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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Nov 29, 1999

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Nov 29 Note-1

It was not a pretty sight at the $50K "BPL" Lucknow challenger today, it seems .. First, Paradorn showed that he is no pushover on grass (something he has not played much on, from what I know) and took out a pretty good grass player, Fazal, 3-6 3-6 .. Then Sunil Kumar went down to 478-ranked Vladimir Platenik, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 .. Once again Sunil hopefully got the lesson from Asia Cup reinforced, that you have to keep the momentum for the whole match .. I am still concerned at seeing him play these events, but that is just my personal opinion .. Pushing him too much .. It's alright if people don't take these losses seriously and tell the kid to just enjoy the match opportunities .. Mustafa Ghouse has had a very disappointing time in singles ever since the final at the DSCL nationals .. The wildcard entry bowed out 36 16 to 602-ranked Ivo Karlovic of Croatia - I had thought Mustafa would have had a very decent chance against him .. Then, there seems to have been even more withdrawals, putting two more unranked Indians into the main draw as lucky losers (Alok Bhatnagar and Debashish Tilak) - both lost 1-6 0-6 .. I am puzzled by the qualifying rounds and have no idea how those two ended up as lucky losers before AV Rao who is ranked and should be a lucky loser above them .. I will await more news and see if AV Rao also played today .. But seriously, I cannot believe the draw beyond the top 15 or so players in there .. This will be a quality challenger once it gets to the final 8 or so, but there are a whole hell of lot of players playing in the main draw who normally wouldn't make it into many $10K futures .. Once again, all those Indians who forgot to send in entries (probably were trying to save the entry money?) and did not have the willingness to take a train ride to Lucknow for qualies should be ashamed of themselves - they lost a chance to make the main draw, get hotel rooms and hospitailty, and pick up at least 1 or 2 ATP points! ..  See the singles and doubles draws and results I have seen so far, in the Lucknow challenger page .. Good to see the fanclub member Jayant Sood from USA, a hard-serving late-starter into tennis making the doubles main draw (the 21 yr old decided to take a stab at it, after finishing his CA studies here)! ..

Nov 28 Note-2

The number of Indian players who showed up for the qualifying rounds at the Lucknow challenger was puzzlingly pathetic .. See the "BPL" Lucknow challenger page .. From what I can figure out so far, after the withdrawal of five players from the original 25 in the entry list, the entry closing rank which was at about 450 originally went down below 850 according in the Nov 8th ranking used (which has to be the reason for Dave Abelson of Canada playing in the main draw) .. If so, a couple of things happened here -- one, Indians got messed up due to the 1998 ATP satellite points falling off on Nov 8th and the new satellite points going in only on Nov 15th .. Otherwise Nitin Kirtane, Vishal Uppal, etc would have made the draw  .. That is assuming they sent in the entry .. Vinod Sridhar would have made the draw even with his lower Nov 8 ranking, though, had he sent in an entry .. He was playing at the Mumbai AITA tournament this weekend, winning the title, and missed the qualies .. It all sounds odd, but Indian players should learn to send in their entries and not assume anything about where the draw would close .. Sandeep, Mustafa and Sunil got wildcards and Nitin qualified in to join, LP, Sri and Fazal as 7 Indians in the main draw .. I am basing this on the fact that Dave Abelson made the main draw and that all qualifying round players were ranked below 800 .. Basically any Indian who showed up for qualies would have been able to play with a decent chance to qualify in .. Only 16 yr old AV Rao and Nitin Kirtane did that, other than a few unranked UP players (AVR lost in the second and final round to Tomas Anzari of CZE after winning an easy first round match) .. An 831-ranked German and an unranked Czech guy made the main draw through qualies .. Anyway, it should teach Indians not to take anything for granted in the pro circuit .. So similar to what happened at the $75K challenger in Delhi where any woman who walked into play the qualies and lost could have walked away with $90 or something .. Strange, huh ? .. I wish somebody had asked Vishal Uppal to sneak out from the Asia Cup in Delhi on Friday and go to Lucknow .. He would have made it in with an easy one round win .. Guess what, Jayant Sood of USA, who is a member of this fanclub and one who has played some college tennis recently here, was one of the brave ones who travelled to Lucknow .. He is unranked in ATP, but played the qualies, losing 36 36 to AV Rao .. I applaud anybody who decided to grab the opportunity and went to the qualies .. As in Nitin's case, fortune favors the brave (but he had to go there though, as he would be in the doubles main draw) .. I saw a newspaper article that complained about Paes-en-Sport giving one wildcard to Kristian Pless (DEN), the junior world #1 .. It is a bit out of place for us to complain about wildcards when we see Indians not making the effort from their own side and at least send in entries, let alone go to the qualies .. Pathetic.

Nov 28 Note-1

Early draw info from the $50K Lucknow grass challenger -- Leander plays Dennis Van Scheppingen (NED,#452) in the first round .. The toughest matchup is for Fazal, as he goes up against the top seed Paradorn Srichaphan (THA,105) .. Srinath plays Dave Abelson of Canada (#840) who I think has to be a qualifier .. Don't count out Fazal's chances over Paradorn .. He *can* pull off one over the Thai .. LP's opponent, 24 yr-old van Scheppingen, is a former top-100 player who has gone down from #120 in January this year to this low - he was in a huge slump with a 7-match losing streak that started with a loss to Wayne Ferreira in April - quite similar to the losing streak LP is in right now .. Dennis had a loss to even a #550 player .. He broke that streak with a couple of challenger matches late last month where he beat two top 250 players .. Need not necessarily be an easy match for Leander, but LP always gets it going on grass - LP's last win came on grass against Wayne Ferreira at Newport .. Nitin Kirtane is the only Indian to come through the qualifiers into the main draw - not sure whom he is playing .. I believe AV Rao lost in the qualifiers today .. There should also be two more Indians in the draw, as a wildcards (Sunil Kumar and perhaps Sandeep Kirtane?) .. I hope to get more detailed info from the Oudh Gymkhana soon, fax machines cooperating!

At Mumbai yesterday, Vinod Sridhar won the title of the J.S.Pereira AITA ranking men's tournament with a 6-2 6-2 win over veteran Mayur vasant .. Finally somebody had the ability to beat Mayur, who actually is a bit embarrassed himself seeing how yournger player were unable to beat him - he at a ripe-old 39 years of age! .. Here is what Akshay Sawai of Mid-Day Mumbai wrote after an interview with Mayur - "Personally I am really happy. Professionally, as a coach, I am sad .. I would have preferred to lose earlier. 17 and 18 year-olds have to beat me 6-2, 6-2, not vice-versa," felt Vasant yesterday .... Brother of former National and Asian women’s champ Nirupama Mankad, Vasant observed that most of the players he defeated seemed intent on blowing him off the court with power .... "Sure they hit better and harder. They had fitter bodies, but no one thought of moving me around, manoeuvring their way to a point," he rued.  "Kedar was the first established guy I played, then Sanzaruz and Benjamin. None showed much strategy." .... Vasant, admitting his preliminary matches and  main draw first round were against none- too- dangerous opponents said, “Then came round two with Kedar, who is a very good left-hander. I thought there was no way I could beat him. Ultimately however, he used everything but his head ....“Sanzaruz was next. Two years back he was on the International Tennis Federation team I had taken and among the top 50 juniors in the world. He is a crafty fellow and again I doubted my chances. But I came through. Benjamin just kept hitting crosscourts which I started anticipating after a while. The court is quite fast, yet these guys hardly came up to the net. They have to learn to use their tennis better,” Vasant advised. .... Those are some telling comments - Indian players have let all this power-game talk get to their head .. You don't have to hit the skin off the ball to win tennis matches, and they all refuse to see this part .. Indians need to get confident about playing winning tennis and not worry too much about power or lack of it  .. Basically you either have a power-game or don't have it, though one can and should put in hard work to improve the power game, as modern tennis requires it .. But in my uneducated 2-cents opinion, Indians have some sort of inferiority complex that we all lack power, and try to go to the other extreme to show that it is not so .. They forget that winning is what matters and that you won't win unless you develop confidence in what you have .. If you can come up with an 80 mile kick-serve or a drop shot at the proper angle, that can still work in tennis .. The problem is that if you don't develop the mental confidence in those, and you have not used your shot-making abilities enough times to have confidence in your accuracy, you won't try those at key points and let the guy across the net dominate you .. (I know .. I better stop there - now yours truly who has never played much tennis is acting like an armchair shrink too :-) .. I should go back to just reporting news!) .. I hope the young guys talked to Mayur and learned something from the 39 yr old about what they should have done against him .. Anyway, glad to see that the "quiet operator" in Indian tennis, Vinod Sridhar, did what was needed .. The doubles title went to top seeds Asif Ismail and Kedar Shah .. See the Mumbai mens' page.

Nov 27 Notes

Uzbeks beat Japan pretty easily today to lift the asia Cup .. Kutsenko beat Iwabuchi 62 62 and Ogorodov beat Terachi 61 64 to make India's loss to Japan yesterday look even worse than it was .. In the 3rd place tie today, India had more hiccups, that too against Thailand, before Leander came to the rescue with Fazal in the doubles to pull off a 2-1 tie .. Sandeep beat Ekkarin Pisuth-Arnonth in three sets, but Srinath went down again in straight sets to Narathorn Srichaphan who actually fell out of the ATP rankings this week (he was 1162 last week) .. The veteran has been ranked higher in the past, but this is the kind of player that Srinath does not lose to these days .. I hope Sri is alright physically - this not the time to be playing bad tennis, with two weeks of challengers coming up in India.  Any way LP and Fazal pulled out a three-set doubles win to place us at #3 .. See the Asia Cup 99 page.

The qualifying rounds would have started at the Lucknow challenger today .. Early news - Nitin Kirtane, AV Rao, Luke Milligan (GBR), Tomas Anzari (CZE) and Heiko Bollich (GER) have won the first round of the 2-round qualifiers .. Vishal and Tomas play next .. Mahesh Bhupathi, Marzio Martelli (ITA), Michael Llodra (FRA), Olivier Patlence (FRA), Damien Roberts (RUS) and Yves Allegro  (SUI) are the six players to withdraw from the main draw from the original entry list (I don't have the list, so not sure who all are playing - will know soon) .. [source: The Hindu News Updates]

At the ITF Kolkata junior international, 16 yr old Vinod Sewa won the title beating Parantap Chaturvedi and Sonal Phadke won the girls title beating Liza Pereira .. Both had double crowns actually, as Sewa and Ravikrishna upset the top seeds Mohanty and Bhide in two tiebreakers in the doubles final today too, with Sonal and Nona Wagh having won the doubles title yesterday .. Vinod will move up from around 800 to inside top-450 in the ITF world rankings with this - so, there is another kid to look out for , folks! .. The title will not change 17-yr old Indian junior #1 Sonal's ranking substantially, but she should be moving up from #86 to inside top-80 with this - almost assuring an entry into the Asutralian Open juniors .. See the Kolkata ITF juniors page.

Nov 26 Note-3

Saw all the newspaper reports about today's semifinal debacle against Japan at the Asia Cup .. Fazal had three match points at 5-2 in the second set, and then had another at 9-8 in the second set tiebreaker .. Reportedly he was so overwhelmed by playing a high volley at the final match point and messing up (should have let it go, but he thought he should make sure and mishit it), that it affected everything from that point onwards .. Fazal was ready, fired up, and played terrific tennis till late in the second set .. Leander woke up with aches all over his body and a hint of fever .. LP practised in the morning and found himself so out of energy that Fazal was deemed to have a much better chance to win the match - Leander would have come to play had it gone to a deciding doubles match later .. As for Srinath, it was a question of Terachi playing better, in addition to the effect the previous match had on him - he was all warmed up and ready for the match when his best buddy Fazal seemed to be wrapping it up in the second set .. Then he had to wait for ever, and Terachi got a shot of enthusiasm as they were up 1-0 .. That is how it goes sometimes .. Leander tried to console Fazal saying Fazal has nothing to be ashamed of as he played a fantastic game, and that Srinath simply lost to a player who was better today .. Captain Jaideep Mukherjea was at his usual low-key after the match - said, "you win some and you lose some" ..  Tough to agree with coach Mukherjea on this .. While I fully expect two Japanese guys ranked higher than Sri and Fazal to have a good chance to beat the Indians, the way we lost should still be unacceptable to the captain ..  But then again, Jaideep hasn't had very many breaks go his way for quite a while - whether it is at Genoa, Nottingham, Bangkok, Seogwipo or Delhi and one has to feel bad for his plight ..  All in all, I would like to think that I was over-reacting in my last note, and this was just a bad, bad, day for us .. India is to play Korea tomorrow in the 3rd-4th placement match, before the Uzbekistan-Japan final .. See the Asia Cup 99 page.

The Mayur Vasant story is still on, as he took out young Benjamin Xavier to reach a final against Vinod Sridhar at the JS Pereira AITA ranking tournament in Mumbai today .. See the Mumbai men's page.

Rohan Bopanna lost to the top seed Dmitri Tomashevic (UZB) yesterday in the second round at the Bangladesh futures .. He will get one ATP point for the trouble of going there .. Good job by him, qualifying in and advancing in the main draw .. In doubles, Rohan and Manoj Mahadevan lost in the first round of the main draw.

Nov 26 Note-2

Oh well .. The Indian title streak at the Asia Cup is over .. According to PTI, Leander Paes pulled out today, due to fatigue and fever and it all ended really fast .. Fazal and Srinath had to come up big to beat the two higher ranked Japanese, Iwabuchi and Terachi .. Fazal started very well againt Iwabuchi (#296) winning the first set and leading 4-0 in the second, but ended up losing 7-6(5), 6-7(9) 1-6 .. Oh Lord -- it feels so much like Leander's Davis Cup loss at Korea earlier this year .. Then Srinath went down in an unexpectedly one-sided match, 3-6, 1-6, to Terachi (#293) .. That was that .. All I can say is that something is still not right with India in these national ties .. Indian tennis has always been known to raise themselves to higher levels than they are capable of, through out the history of Davis Cup, etc .. It has just not been so this year .. Allowing comebacks from where we are up a set and two breaks, to a foreign team ? .. That is unacceptable -- and it is even more tough to take, coming from players like Fazal and Sri .. On our own soil ? .. After winning 11 of first 17 games today, Fazal and Sri lost 25 of the next 33 games .. Yeah, it may be that the Japanese played well, but on our own soil, we need to get motivated to not allow this kind of domination by anybody .. Something doesn't fit .. We all remember Mahesh pulling out a rabbit at the same RKK stadium in Davis Cup over Silberstein of Chile, down 2 sets in the rubber 5th match in 97, cheered on wildly by Leander and the crowd, and LP and MB running around with the Indian flag -- You think the kind of "folding" that happened today would happen if that was the spirit in the team, even if this is only Asia Cup and not Davis Cup ? .. No way! - and I can say that without having seen any eyewitness reports from Delhi on today's matches .. I am not trying to speak in riddles and hint at blaming anybody - I am actually quite puzzled at some of this .. I think there is enough blame to go around .. I am just a frustrated fan, who is just thoroughly disappointed .. For all the support (at least moral!) that we all give all the time for Indian tennis, we demand better returns .. India needs to get the act together - I will leave it at that ..

Nov 26 Note-1

From the Asia Cup in Delhi, I am awaiting the scores of India's tie against Japan, but earlier today, Uzbeks advanced to the final at the Asia Cup today, after some hiccups over Thailand .. Kutsenko won easily over Ekkarin Pisuth-Arnornth, but Ogorodov, the current #2 Asian, lost his focus and allowed a comeback to veteran Narathorn Srichaphan for 61 36 36 loss .. Kutsenko and Ogorodov, one of the top two or three doubles pairs in Asia, had no trouble putting it across Narathorn and Vittaya Samrej to put Uzbekistan in the final .. India-A won their tie over China 2-0, to salvage some pride and get placed at #6, ahead of China at #7 and behind Korea at #5 .. Vijay Kannan beat Jiang Shan 63 46 61 and Vishal Uppal beat Nion-Fei Zhang 61 76(5) .. One note from yesterday -- the reports are that Sunil Kumar looked like a world beater for some time in yesterday's loss to Kim Dong Hyun of Korea, ranked #1047 .. He was down 0-3 in the first set but then won 9 games in a row to lead 6-3 3-0 in the second .. He got tired after that and let the Korean take control winning 12 of the next 13 games! .. Pacing oneself is an important part of tennis .. That is the kind of experience the boy could use, but I still think he can wait a year or two before getting such lessons - he needs to play a lot more of the younger guys in the world circuit! .. See the Asia Cup 99 page.

The Mayur Vasant story continued at Mumbai, but the Salman story ended at Kolkata .. At the J.S.Periera AITA ranking men's tournament in Mumbai .. As predicted, veteran coach Mayur Vasant took out the second seed S.Zaman yesterday to reach the semifinal against young Benjamin Xavier .. Top seed Vinod Sridhar continues his quiet run, as usual, and is in the semifinal today .. I will update today's scores later at the Mumbai men's page .. At the ITF Junior international in Kolkata, the surprising "Cinderella story" of 17 yr old qualifier MA Salman ended in the semifinals today at the hands of city-mate Vinod Sewa, who is in the final against Parantap Chaturvedi who beat Kamala Kannan .. Vinod Sewa is also in the doubles final, with P.Ravikrishna .. The girls doubles title went to Sonal Phadke and Nona Wagh .. The boys singles and doubles, and the girls singles finals (Sonal vs Liza) are all tomorrow (Saturday) .. See th Kolkata ITF juniors page.

Nov 25 Notes

Yeeooo .. That was close! .. India managed to stay alive with a 2-1 win over China at the $84K MTNL Asia Cup in delhi today .. After Srinath won the first match over unranked Ran Xu comfortably, 62 62, Leander lost to the Chinese #1, Ben-Qiang Zhu (#595) 6-4 2-6, 2-6 .. According to PTI, Leander lookes jetlagged as he arrived there only Wednesday night, and looked to be tiring after winning the first set .. Anyway, doubles came to our rescue as LP and fazal won an easy 63 63 match ver Ben-Quiang and Jiang Shan to put India into the semifinal against Japan next .. LP better get out of his jetlag fast and pick up his first singles win since July (incredible -- this was his 8th loss in a row, starting from the loss to Arthurs in the QF at Newport) - or we will be in big trouble against the Japanese .. I see that India-A lost 0-3 in a placement tie against Korea today, but I have not seen the match scores yet .. See the Asia Cup 99 page.

Some good news from the $10K Bangladesh futures -- Rohan Bopanna, the 20 yr old who was perhaps the find of the latest satellites, continues his good run .. He qualified into the main draw and has reached the second round .. In the qualies, he beat Niko Karagiannis (GRE,1240) 61 76(3) and then Liang Ta Lin, 62 64 .. In the main draw, the 904-ranked Rohan has beaten a Bangladeshi wildcard, Yakim Sakib Huda 61 60, but he faces the #1 seed Dmitri Tomashevic (UZB,394) next, which will be a very tough match .. Rohan has picked up one ATP point for reaching R2 though .. Manoj Mahadevan won the first round of qualies over Robert Nita (ROM,1166) 46 60 62 and then lost to Balazs Veress (HUN,871) 46 46 .. Vijendra Laad was the 3rd Indian there, but he lost in the first round of qualies to Kunj Majmudar (USA), 62 06 46 .. Manoj and Rohan made the doubles main draw and faces Gregory Girault (FRA) and Abdul-Hamid Makhkamov (UZB) in R1 ..

I have added all the results I could gather from various sources, in an ITF Kolkata Juniors page .. Sonal Phadke and Liza Pereira, the top two seeds have reached the girls singles final at the grade-5 event .. Sonal was a qualifier at this event last year, and had reached the final which she then lost to Sheetal Gautam .. She is the one to beat there this time around, as the top seed, and the highest ranked Indian Junior just ahead of Radhika Tulpule going into the new year .. She is reportedly waiting to hear confirmation of an entry into the Australian Open Juniors .. With a top-90 ranking now, which will probably move up inside the top-70 or so once the 18 year old girls leave the ranks in January, she should be making it in to the AO juniors (I think Radhika also may be able to make the draw then, but I am not sure .. None of our boys are anywhere close to even a top-100 rank) .. I don;t know if the boys semis have been played yet at Kolkata (am I writing that correctly? - just remembered today that the City name has changed now..).

Nov 24 Note-4

The Chennai Open is now less than 6 weeks away ! .. Just got the entry list for the big $405K tournament (starting on Jan 3rd) which closed based on this Monday's rankings .. See the GoldFlake 2000 page .. The entries have not improved all that much from the last Chennai Open .. The closing rank had gone up from 189 two years back to 131 last time - it is up to 125 now .. Considering that the competition from the other two tournaments ($1M Doha and $325 Adelaide - the later being preferred due to the AO following in 2 weeks) should be expected to be more than that for the earlier April date for the tourney ($325K Hong Kong and $625K Portugal tournament), I guess the entry list is not too bad .. In comparison to the last time at Chennai, we have six top-50 players (same as last year) and the 8th seed is at #85 (It was at #81 last year at close of entry) .. The surprise to me was one name who is missing - Mikail Tillstrom of Sweden, who was runner-up 2 years back and reached QF last year upsetting the second seed Kucera .. He had had some of the best results at Chennai, but he is not returning this time .. Instead I find that he will be at Doha, according to the entry list from ATP .. Interestingly the official Chennai tournament website has Tillstrom lstil listed among the top 5-6 players coming to Chennai as of today - I am sure they will change that soon ..

Nice to see the young talent Andreas Vinciguerra returning! .. Remember all the complaints we had about giving him a wildcard over Fazal who was playing Davis Cup and could not even play qualies -- then the tournament media guy saying that such wildcard rumours were false, and then we finally finding that my early info was of course correct and that he had indeed been offerred a wildcard way ahead and they intended to release the name only two days ahead of the tournament ? ..  It's the same Vinciguerra, who is barely 19 and has come up from around 500 then to inside top-100 now, all in 6 months (by the way, it was wrong to give him a wildcard last year - I stand by that - and it was even more wrong for the organizers to lie to the press  about it - but then again, as Vijay Amritraj said in the tournament website chatroom during last Chennai Open, the tournament organizers can give wildcards to their grand mothers if they want :-)) .. Vinci is a very good player (and a nice kid too), who will be going places though - good to see him returning the favor and coming back ..

I wonder where all the Swedes have gone though ? .. I thought they were going to get the Enqvists, Normans, Johanssons and Bjorkmans of the world this time, after showing such magnanimity to the Swedish kid (may be IMG doesn't represent those guys) .. Anyway, Vinci is the only Swede in the field this time .. Also, not a singles Aussie in the field this time - but that may be because the Adelaide event is at the same time ..  Here are some numbers on returning players .. There were fifteen players in last year's draw who are ranked high enough with a choice to pick Chennai or another tournament the same week .. Only Byron Black, the defending champ, and Carlos Moya decided to pick Chennai ..  Kucera, Johansson and Sargsian aren't playing ..  Escude, Ilie, Fromberg, Knippschild, Goldstein, and Wessels picked Adelaide and Schalken, Schuttler, van Lottum and Tillstrom picked Doha  .. So, 2 to Madras and 10 to other places, out of the 12 who are playing .. But it is not really as bad as it sounds .. Schuttler is the Doha winner from last Jan, so would certainly go there .. Pioline and Safin are two who decided to pick Chennai over Doha where they went last year [Pioline reached SF at Doha, that too] .. Golmard and Voinea are two who chose Chennai over Adelaide where they went last year .. Actually, among the 6 top-50 players from last Chennai Open, two aren't playing, and two are returning .. Andrew Ilie, being Australian, has to go to Adelaide, and only Schalken (going to Doha) didn't possibly like Chennai .. And we get three new top-50 players (Pioline, Safin and Golmard) to switch tournaments and come to Chennai .. That is a pretty good record ..  By the way, Chennai-99 tournament was picked this week by ATP as the "Best Promoted Tournament in the International Category" which is a well-deserved award .. If there is one thing IMG does well, that is selling this tournament to Indians - by whatever means ..

I don't see any of the big doubles names in the Chennai list .. I am sure some doubles specialists would show up .. It's high time that Bjorkman is brought to India though ..  Guys like Santoro, Gimelstob, Lareau, Nestor, Arthurs, Mirnyi, etc are well-known in India due to doubles and could have made the singles entry .. Lareau and Nestor would have made the singles draw and could have started their year at Chennai going up against the Indian Express .. No such luck .. Only Damm and B.Black in the singles entry list seem to be top quality doubles players (also Kafelnikov, but he will almost definitely not play doubles at Chennai) .. Anyway, there you have it -- all you wanted to know about the upcoming Chennai Open field.

At the Calcutta ITF junior international, the story of a new name continues .. I had talked about Mohammed Ali Salman in today's note-2 below .. The qualifier kid pulled another upset, and beat seeded and much-heralded CS Mohanty today to reach the semifinal .. Do we have a good one unexpectedly emerging from Calcutta all of a sudden ? .. The PTI report says that the guy is 17 years old [sorry if he is well-known and I just haven't heard of him :-)] .. And he had another straight sets 6-3 6-3 win! .. Kamala Kannan, Vinod Sewa and Parantap Chaturvedi are the other semifinalists .. On the girls' side, #1 Sonal Phadke, #2 Liza Pereira, and #7 T.Yamini are also in the semis.

There were only doubles at the Mumbai AITA ranking tournament today - Mayur Vasant pulled an upset in doubles too .. See the Mumbai men's page.

Nov 24 Note-3

Just saw a UNI report that one wildcard for next week's Lucknow challenger will be given to Sunil Kumar .. My God, what the heck are we doing ? .. What is the big hurry in pushing a 16-year old like this ? .. A second Indian wildcard is yet to be determined .. Two wildcards will be given out to foreign players - to two top junior players .. Denmark's Cristian Pless (the current world junior #1) and Finland's Jarkko Nieminen (current #6 in the world) .. I will stop complaining about these wildcard decisions - no point complaining .. At least these two are two top juniors .. I have to guess that Paes-en-Sport which organizes the challengers is continuing the tradition of doing this, probably with some future returns in mind .. If so, fine - now that Srinath, Fazal, etc are all in the mian draw .. The Kirtanes, Vishal, Mustafa, Saurav, etc, would complain .. One of those would probably get that 4th wildcard .. But, why Sunil ??? .. Give him a qualifier wildcard and let him play with a chance to beat someone - not a top-350 player from the main draw .. Argh!!

Please, for God's sake, stop this madness with Sunil.  You may think I am over-reacting, but I am not .. It is a critical situation already, and with 16 year olds, things could go wrong in a big hurry .. Particularly so with a kid with the kind of background that may give him trouble adjusting to the limelight .. It is not some high-fallutin psycho-babble that I am cooking up .. There are umpteen examples of things going sour with kids - start with some recent examples in India itself .. I repeat, you cannot "will" somebody to stardom .. I must add that you cannot "wildcard" somebody to a top spot in tennis rankings also .. Sunil needs to play and get some wins, not play some pro fighting for life in the dog-eat-dog pro circuit .. He has not played diddly in the juniors .. He has a long way to go - give him some funds to go play juniors and get some matches under his belt (he is #384 in juniors, with ONE junior ITF junior international so far) .. Take him out of the limelight at least till he is 18 or 19 .. From what I understand, this is all being done with good intentions (not really politics, as in other Indian sports) .. but I pray that we are not leading the kid to a disaster .. 16 year olds can perhaps do a bit in women's tennis, but absolutely nothing on the men's circuit .. Nope .. Hasn't happened in quite a while, and is not going to happen now .. No kid who has not at least reached the top-50 with enough junior tournaments has been able to do much in pro tennis in a long while .. World tennis is not easy, as some seem to think .. Please, is anybody listening ? .. I beg everyone to stop this thoughtlessness.

Nov 24 Note-2

India-A lost to Japan today in the Asia Cup .. Mustafa Ghouse lost to Satoshi Iwabuchi (#296) 1-6, 4-6 and then Vijay Kannan went down after a better fight, 3-6, 6-7(4) to Takahiro Terachi (#293) .. I don't think the doubles match was played .. I am glad to see that they did not throw Sunil Kumar in there to play -- absolutely no point in the kid getting blown out by one of the Japanese .. Don't forget that Iwabuchi, then ranked #322, had beaten Srinath in the team event and then Bhupathi in the individual event semi, at the Asiad last December ! .. It doesn't surprise me that Mustafa couldn't do much against him .. IN the other group, Thailand beat 4th seed Korea .. I had said in the last note, that Korea's seeding was not right, and that it was a weak team - and it turned out that way! .. Pisuth-Arnornth Ekkarin of Thailand (yet another guy from there, not as heralded as Paradorn or Danai Udomchoke, but a good one I guess - I think he reached the semifinal of the Thai futures a couple of weeks back!) beat Seung-Hun Lee and then veteran Narathorn Srichaphan beat Seung-Bok Baek .. See the results in the Asia Cup 99 page ..

I have just put up the new AITA rankings (as of Nov 20th) for men and women in singles and doubles -- see the Ranking/ Results/ Calendar page for the links.

The AITA men's ranking tournament in Mumbai is in full swing .. The top seed is Vinod Sridhar and the second seed in S.Zaman, who have both reached quarterfinals .. A surprising name is playing there - veteran Mayur Vasant, who is a good coach there .. He played the qualifiers, and has now reached the QF with an easy win over 8th seed Kedar Shah! .. S.Zaman who plays Mayur next, better watch out! ..  See the Mumbai men's event results page.

Still not much news coming out of the Grade-5 ITF international at Calcutta (as usual the Calcutta newspapers' online sites are pretty lame in tennis coverage) .. A Calcutta kid whom I have not heard much about before, has been making some noise - Mohammed Ali Salman .. He qualified in beating good players like Ritesh Chitlangia (61 62) and Vivek Chandrasekhar (62 62) and then beat the 2nd seed P.Ravikrishna, 63 63 yesterday to reach second round .. This kid doesn't appear in any AITA rankings yet - what's the story on him, I wonder ? .. Anyway, the top two seeds are out - along with second seed Ravikrishna, the top seed Karan Doctor also was ousted,  26 16 by Nishank Mishra .. The tournament is listed by ITF to be played on hard-gravel .. I am not sure if the surface is strange or something to cause all these upsets .. Absolutely no news on the girls side so far .. I will await more results and start a page for this tournament soon.

Sai Jayalakshmi lost in the singles qualies again this week at the Australian challenger (at Nuriootpa) .. She went down 36 26 to Mireille Dittman (#325) .. Sai had beaten a Natalie Dittman (#590) in the first round of qualies last week at Mount Gambier .. 64 players in the qualies draw and she faced the same name for a second week in a row (funny - Mireille Dittman had lost in the qualies to Nirupama 3 weeks back at Kuala Lumpur too! .. Too much of Dittmans :-)) .. I have not seen the doubles qualifier draw.

Nov 24 Note-1

Here are the details of the ATF-AITA $84K MTNL Asia Cup (that is Asian Tennis Federation, All India Tennis Association and title sponsor Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd) .. It starts today with a couple of quarterfinals -- India-A is in action against Japan and Korea plays Thailand .. LP would have got there by now, and India plays China tomorrow .. Semifinals on Friday, I believe .. Each tie has 2 singles matches and a doubles match.

Teams: #1 Uzbekistan: Oleg Ogorodov, Vadim Kutsenko and Aleksey Yolkhin (non-playing captain). #4 Korea: Seung-Bok Baek, Dong-Hyun Kim, Seung-Hun Lee and Min-Cheol Chung  (n-p captain). Thailand: Naratorn Srichaphan, Samrej Vittaya, Pisutharnonth Ekkarin and Col. Shrisuka  Yudhanta (n-p captain). #2 India: Leander Paes, Prahlad Srinath, Syed Fazaluddin, Sandeep Kirtane and Jaideep  Mukherjea (n-p captain). China: Zhu Ben-Quiang, Xu Ran, Jiang Shan, Zang Nian-Fei, Li Zao (n-p captain), Ma Ke-Qin (coach). India `A': Sunil Kumar, Mustafa Ghouse, Vishal Uppal, Vijay Kannan and Shyam Minotra  (n-p captain). #3 Japan: Kato Toshiharu, Terachi Takahiro, Tokumaru Masashi, Satoshi Iwabuchi and  Takeuchi Eiji (n-p captain) .. There are 7 teams as Lebanon withdrew in the last minute .. So the top seeds Uzbekistan got a bye to the semi .. The seedings are mostly based on ATP ranks of the players ..

The top stars missing are, Paradorn Srichaphan and Danai Udomchoke of Thailand,  Takao Suzuki and Goichi Motomura of Japan, and Yong Il Yoon and Hyung-Taik Lee of Korea, along with MB for India .. Pakistan has not returned this time (they were there last year), probably for obvious reasons - so we won't see Aisam Quereshi either .. I was hoping to see Paradorn here, as he would be playing in the challenger in India next week .. He still chose to skip this - "he is busy" was all the Thai coach would say! .. Japan, despite the two missing people are not a particularly easy team, as Terachi and Iwabuchi are tough customers, as we remember from Asiad last year .. Korea *is* a weak team, despite their #4 ranking .. Uzbekistan, the one team that always comes with a couple of their best (Ogorodov and Kutsenko) will be tough for anybody to beat (It took some heroics from Mahesh last year for us to win the final over them - MB actually single-handedly led us to the title, aftyer we started with a singles loss against Pakistan and were staring down the barrel -see the Asia Cup 98 page).

Draw:

#1 Uzbekistan -- Bye \
#4 Korea vs Thailand / \ _
#3 Japan vs India-A  \ /
#2 India vs China    /
They will play the losing bracket matches too, to place the teams from 5 through 7, so that countries won't have to go back after one tie!

Nov 23 Notes

Mahesh is at New York, undergoing shoulder/hamstring/stomach-muscle treatment .. He told the Hartford Courant that he had been playing 80% of this year on pain killers and needed to get rid of all the problems before the start of next year .. LP is on his way to India for Asia Cup starting soon this week.

New rankings this week -- Leander is at #204 and Mahesh is at #297, followed by Srinath at #324 and Fazal at #414  (Fazal lost 8 points from the semifinal he had at the India futures last year and dropped 18 spots, but got 3 points from the Vietnam QF last week which will go into his account next week) .. Harsh Mankad is fifth at #671 and Vishal Uppal at #805 and Sandeep Kirtane at #821 .. Vinod Sridhar dropped to #8 among Indians, as he lost 8 pts from last year's India futures.

In women's singles rankings, Nirupama is at #203, Manisha at #320 and Sai at #437 ..  IN doubles, Niru is at #192 and Sai at #437 (Sai is at exactly the same ranking in both singles and doubles!) .. Manisha had 0.5 points from somewhere this week (perhaps from the Denmark tournament two back).

Some results from last week .. At the $10K Vietnam futures, Fazal beat Nick Greenhouse (GBR) 61 36 62, then Bob Borella (DEN) 63 36 62 to reach the quarterfinal, but then lost to the 4th seed Bartlomiej Dabrowski (POL,360) 76(7) 36 46 .. #254 Yaoki Ishi of Japan won the title there beating #433 Aisam Quereshi of Pakistan in the final ..  Good news from Pakistan - 4th seed Harshit Sharma did win that final against 3rd seed Pramote Malasitt of Thailand, 61 63 (I had given the earlier results in the Nov 18 Note-2 last week, about his semi win over the 2nd seed) in the Grade-5 Pakistan ITF International .. At the grade-4 international in Malaysia, N.Mukundan won the doubles title with Andrew Anderson (RSA), over Hyu Choi Jae and Man Oh Se of Korea, 63 62 .. Also Prakash Amritraj of USA lost in the final of the Grade-5event in the US last week ..

The events of interest this week, in addition to the Asia Cup in Delhi are: the $10K futures in Rajshahi, Bangladesh (Rohan Bopanna and Manoj Mahadevan were in the qualifier draw - yet to see the qualies results and the main draw), the ITF grade-5 junior international at the DKS courts in Calcutta, and an AITA men's ranking tournament in Mumbai, which seems to have got some pretty good participation .. Sai should be at the Nuriootpa women's challenger in Australia, playing qualies - will find results from there soon.

I believe both Sunil Kumar and AV Rao are missing from the Calcutta ITF junior internationals - a bit disappointing.

I have got the latest rankings from AITA -- will post them later today.

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 ..

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Nov 22 ..