortunately, the second seed Vinod Sewa got upset in the semifinal by Pramote Malasitt of Thailand, 64 75 ..  Some more ITF news .. A few of our kids had gone to the grade-4 event in Jakarta (Indonesia) as well .. Rahul Rajkhewa and Sasha Abraham had reached the semifinals but went down in the boys and girls draw out there today [I don't know the  scores] .. Megha will pick up 30 points for the title which will help her crack the top-200 at about #185 .. Megha turned 16 a couple of months back and has two more years in the junior ranks .. She will go much higher by the time she is done in the juniors .. As for this week, four semifinalists and one title in two events is decent work by our kids .. All of a sudden Indian kids are traveling all over the world, it seems! .. Still, none of our kids are able to do anything in grade-3 or better events against top-75 caliber players though .. By my count Sunil Kumar's upset of the #49 ranked Peter-Jon Nomdo of South Africa while representing India at the commonwealth junior games is really the only notable win this year, and that is the only top-50 win by any of our kids in a few years as far as I can remember .. A scary statistic, actually - and that is the bad news.

Nirupama will be at the Tucson challenger in Arizona starting on Monday .. I will also watch the Illinois challenger and see if LP shows up there .. Leander has 98 of his 301 points falling off on Dec 4th and 11th (titles at Lucknow and Jaipur last december) which will see him dropping to about #155 and #190 from the #124 now .. The Australian Open draws close based on the december 4th ranking, and LP now has really no chance to make the main draw, unless he picks up some 100 points in the two weeks now - that would need two titles which is very improbable, as I am not even sure he is in playing shape .. He is expected to start the new year with a top-190 ranking, but any points now could help him keep a top-150 ranking .. He also has 65 more points falling off in January (Chennai R1 as well as the qualifying and R1 win points from Australian this January) which can drop him to about #250 but he will get Chennai and Australian qualies also to play and pick up some points to stay afloat .. Anyway, he will get to restart in February with the four challengers in India (three of them on grass) but he may like to pick up some points now itself, and more importantly try to get into some playing shape for Bangalore (starting Dec 13th) if he can play .. But that depends on if he has recovered from knee tendinitis in Orlando during the last three weeks of rest - the first reports were that in 2-3 weeks he would be fine .. Not sure of the status now.

Nov 24 Notes

Good news .. Leander Paes has made the direct entry for the Chennai Open, as it closed based on this monday's ranks .. I had been bravely predicting for a while that he would somehow squeeze into the draw .. And he did, as the dead last one to make it in, with this week's rank of #124 ! .. The Gold Flake Open certainly has the best field it has ever had, with four players from the top-20 and six from the top-35 .. The last few times I personally used to puke, hearing rumors about appearance money paid for some one or two big names (who didn't care one bit about playing to win a match), while the tournament basically had very few quality players; may be just 3 or 4 from the top-50 if we were lucky .. Not so this time .. Those who have read my notes the last few years would also remember my complaints about the organizers hyping up the quality of the field, which was never really any good .. This time they have finally delivered .. Norman at #4 will be a big draw, but I am very happy to see some of the really talented young players like Ferrero (#12), Puerta (#21), Vinciguerra (#55), Vanek (CZE,#77), Tabara (CZE,#96), Youznyi (Russia,#110), Kratochvil (SUI, #109), Gonzalez (Chile,#117), etc .. They are all under 22 - actually Younznyi is only about 18, I think! .. Those are some seriously talented guys .. Of course, #14 Squillari, #16 Pioline, #35 Byron Black and defending champ #41 Golmard also should be mentioned .. This is going to be one fun tournament .. Now that LP has made the main draw, the organizers also have two wildcards available to play with, as Mahesh should be naturally getting the 3rd wildcard .. According to The Hindu, "This is the best field we've ever had. We decided this year to change tack and go for depth of field rather than go for one or two marquee names,'' said Mr.Brian Cooney, Vice President (Tennis), IMG .. [there is that man, Mr.Cooney, on whom I have dropped some choice words in the past; Sheila Maniam took over from him last year as the tournament director] .. Anyway, thank you Jesus! .. Finally the organizers have seen the light, and seem to have started giving the knowledgable fans in Chennai the respect they deserve that they are not just star-struck fools who would buy tickets only for the big names! ..  Actually ticket sales itself is only a small matter, I think .. Sponsors might need more convincing than fans when legendary names are missing, but the stable reputation this tournament has picked up as a well-organized event over the years is finally beginning to pay off .. Anyway, the Chennai folks will get to see some pretty good quality tennis this time .. And if I were to guess, one of those youngsters would be even higher ranked later next year and further down in their careers .. Congrats go to Ms. Sheila Maniam and the organizers for doing it right (I once thought I would never be saying that!)

At the ITF junior international in Bangkok, the 2nd seed Megha Vakharia has reached the girls final and the 2nd seed Vinod Sewa has reached the boys semifinal .. Megha beat Sunthree Arpanukul (THA) 67(5) 64 64 and Vinod beat Kim Jung-Young (Kor) 63 63 today [Bangkok Post]

At Mumbai, the dream run of wildcards Kedar Shah and John Doran ended in the doubles final today against the top seeds, Bruthans and Sekac, 46 57 .. The singles final tomorrow will be between the Irish qualifier Doran and the top seeded Solvakian, Hasko .. See the Mumbai futures results page.

It appears that there indeed is a $10K satellite at Manila this week .. I saw the draw but no results yet .. Sai Jayalakshmi is the 4th seed and was to play a wildcard, Jennifer Saret of Philippines .. Shruti Dhawan is the 7th seed and was to play the most talented 17 yr old from Philippines, Czarina Mae Arevalo .. Strangely, the five different Filippino newspapers who were closely covering last week's satellite have all gone silent so far this week about this event .. Mysterious!

Nov 23 Notes

No great news to report from anywhere today .. First, Mahesh and Byron Black lost the quarterfinal today at the Stockholm ATP, to Mark Knwoles and Daniel Nestor, 36 46 .. Not a very unexpected result, considering the opponents, whoa re back together at this event (Nestor had played with Lareau during the year for Olympics purposes, but Knowles was his long-term successful partner) .. MK-DN had upset the top seeds Kulti-Palmer in the first round yesterday .. Our onsite reporter, Dr. Sanjeevi, tells me that Mahesh played well, but Byron was strangely off today, dropping serve in both the sets .. Mark Knowles played the best among these four who are all top notch doubles players .. MB now goes to New York for training for about 10 days before proceeding to Bangalore for a week of practice and then the WDC with Leander ..

I have not been in touch with LP to see how he is recurperating from knee tendinitis, but if he is OK, I hear that he might play a challenger or something during the next two weeks to get in shape before Bangalore.

Manoj Mahadevan played very well for a set but then fell to the in-form John Doran of Ireland in the QF today at the Mumbai challenger, but the nice story is that young Kedar Shah has reached the doubles final with John Doran, beating Ben Grudzelak and Jonathan Murray in straights sets .. They will play the tough top seeds, Bruthans and Sekac in the final .. In the singles semis, Bruthans will play Doran and Sekac will play the top seed Hasko .. Three Slovakians and an Irish in the semis .. See the Mumbai futures page.

The news is mixed from the grade-5 ITF junior international in Bangkok this week .. Sunil Kumar Sipaeya and Vinod Kumar Sewa were the top two seeds .. Vinod is in the QF, but Sunil fell today to in the PQF to unranked Thara Tantasuwanlert of Thailand, 67(2) 63 36 .. Not sure if Sunil has recovered from the fever and eye infection from last week, but he had won the second round (after an R1 bye) yesterday over Sarrun Kaewjinda 61 61 .. Vinod has reached the QF with a walkover today, after winning the R2 yesterday over Lin Chia-cheng (Taiwan) 60 63 .. 7th seed Rohan Gajjar also was upset today in the PQF by Pongsiri Niroj (THA) 61 36 63 .. On the girls side, second seed Megha Vakharia reached the semifinal with a win today over Sun Sheng-nan of China 46 64 62 .. Megha had beaten Pivhittra Thongdach (THA) 26 61 61 in the PQF yesterday .. The top seed fell on the girls side too though, as Liza Pereira went down 16 36 to Dui Rui of China today .. Megha plays Dui in the semi tomorrow .. 4th seeded Nischella reddy had lost yesterday in the PQF to Sunthree Arphanukul, 36 16 .. 4th seed Amanjot Singh had been upset by Lee Dae-dong (KOR) 46 46 yesterday, and Rohan Gajjar had beaten Siddharth Sudhakar 61 36 63 in yesterday's R2 matches .. Way too many upsets for my liking, but at least Vinod Sewa and Megha Vakharia are alive for tomorrow in the QF and SF respectively [source: The Nation, Bangkok]

Now I am not sure if there is actually a $10K satellite in Manila this week .. ITF's ThisWeek weekly, normally the one with the most reliable calendar, has been listing satellites there for this week and last week and they have listed it in this Monday's issue also .. As I have not seen any newspaper reports from Philippines yet on this, I assume it was a mistake - if so Shruti's trip down there was a one week affair.

Nov 22 Notes

The quarterfinalists were decided today at the $10K Futures in Mumbai, and in somewhat of good news in my view, one of the youngsters we have waited on for a long time finally pulled an upset and reached the QF .. 19 yr old Manoj Mahadevan is the only one remaining in the final eight, from India .. He made the QF by upsetting the 526th ranked 3rd seed  Michal Mertinak of France, 64 26 64 ..  That Manoj has talent was evident even 3-4 years back when he was among the highly regarded juniors in India (and I believe he was at that time being coached at the Krishnan Tennic Center)  .. Things have not gone well for him for a while and I have commented before, that perhaps a reason was that he turned pro an year earlier than he should have, rather than play the junior events in his final year of eligibility (he also left KTC if I am not mistaken, and I am not sure if he was undergoing any coaching either - I may be wrong in my info) .. Another comment I have made many times is about his penchant to play three-setters both in his wins and his losses .. During last week's futures in Delhi, there was a newspaper report that a good coach, T.Chandrasekharan, was coaching him during the week ..  Manoj is a tall kid with some good tools and talent ..  Let's hope that this result is not just a blip and that Manoj will continue the good work with a QF win against qualifier John Doran, who has been a tough player throughout this series, having qualified in two weeks in a row - he was a semifinalist last week as well .. At this point we are being forced to give up on a lot of players who seem to be getting nowhere, and any good news from any youngster like Manoj is something we need, to hang our hopes on! .. By the way, another kid who caught our attention this week is 18 yr old Kedar Shah .. He had a decent record in domestic junior events, but nothing earth-shattering .. He did well to qualify into this event, beating a talented youngster Anant Sitaram and then a Finland player in the final qualies .. He lost in the first round (to Manoj Mahadevan!), but has reached the doubles semifinals today with John Doran of Ireland .. They upset the 2nd seeds Uppal and Ghouse, in straight sets .. I am not sure what is bothering Uppal and Ghouse, but they have both lost considerable steam over the last few months, both in singles and doubles .. Newspaper reports from yesterday's doubles (there were only only doubles matches on Tuesday) talked about how well Kedar Shah played in yesterday's straight sets win against Kirtane and Panja, and how Doran did well to let Kedar control the match at the net .. Those are four of the best domestic doubles players that this scratch combo has beaten in straight sets on the way to the semi .. Heck, perhaps these three weeks of futures won't be a total waste after all, in terms of promising news for us .. I should also comment that both Rishi Sridhar and Rohan Bopanna who faced seeded opponents today seems to have played well in their losses, both being in three sets .. See the Mumbai futures page.

The newspapers have not started reporting anything yet from the women's satellite at Manila this week .. Will report on any news from Shruti as soon as I find out.

At the Stockholm Open, Kulti-Palmer play Knowles/Nestor this evening and the winner will go up against Bhupathi-B.Black in the QF tomorrow or Friday.

Nov 21 Note-2

Here is the match report from our onsite fanclub correspondent, Sanjeevi from the Stockholm Open - Mahesh and Byron played well in the first set without losing any service games .. In the second set they broke SA and JLs service twice in game 2 and game 4 and
were 4-0 up. SA and JL raised their game well and went on to win the next 6 games and the set. The 3rd set started well with MB serving. He was all fired up in this set. He raised his level of game to champion status and went on to a lead of 5-0. Then it went to 5-1 and Byron Black served for the match well ..  Hmmm .. that was strange how they messed up the second set, but it looks like MB wanted to win some matches and did not want to end the season before Bangalore with a string of losses .. Go MB !

I have not been in touch with LP for a while .. Need to find out soon how he is doing in Orlando .. Sanjeevi tells us that MB told him that he (MB) will be in New York for about 10 days of practice after Stockholm, before going to Bangalore for the WDC .. Hopefully LP will be in playing shape to do some practice soon too, before Bangalore.

Talking of the Gold Flake World Doubles Championships at Bangalore, the 7th team to qualify was Adams-DeJager who made it in this week .. With wildcards LP-MB, that is a field of eight .. However, there may not be much chance for the top seeds Woodies to come to Bangalore, as both of them are expecting babies around that time .. So, one more team will make it in soon.

Nov 21 Note-1

Mahesh and Byron Black beat the Swedes Simon Aspelin and Johann Landsberg, 63 46 61 today to advance in the first round at the Stockholm Swedish Open .. Aspelin/Landberg are the 16th ranked team in the world, and so this is a good win for MB-BB .. Actually LP-MB had beaten the same team earlier this year too .. The stats at the official site say that MB-BB served well, with 63 and 97 percent on first and second serves and only one double fault in the match .. Also, they did not make any unforced errors in the 3rd set after making four of them in each of the first two sets .. Their quarterfinal opponents are yet to be determined - I believe the QF will only be on Thursday or Friday.

Later, with Mumbai futures news and any News from Manila on Shruti (not sure if the main draw has started there).

Nov 20 Notes

At the Mumbai futures today, other than Rohan Bopanna pulling a minor upset over Tamas Gyorgy of Hungary in straight sets, there was no good news in the 8 matches that Indians played against foreigners .. Vijay Kannan won one set against Tomas Janci (CZE), but lost the next two .. Mustafa Ghouse retd after 3 games against Kokurin (UZB) .. Nitin Kirtane, Vinod Sridhar, Vijayendra Laad and Saurav Panja lost without much fight against the 2nd seed Bruthans, 4th seed Grolmus, 7th seed Kamil Patel and qualifier Doran, respectively .. Manoj Mahadevan, Rishi Sridhar and Kedar Tembe advanced against Indian opponents .. 8th seed Vishal Uppal's disappointing season continued, as he got upset by 19 yr old wildcard Kedar Tembe, who was inside the top-150 in the world early last year but had not shown any spark for quite a long time .. I'm not sure if the three-set win for Kedar was due to him taking the proverbial next step, or if it was simply Vishal losing a match he shouldn't have lost ..  Three of the remaining four Indian players have seeds to face in the second round, and so it does not look good for now .. See the Mumbai futures page.

No news yet from Manila where Shruti should be playing this week .. As there are no challengers this week in the US, Nirupama is taking this week also off .. She will play next week's $50K challenger in Tucson, Arizona, which will be the last tournament of the year for her.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Nov 20 ..

I am getting some enquiries 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 enquiring 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 enquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.