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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on Nov 30, 1998

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Nov 30 Notes

Wow !! Incredible stuff from Delhi .. Sai Jayalakshmi pulled the upset of her life, beating 3rd seed Karin Kschwendt of Austria (#131) today !! .. Not to be left behind, Manisha Malhotra won over #575 Eva Belbl too .. Nirupama had no problems at all in winning in straight sets over Katalin Miskoczi of Hungary either .. The only Indian to lose today was Archana Venkataraman, who lost to the second seed Jolene Watanabe .. The wins give Sai 9 points with 2 bonus, and Manisha 7 points .. Sai, who had gone up to #640 from #725 with her Indian satellite final pts, now has 21.5 pts (including 1.5 from Manila last week), which will place her at about #460 which is the highest that any Indian without a name Nirupama has probably ever been ! .. Right behind her as the Indian #3 will now be Manisha, who has picked up 11.5 points here to go to a total of 20, which will have her also inside top-500 about 20 spots behind Sai (and she got about 18 of those in just two tournaments - the UK futures 3 months back and this - that is impressive, moving from about 1000 to inside 500 in two tournaments flat!) .. I wonder if the Indian sports ministry realize their mistake in not clearing Manisha to the Asiad at least now ?? .. This is precisely why I was so upset at their bonehead decision (and AITA not showing the readiness to do something about it yet, as well) .. Anyway, huge congrats to both Sai and Manisha for what they did today. Wilcards Uzma and Shruti are playing tomorrow, I believe .. See all the results in the Delhi women's challenger page ..

Nov 29 Note-1

Good news from Delhi - Manisha and Archana qualified into the main draw of the $75K women's challenger today !! .. Manisha Malhotra upset the top seed in the qualies, Madoka Kuki (#385), 7-6(5), 7-6(5), which is one of the biggest upsets of her career .. Same for Archana Venkataraman, who upset the 3rd seed in the qualies, Kerstin Marent of Austria (#494) in a marathon three setter, 6-7(3), 7-6(5), 7-5 !! .. Jahnavi Parekh, who had upset the 4th seed Saori Honda in the second round could not pull another upset and went down to Eva Belbl of Germany (#575), 6-3, 6-2 .. in the 4th final round match, second seed Riei Otakeyama (JPN, #441) beat Jennifer Tinnacher of Germany .. There is some chance for Jahnavi to still make it into the main draw as a lucky loser if there are 4 more withdrawals from the main draw, which was made today .. Kuki, Marent, Tinnacher, Jahnavi, Honda, Vanessa Henke, Rushmi Chakravarti, .. that is the lucky loser waiting list as of now ..

By the time the draw was made, there were four more withdrawals, and the direct entry has now gone down to #398 - However, it is quite probable that a lot of those people who were about 15 out from the original entry list cut-off never expected to get in, and will not show up by tomorrow, which means we should have quite a few lucky losers moving in .. Stay tuned on that.

The latest withdrawals are Emanuelle Gagliardi (#105) who would have been the top seed and Jeannette Husarova, who would have been the 6th seed .. Meilen Tu of Canada who was ranked #101 on Nov 2nd in the original list has fallen all the way to #204 this week, and so her withdrawal does not weaken the field a whole lot, on paper. Very interestingly, Nirupama is the 9th highest ranked player, and missed being seeded very narrowly!! .. The latest entry list and the qualifier results are at the Delhi women's challenger page.

As for the draw, it is very nice to Nirupama and Manisha and very unkind to most other Indians .. Niru faces one of the last direct entries, Katalin Miskolczi of Hungary (#375), and then should be facing the 8th seed Shinobu Asagoe (Japan, #157) .. If she moves on, it could be Mirium Schnitzer (GER, #140) next and then 2nd seed Jolene Watanabe (USA, #130) .. As for the others, Manisha Malhotra has a manageable match against another qualifier, Eva Belbl (GER, #575) .. Wildcards Uzma and Sai have tough opponents in 7th seed Amanda Hopkins and 3rd seed Karin Schwendt .. Qualifier Archana faces 2nd seed Watanabe .. those are three very tough matches .. The 3rd wildcard, Shruti Dhawan, ended up with unseeded Timoe Hotta (#274) of Japan .. I still wish AITA had shown the foresight to ask the 16-yr old Shruti to play the qualifiers and get some match experience than to wildcard her into the main draw .. This is the highest ranked player she has ever faced .. As of now, the ones who have already picked up some very good points are Manisha and Archana, who both have 4.5 points each so far (3.5 for qualifying, 1 bonus for beating top-500 opponents) and will make over $1000 in prize money, including the $650 for the main draw first round .. both Manisha and Archana will move up by about 100 spots each in ranking with this .. Manisha has a great chance to pick up another 7 points more and make that huge jump to inside top-500 if she can beat her qualifier opponent Eva in the first round ..

All the fun starts tomorrow !!

Nov 28 Notes

The qualifiers have started at the $75K Women's challenger at New Delhi, and they are trying to finish the whole qualifiers on Sunday itself - that is a rarity on the women's tour, where the final round of qualifiers are almost invariably ending on Monday, and in some cases as late as Tuesday! .. Anyway, I had a note from a press friend that a whole bunch of players have not arrived, and apparently any Indian player could have basically walked in, signed in for the qualies and walked away with $175K for even if they lost (except that, this being the first time that an event like this is happening in India, most did not know about the posiibility, I assume) ..

The Hindustan Times reports that only seven matches were played today - two first round matches and 5 second round matches .. I assume it's because some of the players got first round byes due to the lack of 32 players being on hand for three rounds of qualies .. That means there will be three more second round matches and 4 final round matches to be played on Sunday, with three players having to play both 2nd and 3rd rounds.

The good news is that Jahnavi Parekh, Manisha Malhotra and Archana Venkataraman are among 5 of the 8 final round players determined today ! .. The ones to fall in the second round were Arthi Venkataraman and Rushmi Chakravarti, both to higher ranked foreign players, and the young Sheetal Gautam who lost to Archana .. The most impressive win of the day was by Jahnavi Parekh (where have you been, lady?) who upset, in straight sets, Saori Honda, who at #536 is about 250 spots above Jahnavi and must be one of the top couple of seeds in the qualies .. The other surprise upset was by unranked Shalini Thakur in the first round over Keiko Tameishi (#740) of Japan .. See all the results of the day and the entry list as it stands, in the Delhi women's challenger page.

I am told that everybody is surprised at all the withdrawals at Delhi so far .. Actually it should have been expected for a one-week-only event, and the main reason is the travel expenses to India .. India is one of the most expensive places to fly to, from most tennis-rich places around the world .. It is a tough decision to buy a $1000-1500 ticket and be ready to spend $1500-2000 to go for qualifiers in India when the chances are that one hardly breaks even, even with a first round main-draw win, much less qualify through 2 or 3 rounds .. Especially in a $75K event where you expect many top-200 players in the main draw .. AITA goofed up big-time, and everybody seems to agree on that by now, in going for a $75K event, rather than a three-week sequence of $25K events (even if it were all in Delhi!) .. A lot more of the top-400 players would have taken a chance then, as there are much better odds to come out with a $1000 or more in that case, especially with slightly more manageable competition .. Anyway, I don't want to beat up on AITA for that though - at least they got us a big women's challenger for the first time - hopefully everybody would learn from this and plan well for a nice sequence of events next year. It is a fact that if there aren't at least about three weeks of events, it's tough to get anybody to come to India - this should be considered seriously in the future .. Look at the Calcutta men's futures a couple of weeks back - it was supposed to be followed by two weeks of futures in Bangladesh originally, but once the Bangla events got cancelled, it was clear that the competition would be much worse than what we had for the three-week futures sequence in January this year .. Another thing to consider is that the 4-week satellites circuits have suddenly become much less popular, ever since the futures events without 4-week commitments started this year .. It is a double-edged sword though - one can get away with much more points from a satellite circuit than from 3 or 4 futures events, the way the points structure is set up now, but somehow the players are very reluctant to go for it..

As for the Delhi challenger now, no need to worry - There will still be a lot of top players in the main draw, and Indians will get to see some top-quality women's tennis next week.. There are bound to be at least another couple of main draw withdrawals, and that increases the chance for some of the Indians in the final round of qualies to make it in, even is they lose on Sunday .. Reaching the final round have already given Manisha, Archana and Jahnavi two WTA points each !

Nov 27 Note-2

Does any other country produce tennis players who show up so consistently with heart for their country as India does ?? ..

Will the vast majority of Indian sports fans ever know this fact ? .. (that is a rhetorical question directed at enemy #1 to tennis in India, by the way - Doordarshan, I mean ..)

It should bring tears to any Indian tennis fan's eyes to think of what Mahesh did today - We have seen this all from Leander for so long, and when his buddy was abroad hardly able to walk, Mahesh knew what he had to do .. and that was to win his 6th match in 4 days, all in must-win pressure situations.. Today, he had to go up against a player much higher ranked than he is .. India was up against two guys who have beaten even Leander many times .. and guess what he does ? .. He won two more again today, making it six pressure matches won in straight sets .. Once again he had to come back from being down breaks and at break and set points so many times .. Every single time he showed the champion in himself, pulling out aces at will when needed and winning it all for India.

We tried Fazal in the first match today, and once again we were down a match as Kutsenko (ranked at #252, much above Fazal at #572) beat him 6-3, 6-3 .. Mahesh had to resurrect India from 0-1 situation for the 3rd time in a row .. MB found himself broken by Ogorodov (ranked 209 to Mahesh's 351) in the seventh game and was serving at a set point at 3-5 in the 9th .. Out came the aces (three of them in the game), and he held .. He promptly broke Ogorodov in the 10th game and it was all tied up at 5-5 .. In the tiebreaker, Mahesh's experience at the highest levels of tennis showed .. He was once again down 0-3 in the second set .. The fist-pumping started again, and before Ogorodov realized what hit him, it was MB who was up at 5-3 .. Mahesh won it 6-4 .. Now it was time to team up with Fazal for that final match .. They went out and beat Ogorodov/Kutsenko, 6-3, 7-6(4) .. Mahesh and Fazal have become a pretty good doubles team now, with three matches won here in straight sets (and actually a pretty good doubles match against Italy in Milan, though they lost then) .. India won the whole enchilada with that, and the team shared $30K ..

This was only Asia Cup, but when it comes to playing for India, Mahesh is a different animal altogether .. Just as his pal Leander is .. Time and again .. Hats off .. Thanks Hesh.

Nov 27 Note-1

Today's final against Uzbekistan is not going to be easy for Mahesh and company .. I agree with what Kamesh Srinivasan wrote in The Hindu, that coach Mukherjea should not lose faith in Srinath and should play him again today, because it may be crucial for India to keep Fazal fresh for that final doubles match .. Kamesh even thought Srinath showed a lot of indications that he is ready to finally play a good match, though it was in patches only yesterday, and he will need to come up consistently big today against kutsenko, to take big pressure off Mahesh against Ogorodov .. By the way, here is what Ogorodov and Kutsenko have done in the last 3 weeks - Kutsenko beat Ogorodov in the final at the Calcutta futures .. then Ogorodov reached the final at Islamabad (and lost to Ivan Vajda of Croatia, currently ranked #844, but has been higher before and is on a comeback trail?) last week .. Kutsenko lost in the semis (also to Vajda) .. In both the weeks, Ogorodov-Kutsenko were the top seeds in doubles and won both those titles .. Now they have won two ties without dropping a match at Delhi too - Understandably, they have played a ton of matches in three weeks and have done very well .. they could be fresher today though, with a rest day yesterday, compared to India.

Fazal seems to be doing really well with Mahesh in doubles - it's always nice for India, for Davis Cup, Asiad, etc, to have another good doubles team like this with some experience together .. Here is what G. Rajaraman wrote yesterday in the Hindustan Times: "Fazaluddin's encouraging display should boost India's morale as they go into the final tomorrow against Uzbekistan, notwithstanding Prahlad Srinath's inability to capitalise on the chances that came his way in the opening singles match again -- this time against Lin Bing-Chao. For all that, Mahesh Bhupathi will have his task cut out tomorrow when he takes on Oleg Ogorodov in the second singles. To be sure, he has relished playing India's spearhead in Leander Paes' absence .. But when he plays a higher-ranked and better rival for the first time in this edition of the Asia Cup, he may need Ogodorov to lose his composure and help his cause. It may be rather unfair on his powerful serve, easily the biggest weapon in his armoury, but it must be said that his match today against Chen Wei Ju turned on its head after he rattled his opponent by scoring a psychological point at a crucial moment" .. He is referring to Mahesh arguing with the umpire and holding his ground, getting the supervisor to come to the court, after he said the lineman had called a serve from Wei Ju out that only he had heard (but the lineman apparently did call it, and Mahesh didn't return the serve!) .. Jeez, this Asia Cup business is getting to be very interesting .. There is quite a bit of money at hand, by Indian standards for the finals today .. $30K for winning as opposed $14K for the runners-up .. I hope Srinath, Fazal and Vijay will come out with $7500 each, as opposed to $3500 .. After all, some good money for these three to carry on, is what I consider the best benefit from Asia Cup is.

The Times of India reports that there have been 9 withdrawals from the 25 players who had originally entered for the $75K Delhi challenger next week .. About 5-6 withdrawals always happen in the women's challengers (as opposed to ATP, where there is rarely more than 2-3 withdrawals in challengers), so this was just about expected, considering this is the end of the year and many players would like to take a break to rest aching bodies .. That means the entry cut-off has now gone down to just below WTA #300 and Nirupama is the 13th highest ranked player in the list .. Anna Smashnova (#51) has withdrawn, making Emmanuelle Gagliardi of Switzerland (#82) the top seed .. Another big name to withdraw is Sonya Jeyaseelen of Canada (and Sri Lankan ancestry) .. Anyway, since a bunch of players who were in the qualifiers have moved into the main draw, it also means that the four Indian women (Manisha Malhotra, Rushmi Chakravarti, Archana Venkataraman, and Jahnavi Parekh) who originally held wildcards into the qualifiers, are now direct entries in the qualifiers, and four more Indians have entered the qualifiers as wildcards - Sheetal Gautam, Pooja Deshmukh, Trishna Williams and Karishma Patel .. The main draw wildcards have (deservedly) gone to Uzma Khan, Sai Jayalakshmi, and Shruti Dhawan .. Frankly, I did not want to see 16-year old Shruti to be in the main draw, going up against some top-200 players .. She would have been much better off playing the qualifier rounds, where she would have had at least a chance to upset some top-500 caliber players, perhaps get more matche-play experiece, and pick up more points than the one point she would get for playing in the main draw first round (if she loses, that is - who knows, the kid may upset someone on a good day, on her favorite courts in Delhi!) .. See the Delhi women's challenger page for the entry list, and point details ..

In other news, Akhtar Ali has been honored by USPTR (United States Professional Tennis Registry) as the coach of the year .. Mr. Ali, former Davis Cup player for India has coached just about every good player to come out of India, in the last 3-4 decades, at some time or other in their career .. I am not sure if he plans to continue to coach for much longer, though - If I am not mistaken, he gave up one of the five big AITA junior talent regional coaching centers first given to him in Calcutta (now coach Jaideep Mukherjea is going to handle that center?) .. I may be wrong on that info - don't quote me .. Anyway, it's a big honor for coach Akhtar Ali.

Nov 26 Note-2

Another close one ! .. And once again, Bhupathi was asked to "rise to the" proverbial "occasion" .. and rise he did ! .. once again Srinath seemed to not play up to his abilities and lost the first match, 3-6, 4-6 to Lin Bing Chao (OK, Benny Wijaya) .. According to Times of India's Uma Venkataraman, Srinath made some tactical errors, staying back to outslug his opponent after he had a break in the seventh game, had the momentum and was doing well with occasional moves to the net too .. Anyway, that made the difference, and he never really got the upper-hand back .. So, it was up to MB once again to put India back on track, which he did with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Wei Ju Chen .. MB was down 1-4 in the first set and had to fight off a break point that could have put him down at 1-5, before the flow of adrenaline and fist-pumping started and he won 6 of the next 7 games .. A disputed line-call also rattled Chen along the way .. Finally, in the 3rd match, MB and Fazal pulled off another 6-4, 7-5 close win .. So, India is in the final against Uzbekistan tomorrow .. I hope Srinath would finally get out of his troubles and win one, so MB wouldn't have to play another 2 more matches tomorrow! .. See the results in the Asia Cup 98 page.

Nov 26 Note-1

No news yet from the Asia Cup semifinal today between India and Taiwan .. Our press friends who were letting me know the scores before their articles came up online (thanks!) have not sent anything yet .. I hope nothing untoward has happened ! .. We will know very soon .. A little tidbit on a player from Taiwan that Times of India's Uma Venkataraman and The Hindu's Kamesh Srinivasan had reported - Lin Bing Chao in the Taiwan team is none other than Benny Wijaya of Indonesia in the past .. He has changed his name and nationality now ! .. Uma reported how Mahesh got startled seeing him in the Taiwan team earlier in the week.

In other news, Sai Jayalakshmi is in Manila for the $10K Philippines women's futures .. She won a round Tuesday, but lost today in the second round to Tong KaPo of Hong Kong, 6-2, 6-2 .. Sai will get one point for her win there, and will move up a bit in the rankings in 2 weeks .. I don't believe that she was at the Manila-1 futures last week (which was won by the Maricris Fernandez I mentioned below, by the way) .. I didn't expect to find Sai at this tournament as I thought most Indian women players would be trying the qualifiers at the Delhi challenger over the coming weekend .. I assume she can get down to Delhi by the weekend to do that ..

Incidentally, Times of India had reported a couple of days back that AITA was assuring that they can come up with funds to send Rushmi, Manisha and Shruti also to Bangkok, now that the sports ministry has washed their hands off - however, they still had to get clearance from the ministry on a no-cash-responsibility-to-the-ministry basis .. We will stay tuned.

Nov 25 Notes

At the $84K non-ATP Asia Cup, Delhi, the Uzbeks won the semifinals today in two tough 3-sets singles matches, over South Korea .. The last quarterfinal tie, played today between Indonesia and Chinese Taipei was won by TPE .. The Indonesians had a bad time, arriving late, getting stuck at the airport, being jet-lagged, and then losing in the first round to go home with just $5K .. So, India will play Chinese Taipei in the semifinals tomorrow .. See all the results in the Asia Cup 84 page.

This week's rankings show Leander with same same point total, but moving down to #91, and Mahesh at #351 .. Vinod Sridhar's 8 points from the Calcutta futures semifinal went into the computer this week, making him the highest ranked under-20 player from India right now at #807, just above Harsh Mankad at #827 and Vijay Kannan at #939 .. Vinod was unranked two week back and has 5 pts from the India satellites and 8 from the futures .. Nirupama moved up from #187 last week to #174 this week with the points from the Mount Gambier challenger .. She will move up another 7-8 spots next week with the Port Pirie challenger points.

Nov 24 Note-2

Ooh.. This thing got scary today .. I have been saying for a while that if India doesn't watch out and produce players for the future, we would see losses to even Pakistan - I did not expect it to get as scary as it did today, so soon, though .. But then again, as long as LP and MB are there, we are safe even if our other guns like Srinath have a bad day.. MB took it all on his shoulder and carried us to the next round today, after Prahlad, apparently still a bit out of sorts after a couple of weeks of break due to an injury, lost the first match to Mohammed Khaliq .. 22 yr old Khaliq is unranked right now (he will enter the rankings at around 1300 with the 1 pt last week at Islamabad), but is not a pushover, having played well in Davis Cup for Pakistan, and having taken top seed Ogorodov to 3 sets (including a 6-0 win in one set!) just last week .. Anyway, the way he beat Srinath at 6-1, 6-4 was a surprise though, butt it's surely also due to Srinath just having a bad day .. Then comes the only Pakistani player in the rank list this week, 18 yr-old Aisam ul Haq Qureshi, and apocalypse must have seemed oh-so near with Mahesh down 0-40 in the 4th game of the second match to the kid .. No worries though, as three aces took care of business and Mahesh showed what he was made of .. Aisam did not give up, and fought all the way, but MB won it 6-4, 7-5 .. Then came the emotional final tie, and Mahesh was again out there, leading the way and getting the best out of his partner Fazal. Fazal responded too, and we pulled out another 6-4, 7-5 win and a 2-1 win in the tie .. Next up is the semifinal, but that tie is on Thursday, which should give MB some rest after two matches today.

By the way, tennis is on the upswing in Pakistan .. Aisam and Thailand's Paradorn are the best two young talents (both barely 18) right now in Asia .. Others such as Nomee Qamar (19 yr old) and Nasir Shirazi (18 yr old who beat Vijay Kannan at Islamabad last week and already in their Davis Cup team with Aisam and Khaliq) are all upcoming players .. The reason why only Aisam is ranked is that they have not had any tournaments with ATP points there to play - last week's $15K Futures was the largest tournament ever in Pakistan! .. Six more players will make the ATP rank list next week, though, for their first round wins, and Aisam will move up to around #775 .. I am tempted to say that they have better teenage talent right now than India has (let us hope it motivates our kids to work hard and get better!). By the way, Pakistan lost a couple of talented under-16 players last year in a tragic fire accident, which was unfortunate, just when they started producing a lot of such good players.

Uzbekistan had no problem beating China 3-0 today .. They play the semifinal tomorrow (wednesday) against South Korea .. India's thursday semifinal opponent will be either Philippines or Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) .. The PHI vs TPE tie had to be postponed to Wednesday, as the Philippines team arrived only last night, and apparently were stranded at the airport for the whole night with nobody being there to receive them .. If true, that is very poor hospitality planning by the organizers.

In other news, confusing statements are coming out about the fate of the three uncleared women players for the Asiad. The sports ministry, in their infinite(ssimal) wisdom decided that the only medal hope in women's tennis is in mixed doubles ! .. Give me a break ! .. Do these guys have any sense of what it takes to win the team competition ? .. Indian women are good enough with a proper team to reach the final four (or even better), provided the doubles win in each tie is taken care of - and by refusing the three players clearance, they are messing it up completely .. I have commented on this below too .. Anyway, there are also reports of AITA saying that they will pay for the three players .. But we also saw that AITA was informing the three of the ministry decision and not assuring them of travel funds. I hope they make the decision *right now* (I mean TODAY!) and finalize things. We are down to just 10 days, and it would be in India's best interest to get the proper women's doubles teams to play at the Delhi challenger next week. If the three players are going, it would seem appropriate for Rushmi and Sai who have done so well in the satellites to play as one team, and also to have Nirupama and Manisha to play as another team (by the way, I am not sure if Manisha is in India or in the US - it may be too late for her to arrange travel from the US if she was planning to not be at the Delhi challenger) .. It all sounds like an eminently avoidable mess .. AITA, which has seen this kind of stuff from the ministry in the past too, should have known better to plan early for the eventuality.

Another note: LP-MB received $70K for their #2 year-end finish, as court-side bonus at Hartford ..

Nov 24 Note-1

Yesterday's action at the $84K non-ATP Asia Cup was pretty one-sided and dull, from all newspaper reports - Just one quarterfinal tie was played (the other three are today) and Korea beat Thailand easily, 3-0 .. We knew that Thailand hardly stood a chance once we knew that young Paradorn Srichaphan wouldn't be there, but this was apparently even worse than we expected Paradorn's elder brother Narathorn was there, but he couldn't do much against the Koren #1 Hyung-Taik Lee who recently overtook Yong-Il Yoon as the higher-ranked South Korean .. The draw and results are at the Asia Cup 98 page .. The reports from the Indian newspapers should all be good as some of my favorite reporters are all there - Kamesh Srinivasan (the Hindu), S.Kannan and G.Rajaraman (Hindustan times), Nikhila Natarajan (Indian Express), Prajwal Hegde (Deccan Herald) etc .. Nobody had anything much to write about yesterday though, other than the bad-quality tennis by Thailand (it could also be that the Koreans are pretty tough) .. India, the #1 seed, is drawn with Pakistan, Korea and Thailand .. the #2 seeds, Uzbekistan, is drawn with China, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) and Indonesia ..

S.Kannan (Hindustan Times) had a nice article yesterday, with an interview with Nirupama Vaidyanathan, who was about to leave back to India, after skipping the 3rd week of challengers in Australia .. Probably a good decision, as it gives her a week of break to get over travel weariness, and also because she will be playing 3 more weeks of tough tennis, with the Delhi challenger next week and then Asiad .. She said she is not satisfied with this year - even though she will have her best year-end ranking inside top-170, she wanted it to be closer or inside top-100 .. The several months of asthma and chest infection troubles she had prevented her from that .. Looks like the 5 weeks of break in Tennessee, doing some Yoga, etc, has helped her, based on the good show in Australia .. One thing that never changes is that she still has no major sponsorship money, and is hardly breaking even with the measly prize money in the WTA tour (most challengers do not pay for accommodation, unlike in ATP, and unless you reach the semi or final of tournaments, you don't get enough money) .. It's a sad story still, that after being such a pioneer in Indian women's tennis, the Indian companies do not find it in them to use her for endorsements .. It boggles my mind .. to some extent, organizations like AITA should do more in finding her sponsorship, but what a respected tennis authority in India told me a while back remains as a big problem - the Indian industry does not suffer from social conscience .. Fine, nobody wants their charity, but I fail to understand how good their marketing/advertising groups are, when they do not see potential in somebody like Niru .. Don't tell me that Filippino companies can find potential in somebody like a Maricris Fernandez (19 yr old ranked in 600s) in a country that has hardly any tennis tradition or exposure and Indian companies cannot find anything marketable in 21 yr old Nirupama who has been inside top 150 before she was 20 (may be they don't need anybody other than the cash cows - the cricketers - to sell anything) .. I don't know what IMG is doing to find her sponsorship, but nothing major seems to be coming her way yet .. The more I write about this, the more depressed I get - the same old broken record.

A correction from earlier - the news injury Leander had at Hartford was not an ankle injury - it was bone spurs on his heel .. Will talk to him soon and report how his recuperation is coming along.

Nov 23 Note

India takes on Pakistan tomorrow (tuesday) in their first tie at the Asia Cup in Delhi .. more details coming soon ..

Nov 23 Notes

Not much news today .. Mahesh has reached Delhi to lead India at the Asia Cup .. Coach Jaideep Mukherjea had a scare at first that India may have to play Monday itself, and that would have been trouble with Mahesh jet-lagged after reaching there Sunday .. Anyway, the Japanese referee has agreed to let India play on Tuesday, so we should be fine (but then again, Mahesh had the strange experience at Mumbai this time last year, when he got there on Sunday, played with no trouble on Monday and then had a late jet-lag hit him on tuesday! .. I am sure he will be fine this time). More details on the asia Cup soon ..

Leander had an extra injury during Hartford, which is what caused him to totally skip the 3rd round robin match - a bone chip on his ankle .. He is undergoing treatments in Hartford itself, but will go to Orlando for rest the next two weeks .. No surgery is recommended this time, and if the hip flexor and the leg injuries respond to rest and treatment, he could be OK in two weeks for Asiad .. More rest would help, but that's all he can get now ..

As for the government clearance for Rushmi Chakravarti, Manisha Malhotra and Shruti Dhawan, for the Asiad, apparently it is possible for somebody else other than the sports ministry to come up with funds to send them to bangkok .. Looks like it has fallen into AITA's lap now.. Time to show that we are serious about the commitment to improve the women's game .. More so, this may be *very* important to make sure that we have at least a chance for a team medal (though competition is very tough in Asian women's tennis, I believe we have what it takes to get to the final four and pull out a medal .. that is where it is important to have a couple of good doubles teams (Sai/Rushmi and Niru/Manisha) available .. We also have a great chance to let those two teams get some match practice at the Delhi challenger next week too .. with three matches every day in team competition, the doubles pair becomes very important .. So who wants to come up with money ? IOA ? AITA ? .. We will wait, but I am still upset at how these things come up in the last minute. Pathetic.

.. Previous notes are at Weekly Notes, ending Nov 23 ..