Notes for week ending on Dec 1, 1997

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Dec 1 Note-2

Still don't have much info on the draw at Ahmedabad.. Leander Paes played doubles today with Nitin Kirtane and took out the 4th seeded pair, Eyal Erlich and Eyal Ran of Israel, in straight sets (This is about the 5th or 6th match in a row that Ran has lost to Leander, both in singles and doubles.. the poor chap just cannot get past Paes.. I don't want to put any jinx here though, as the 8th seeded Ran is a possible quarterfinal opponent for LP). Not an easy match, however, as the first set was won on a 14-12 tiebreaker !... Mahesh Bhupathi and Sandeep Kirtane fought hard, but could not upset the 1st seeds Couto and Cunha-Silva of Portugal.. Tough draw for these two doubles teams... In singles, Leander will be playing the first round match tomorrow against Vasudev Reddy in a featured night match under lights (I am sure Vasu will be fired up for this match and will give a good fight, but it is doubtful if has enough consistency in his game to beat someone of LP's caliber).. No news yet on who MB will be playing.  Both the lucky loser finalists at Mumbai lost today, and the three seeds had an easy time advancing.. Here are whatever results I know of, from Monday:

  Vladimir Voltchnov (Belrus) d.  WC-Sandeep Kirtane (Ind)    7-5, 6-2
  Goichi Motomura (Jpn)       d.  Takao Suzuki (Jpn)          1-3 (wd)
  Martijn Belgraver (Ned)     d.  Barry Cowan (GBR)           3-6, 1-6 
2 Oleg Ogorodov (Uzb)         d.  Q-Satoshi Iwabuchi (Jpn)    6-3, 6-3
8 Eyal Ran (Isr)              d.  Q-Dmitriy Tomashevich (Uzb) 7-5, 6-1
  Q-Herbert Wiltschnig (Aut)  d.  Bernardo Mota (Portugal)    6-0, 4-6, 6-1
4 Orlin Stanoytchev (Ned)     d.  Luke Milligan (GBR)         6-4, 6-1

  Doubles
  L.Paes-N.Kirtane            d.4 E.Ran-E.Erlich              7-6 (14-12), 7-5
  S.Randjelovic-V.Voltchkov   d.  M.Ghouse(Ind)-H.Mankad(Ind) 6-4, 6-1
  D.Nainkin-M.Hilpert         d.  V.Kutsenko-D.Tomashevich    3-6, 6-3, 7-5
1 E.Couto-Joao Cunha-Silva    d.  M.Bhupathi-S.Kirtane        5-7, 6-3, 6-3

News on the Nelson Mandela tribute/charity exhibition (Cape Town, RSA, Dec 13-17): The schedule is out.. One change in the group of 9 celebrities playing there; Mark Roesset (Swiss) replaces injured Goran Ivanisevic.. Three groups. Group1) Andre Agassi (USA), Boris Becker (Ger), Malivai Washington (USA), Group 2) Leander Paes (Ind), Richard Krajicek (Ned), Wayne Ferreira (RSA), Group 3) Mark Roesset (Swz), Yannick Noah (Fra), Tood Martin (USA).. Great to see Leander with such a group of stars ! Each player plays two round robin matches within the group; the three group-winners and a "lucky loser" advance to the semifinals.. This sounds like serious stuff, despite it being an exhibition.. The Coetzer/Majoli match is a pure exhibition, I guess.. Would be nice to see an LP/Becker match here.. The schedule: Friday 12 Dec., 5pm: Martin vs Noah; Becker vs Washington; Ferreira vs Paes. Sat 13, 1pm: Martin vs Rosset, Agassi vs Becker; Sat 13, 7.30pm: Amanda Coetzer vs Iva Majoli, Krajicek vs Ferreira. Sunday 14, noon: Rosset vs Noah; Agassi vs Washington; Krajicek vs Paes.

Dec 1 Note-1

The draw for the Ahmedabad challenger was to be done Sunday night. No info yet on that. The Hindu confirms that there are indeed synthetic hardcourts there: "On the eve of the tourney, the AGETA premises present a beehive of activity. The four synthetic courts look spick and span and it is amazing to note that in the short period that this Association had come into being, already five international events had taken place here. The dedication of the AGETA has to be commended"... Singles seeding: 1. Leander Paes (Ind), 2. Oleg Ogorodov (Uzb), 3. Andrei Merinov (Rus), 4. Orlin Stanoytchev (Bul), 5. Eyal Erlich (Isr), 6. Frederic Fontang (Fra), 7. Rainer Falenti (Austria) and 8. Eyal Ran (Isr)... The 4 qualifiers here are: Vadim Kutsenko (Uzb), Satoshi Iwabuchi (Jpn), Dmitry Tomashevich (Uzb) and Herbert Wiltschng (Austria), and all four were in the main draw at Mumbai last week (and Vadim and Dmitri were 2 of the 4 quals there too!)... The finalist at Mumbai, Barry Cowen (GBR) and Takeo Suzuki (Jpn) are given direct entries in the main draw (using the special exempt spots that ATP allows, I assume).. Doubles: 1. Emanuel Couto ans Joao Cunha-Silva (both of Portugal) and 2. Goichi Motomura (Japan) and Oleg Ogorodov (Uzb).. The Paes/N.Kirtane and the Bhupathi/S.Kirtane teams are both wildcards despite LP and MB having top-10 doubles rankings because of the low rankings of the Kirtanes (the doubles seeding is based on the sum of the ranks of the players)... The Hindu also says that Leander's current singles ranking is #125, which seems right, even though ATP has not updated their online rankings after Nov 17th. He has no points to defend till late January, and as long as he stays ahead of Ogorodov here (he has 340 points to LP's 355 points, now) he is in good shape.

Nov 30 Notes

The Mumbai Challenger final: Takeo Suzuki defeated Barry Cowen easily, 6-1, 6-0 to earn 63 points.. This is only the 6th time that a lucky loser has ever won a title, and Suzuki is the lowest ranked lucky loser to win one.. also, this is the first time thaty two lucky losers have played in a final ! .. Even more drama was there in the doubles final.. David Nainkin and Marcus Hilpert win the first set and then waste two match points in the second set, followed by mistakes in the tiebreaker.. Nainkin gets upset and whacks the ball, it bounces and hits a spectator (a tennis player, S. Narendranath who was Nitin Kirtane's guest incidentally), and the tournament official walks in and says "code violation, match default".. He is the same one who pulled up Connors for code violation at the Wimbledon 11 years back ! .. Correct call, but one has to feel sad for Nainkin who had rushed to apologize and help the spectator. It seems to have been a momentary lack of control and an unintended mistake, but Nainkin accepted all responsibility and was remorseful. Well, the mistake caused Nainkin ATP points as well as a couple of thousands dollars (plus whatever prize money he would have got at the tournament).. Anyway, the first seeds Couto and Cunha-Silva won by default, 1-6, 6-6 (6-4)..

Interesting News on the Ahmedabad Challenger starting Monday: Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi will play doubles, but with different partners !!! LP will play with Nitin Kirtane and MB will play with Sandeep Kirtane.. They agreed to play doubles event after AGETA (Ahmedabad Govt Employees Tennis Association) director Mr A Prasad requested them to do so in the interest of the tennis fans in the city (and in the intersts of gate collection too, I would think... :-)).. True that it would be very unfair for the #4 team in the world to play doubles in a challenger and the only way for the fans to see them in doubles action would be through something like this. On the other hand (Deccan Herald), according to coach Enrico Piperno, the idea behind the momentary split is to help the Kirtane cousins gain some valuable ATP points which will help the rankings of the Pune lads.. LP and MB seem to be very good friends with the Kirtanes, and it's great to see them supporting other Indian players, in addition to going the extra mile to be at all Indian events, even though I feel it is probably not in their best interest to do these things. By the way, the wildcards into the singles there are the same as at Mumbai (Vasudev Reddy, Sandeep and Nitin Kirtanes, and Harsh Mankad). I wish we had Prahlad Srinath too there, though.. The #3 Indian player is missing once again, even though he was done with the 4-week Thailand satellite a few days back. No info on what the deal is. Haven't seen the singles draw yet, but LP is the #1 seed and Ogorodov is the #2 seed. It appears that pretty much the same cast of characters are there as in Mumbai, except for the British kid Martin Lee who had to go back to London for some domestic tournament there. Stanoytchev also will be ready to win some matches here now that he has also got over the jetlag.

By the way, LP has never won a first round match at Ahmedabad (lost in the first round 2 times). LP said that the courts there were slow cowdung courts before which was not in his favor, but that now it is a hardcourt which should help him (it was listed as a clay challenger last year, and my records show it was at the Gujarat Tennis Association courts, which I have to confirm to be the same as the AGETA courts where it is played this year)..

Here is something that made me ROTFLMBO (roll on the floor laughing my behind off, in cyber-lingo).. The newsbit from the Deccan Chronicle online goes: "Paes will team up with Nissin Kristine while Bhupathi will partner Sanded Kristine. The Citrines are the other two Indian Davis Cup players after Paes and Bhupathi. Both the Indian pairs have got a wild card entry in the doubles event"... I have no idea how they managed to find those names for the Kirtanes.. well, at least they didn't call them Cretins ! .. OK, we should thank the newspapers for these reports, but they do need to follow tennis a little better (how come we never see a cricket player's name mutilated like that ?.. say Dracula David for Rahul Dravid ?...).

Nov 28 Notes

Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi were on the Rediff-on-the-net chatline yesterday. They were both in a relaxed mood and were clearly having fun with all the fans (many from this fanclub). A couple of interesting pieces of info: first, Leander has NOT wrapped up the Australian Open wildcard yet, and he has to do well this week and stay ahead of Oleg Ogorodov (now 15 points behind him) to get the Asian wildcard. He is confident of doing it. Mahesh said he is serious about the singles rankings and will be at 4 challenger after the Dubai Open, in 98 February. He seemed pretty sure that he wil get back to the US only the week after Indian Wells, for Key Biscayne Lipton; he seemed to say Leander will also not be at Indian Wells and will be at some challengers (Singapore for sure).. I will check up later and get more updated info on the schedules .. Also, Leander was quite candid when asked about his opinion on Boris Becker, saying that he "respects Boris' tennis game a lot, but no longer respects Boris as a human being".. We had heard rumors that there was indeed something that went on in Stuttgart after their big doubles win over Becker and Goellner in front of all the German fans (in perhaps the last doubles match of Becker's career), and that Boris was less than gracious towards the Indians.. Boris said something not-so-complimentary about LP's running-diving style which didn't sit well with Leander, as he agreed yesterday.. More happened there, but let's not get into it.. Suffices to say that Indians do not take crap from anybody, and Leander is the last one to let any washed-up German to walk all over him .. and he didn't ! .. Boris is no longer in the good books of Indian tennis fans; we can say that !.. As far as doubles rankings are concerned, MB is also surprised that the ATP site shows the team rankings to be #5, as he too is sure that they are #4 and the point totals at the ATP site must have some mistake in it .. Mahesh said he would like to play mixed doubles next year with Rika Hiraki (now around top-30), but he would consider it, if one of the top-10 players shows an interest in playing with him.. Hey Hingis, you looking for a partner ?.. The chat session ended with both of them talking about movie stars they would like to date, etc (kidding, of course ... uh.. I guess.. hush.. don't let their GFs know..:-)). The chat transcripts should be at the rediff site ..

Now, how about this Mumbai challenger ?.. It's setting an ATP record .. perhaps the first ever ATP tournament final with two lucky losers, with a combined rank of about 800 !! As of last Sunday, Cowen and Suzuki were out of the qualifier and the tournament.. Two Italians (Silvio Scaiola and Daniele Musa) pulled out, and those two got in.. and the Cinderella run started.. one of the Cinderellas will go away saturday with 60 ATP points. Amazing. Here are the results from Friday:

 Singles Semifinals

  LL-Barry Cowan (GBR)      d. 6 Frederic Fontang (Fra)      4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3
  LL-Takao Suzuki (Jnp)     d.   Andrei Stoliarov (Rus)      6-3, 2-6, 7-5 

 Doubles Semifinals

1 E.Couto/J.Cunha-Silva     d. 3 B.Cowan/O.Ogorodov          6-3, 5-7, 6-2
  M.Hilpert/D.Nainkin       d.   S.Iwabuchi/T.Suzuki         4-6, 6-3, 6-4

By the way, Suzuki is 21 years old, according to The Hindu .. perhaps another Asian we should keep an eye on ? Yesterday at the Thai satellites, the kid Paradorn Srichaphan reached the finals of the 4th leg, beating Wayne Arthurs of Australia. I asked Leander yesterday about Paradorn and he said the kid is very talented but, for the 1998 Asiad, he is concerned more about the Uzbeks and the Koreans.. May be the Japanese like Suzuki should be part of the equation too.

Nov 27 Notes

Good news !! Oleg Ogorodov Lost !!! Yea.. (sorry Oleg, we just like you to stay a few points below Leander, that's all.. :-)).

Here are the quarterfinal results from Thursday, at Mumbai:

  LL-Barry Cowan (GBR)      d.  Goichi Motomura (Jpn)      7-6(3), 6-4   \
6 Frederic Fontang (Fra)    d.  Martin Lee (GBR)           6-4, 6-4      /  \
  Andrei Stoliorov (Rus)    d.  Eyal Erlich (Isr)          6-0, 6-3      \  /
  LL-Takao Suzuki (Jpn)     d.  2. Oleg Ogorodov (Uzb)     2-6, 6-3, 6-4 /

I am pretty sure this is the first tournament of the year where TWO lucky losers reached the semifinals.. Fontang is the only seed left now. Yeah, the Japanese are having a good time at Bombay.. Three of them are alive in singles and doubles through to the semis... The Indian challenge completely ended by Thursday with the Kirtane cousins lising in the QF of the doubles too.. OK, now, here are the (long awaited :-)) doubles draw and scores through the quarterfinals:

 Doubles First Round

1 E.Couto/J.Cunha-Silva     d.   V.Kutsenko/D.Tomashevich    6-3, 7-6(11) 
  S.Randjelovic/V.Voltchkov d.   A.Merinov/A.Stoliarov       6-2, 6-3
  J.Delgado/L.Milligan      d.   G.Natekar/V.Venkatraghavan  7-5, 6-4
3 B.Cowan/O.Ogorodov        d.   J.Chauvin/F.Fontang         7-5, 6-3
  N.Kirtane/S.Kirtane       d.   A.Radhakrishnan/V.Reddy     6-0, 6-1
  S.Iwabuchi/T.Suzuki       d. 4 E.Erlich/E.Ran              6-1, 6-3
  M.Hilpert/D.Nainkin       d.   G.Motomura/T.Shimada        4-6, 6-3, 6-4
2 M.Hromec/B.Mota           d.   O.Stanoytchev/Utterberger   6-4, 6-4

 Doubles Quarterfinals

1 E.Couto/J.Cunha-Silva     d.   S.Randjelovic/Voltchkov     6-2, 7-6(6)
3 B.Cowan/O.Ogorodov        d.   J.Delgado/L.Milligan        6-1, 7-5
  S.Iwabuchi/T.Suzuki       d.   S.Kirtane/S.Kirtane         6-2, 6-4
  M.Hilpert/D.Nainkin       d. 2 M.Hromec/B.Mota             7-6(2), 6-3

That's it for now. And oh, don't forget to check out Rediff-on-the net tomorrow (Friday 6pm IST in India, 7.30 EST in the USA) ! The Dynamic Duo will be on the chatline .. http://www.rediff.com .. Or click here for rediff... I like the rediff site, but they need to put a bit more heart into tennis (hey, spare some of those tons of energy you spend on cricket for tennis too, guys!).. Put a reporter onto tennis, for instance... The article announcing the chat session says India beat Chile in Davis Cup with Carlos Moya in that team !!.. Something tells me the Spaniards won't be too happy to find Moya playing for Chile, not to metion the disappointment of Marcelo Rios fans in Chile !.. :-) ...... (They did correct this later, after being alerted to it, during the chat session..11/28)

Nov 26 Note-2

Mahesh apparently got up at 4 am and couldn't sleep after that, and by afternoon was a sleepy, wobbly, self.. His service was again there in this match (at least in the first set), but by the second set he had no legs to move around.. 6-7 (3-7), 0-6 was the score. It's a pity, but no Indian remains in the last eight at Mumbai. Unfortunately, Ogorodov has been playing shaky tennis and still winning (I have nothing against Oleg; just that I don't want him to overtake LP in points.. he hasn't yet, anyway).. He was down a break in the 3rd set but still pulled it off. The pre-quarterfinal results are as below:

  Goichi Motumara (Jpn)     d.  David Nainkin (RSA)        6-1, 4-6, 6-1 \
  LL-Barry Cowan (GBR)      d.  Steven Randjelovic (Aut)   6-2, 6-4      / \ 
  Martin Lee (GBR)          d.  Mahesh Bhupathi (Ind)      7-6(3), 6-0   \ / \
6 Frederic Fontang (Fra)    d.  Q-Martin Hromec (Slo)      7-5, 6-2      /    \
4 Eyal Erlich (Isr)         d.  Julien Chauvin (Fra)       6-2, 6-2      \    /
  Andrei Stoliarov (Rus)    d.  Martin Belgraver (Ned)     6-1, 6-2      / \ /
  LL-Takao Suzuki (Jpn)     d.  7. Eyal Ran (Isr)          6-3, 6-3      \ /
2 Oleg Ogorodov (Uzb)       d.  Emanuel Couto (Por)        4-6, 6-3, 6-4 /

There was some interesting news in today's Deccan Herald.. Leander and Mahesh have signed a deal with Adidas for their new clothing line for the Devastating Duo .. Not sure if this was after Hartford, but anyway it's supposedly very lucrative, though the figures aren't out (Leander apparently said it was lucrative even by International standards). Good going; it helps to show the kids in India that it's not just the cricket stars who make money. As long as our Duo do not let it go to their head like the spoilt stars of cricket, and remain nice, decent and patriotic like they have always been, this is certainly good for Indian tennis (they have not shown any signs of getting spoilt so far, and we shouldnt expect or assume that all this money will change them now!).

Other Indian/Asian Tennis news: Prahlad Srinath again lost in the first round this week in the 4th leg of the Thailand Challenger (Egad, what a snake-bitten, wretched week for Indian players against International competition this has been.. Just last week we had two guys reaching close to the pinnacle, now nobody can even buy a win..). He lost to Mathew Porter (Australia) 6-4, 6-4. Prahlad has one 2nd round, one 3rd round and 2 first round losses to show for 4 weeks of trouble in Thailand. Gotta feel bad for him. He gets some some 5-6 points, which could move him up a bit in the rankings, that's it .. The guys who did well in that Satellite are Paradorn Srichaphan (Thai), Hideki Kaneko (Jpn), and Wayne Arthurs (Australia). 16 yr-old Danai Udomchoke of Thailand showed he can beat some of the older pros and should be taken note of. Hope Prahlad gets down to Ahemedabad and plays in the challenger there next week.

Nov 26 Note-1

The upper half of the draw which was considered the tougher half originally, is considerably clearer for Mahesh now. 5th seed Stanoytchev also lost yesterday after flying in early in the morning (he also had won a challenger on Sunday).. That is 2 out of three jet-lagged players who crashed out. Mahesh himself said he got lucky that his opponent did not attack him as much as Nainkin attacked Leander. Mahesh's big serve was not affected by jetlag, and when he is hitting his serves his opponent is the one who feels jetlag ! Mahesh relies much less on his legs than Leander and legs and reflexes are what get badly affected by Jetlag.. Also, Nainkin commented that he felt Leander was not comfortable with the bounce of the ball (Vasudev Reddy had said yesterday how the balls felt different and how Hromec, who beat him, had an advantage as he had played in the qualifiers and was used to the balls).. but then again, Leander knows very well that such excuses don't mean much in the heartless computer rankings of the pro circuit.. anyway, the first round is complete and the results are here (and it ain't exactly pretty!):

  David Nainkin (RSA)       d.  1 Leander Paes (Ind)       6-2, 6-4         \
  Goichi Motomura           d.  WC-Sandeep Kirtane (Ind)   6-4, 7-5         /
  LL-Barry Cowan (GBR)      d.  WC-Nitin Kirtane           5-7, 6-4, 6-0    \
  Steven Randjelovic (Aut)  d.  Vladimir Volichkov (Bela)  6-3, 6-4         /
  Martin Lee (GBR)          d.  3 Andrei Merinov (Rus)     7-5, 5-7, 6-2    \
  Mahesh Bhupathi           d.  Luke Milligan              6-4, 6-3         /
6 Frederic Fontang (Fra)    d.  Q-Vadim Kutsenko (Uzb)     6-1, 7-5         \
  Q-Martin Hromec (Slo)     d.  WC-Vasudev Reddy           6-4, 6-2         /
4 Eyal Erlich (Isr)         d.  WC-Harsh Mankad (Ind)      6-3, 6-4         \
  Julien Chauvin (Fra)      d.  Q-Dimitri Tomashevic (Uzb) 6-2, 4-6, 6-2    /
  Andrei Stoliarov (Rus)    d.  5 Orlin Stanoytchev (Bulg) 6-7(6), 7-5, 6-4 \
  Martin Belgraver (Ned)    d.  Satoshi Iwabuchi (Jap)     6-4, 5-7, 6-3    /
7 Eyal Ran (Israel)         d.  Q-Jamie Delgado (GBR)      6-1, 6-1         \
  LL-Takao Suzuki (Jap)     d.  Joao Cunha-Silva (Port)    3-6, 6-4, 6-2    /
2 Oleg Ogorodov (Uzb)       d.  Falenti Rainer (Aut)       7-6(6), 6-4      \
  Emanuel Couto (Por)       d.  Herbert Wiltsching (Aut)   6-2, 6-0         /

Note that the 8th seed Daniel Musa (Italy) is not there, replaced by Barry Cowan as the lucky loser.  Nitin Kirtane still could not pull out a win and lost to Cowan in 2 sets. This is extremely disappointing that in every challenger in India (same at Chennai and Ahemedabad last year) the Indian players seem to not be able to pull off any surprises. It's even more disappointing to see Leander losing in the first round for the 4th time in the last 5 pro tournaments he played in India (Delhi ATP Open and Ahemdabad last year; Chennai ATP Open and Mumbai this year.. He reached the finals of the Chennai challenger last year, but there he had a first round bye.. so Leander has not won a first round match in India in over TWO years now !).. I have this feeling that LP is going to say enough is enough and come out firing at Ahemedabad next week. For now, all hopes are on Mahesh ! .. Martin Lee, MB's 2nd round opponent is not a pushover.. He was the junior #1 last year and has practiced with guys like Rusedski for Britain. Mahesh needs to be ready .. By the way, I have some doubles results which I will post later. Nothing exciting there, but Ogorodov is in the doubles draw also and won a first round match yesterday, as did the Kirtane cousins on Monday.

Nov 25 Note-2

Good news and bad news received just now.. Leander lost, and Mahesh won, at the Mumbai Challenger (first round). Had to expect that at least one of them would succumb to the jetlag effect.. I want to scream at the tournament officials for not doing something to let these two play on Wednesday.. Come on, where is the homefield advantage ??? (but then again, there may not have been much they could do).. Thank God that at least Mahesh pulled through with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Luke Milligan.. He now has hopefully an easier second round game as the 3rd seed Andrei Merinov (#156) fell to Martin Lee. Leander fell to David Nainkin for a 3rd time in a row (6-2, 6-4, I think), but this time it had to be due to the jetlag. It's tough to play within a few hours after a 30 hour plane journey.. Especially for somebody like LP who relies on how springy his legs are.. I say LP should leave early for Ahemedabad, take somebody like Sandeep or Vishaal with him and practice singles there to get ready for next week. He absolutely MUST get at least to the finals there..

Nov 25 Note-1

A note on our Duo's schedule in early 1998 : Mahesh will be playing at a few challengers early next year and the only tournaments where the Duo are confirmed to be together till mid-march are at Doha (Quatar, first week of Jan), Australian Open (Feb 3-4th weeks), Dubai (Feb 2nd week), Indian Wells (CA,USA), and Key Biscayne (FL, USA). Mahesh's tentative schedule between Dubai and Indian Wells (3 weeks) are at any of the challengers at Singapore, Hochimin City, Bankok, and Kyoto. Will confirm later where Leander will be during those 3 weeks. Leander may have extra weeks available the week before the Aus-O and Dubai as he may not have to play the qualifiers there. During the 3 weeks before Indian Wells, there are indoor hardcourt tournaments in the USA at Memphis, Philadelphia and Scottsdale where he may chose to play.

Here are some excerpts from a New York Times article (Nov 24) titled "Indian Heroes Lose to Americans", By Jack Cavanaugh: Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi of India, ranked 109th and 231st in singles, respectively, have been the hottest doubles tandem in tennis with six straight titles on the ATP Tour since August. Millions of people were expected to stay up past midnight Sunday in India to watch them play the Americans Rick Leach and Jonathan Stark in the final of the Phoenix/ATP Tour World Championship at the Hartford Civic Center Sunday afternoon. "They are both as big in India as Michael Jordan is here," said an Indian sportswriter, Srinivasan Kannan of The Hindustan Times.... Maybe they miss Scottie Pippen, too. The Indians' streak ended when they fell to Leach and Stark, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3).... One of the Indian team's victories in its streak had come against Leach, 32, and Stark, 26, in Singapore. By contrast, the Californians had lost all five finals they had reached this year..... Perhaps because of their athleticism and flair on the court, Paes and Bhupathi had the support of the majority of the crowd of 5,000. "It was amazing," the extraordinarily quick Paes said. "About two-thirds of the fans were for us."

Nice analogy there by one of our fan club regulars, Kannan, to NY Times .. We'll call them AIR LeandAir and HOOPSpathi !

Who else have been following our Duo ?.. The Italians, Of course.. They go up against us in Davis Cup next (with even more trepidation now, one can imagine!).... Here is an article titled Finisce il sogno di Bhupathi e Paes Il Masters di doppio a Leach e Stark in La Gazzetta Dello Sport (Nov 24).. Gli statunitensi Rick Leach e Jonathan Stark hanno vinto il Masters di doppio (500.000 $, indoor) battendo in finale gli indiani Mahesh Bhupathi e Leander Paes in tre set. La coppia americana si è così aggiudicata il suo primo torneo dell'anno dopo cinque finali perdute. Bhupathi e Paes, avversari dell'Italia nel primo turno di Davis il prossimo aprile, avevano raggiunto la finale, eliminando il canadese Lareau e l'americano O'Brien... I assume everybody knows Italian here ... That means "Mama .. these guys are gonna be trouble for us!", if you need a translation... just kidding !

Nov 24 Note-3

Here are some scores from Mumbai today (The only Indian to play today was Vasudev Reddy, and it's the same story of inconsistency, yet again, for Vasu..) :

  Q-Martin Hromec (Slovakia)     d.  WC-Vasudev Reddy           6-4, 6-2
4 Eyal Erlich (Israel)           vs. WC-Harsh Mankad
6 Frederic Fontang (Fra)         d.  Q-Vadim Kutsenko (Uzb)     6-1, 7-5
7 Eyal Ran (Israel)              d.  Q-Jamie Delgado (GBR)      6-1, 6-1
2 Oleg Ogorodov (Uzb)            d.  Falenti Rainer (Aut)       7-6 (8-6), 6-4
  Emanuel Couto (Por)            d.  Herbert Wiltsching (Aut)   6-2, 6-0
  Julien Chauvin (Fra)           d.  Q-Dimitri Tomashevic (Uzb) 6-2, 4-6, 6-2

Nov 24 Note-2

Haven't seen a full draw for the Mumbai Challenger yet. See the players list from the Nov 22 Notes ..There was a small mistake in the earlier news.. The Hindu and Deccan Herald say Harsh Mankad is playing Eyal Erlich (ATP #156, 4th seed.. poor kid, Harsh .. tough first round match).. Mahesh called up Mumbai Sunday evening and asked if there was a way he and leander could play the first round on Wednesday.. The tournament head says it's not possible, as ATP prohibits first round matches on Wednesday unless the final is on Sunday (at a challenger like this, they want to finish by Saturday to avoid expenses for an extra day).. Unless the ATP supervisor (Michel Willems) can bend the rules as Deccan Herald hoped (;-)), LP and MB will have to get there early morning Tuesday, get over the jetlag and play by evening 5 pm at least.. I say delay the matches as much as you can, start it and then stop due to poor light ! .. Here is what I can piece together from various newspaper reports (the matchups are correct, and hardly any report on the bottom half so far, as all the Indians but one are in the top half):

1 Leander Paes (India)           vs. David Nainkin
  Sandeep Kirtane                vs. Goichi Motomura
8 Daniele Musa (Italy)           vs. Nitin Kirtane
  Vladimir Vitchkov              vs. ???           --> \                      
3 Andrei Merinov (Russia)        vs. Martin Lee         \
  Mahesh Bhupathi                vs. Luke Milligan    (may be flipped)
5 Orlin Stanoytchev (Bulgaria)   vs. Stoliarov          /
  Vasudev Reddy                  vs. Martin Hromec --> /
         
4 Eyal Erlich (Israel)           vs. Harsh Mankad
6 Frederic Fontang (France)      vs. ??? 
7 Eyal Ran (Israel)              vs. ???
2 Oleg Ogorodov (Uzbekistan)     vs. ???

Nov 24 Note-1

Here is what the Hartford Courent wrote about Paes-Bhupathi after the finals loss yesterday:

They aldo report that Leach and Stark are parting ways (as good friends, though). Rick Leach who has played great doubles, consistently with so many different partners, including Mahesh, will now form a team with Ellis Ferreira for 1999 (which means Galbraith may be looking for another partner), and Stark will now be playing with Byron Black next year (Black and Stark have played together a bit this year).

Here is what Kamesh Srinivasan (The Hindu) got from Leander as a running commentary of his final shot in the semifinal win: "I hit a kick serve. I thought that he would throw up a lob and I was hoping that Mahesh would jump up and hit it; he is the tall one. I came in really tight and I knew if he had come at me, I would have a relatively easy ball, and the next thing I saw the ball going up and Hesh coming towards me and I was like, okay, it's mine. So I took off, and chased it down. And once I saw the ball coming, I took a look at them to see what they were doing. And I saw Lareau covering the middle and I saw Alex a step slower but coming in. And I said, I mean, Lareau's got too good a volley, I am not going to go at him. The first thing that came to mind was to throw up a lob and I said `go for it'. In times of doubt, I just go for the shot. And I'm happy that it came off today,'' ... Leander, as is well-known, is never at a loss for words !!

Here is what a crybaby Australian Newspaper scribe (Alan Attwood) wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald after the Woodies lost:

Anyone has heard of Mahesh Bhupathi ?? 930 Million in India know, my friend ! .. and how many people are there in Australia ? huh ? Run that by me again ?.. And the "tennis buffs" know him as the player who made the biggest jump into the top-10 in ATP rankings this year (singles or doubles) .. John McEnroe knows a bit more about tennis than you, when he called Mahesh one of the most improved players this year (at the Pilot Pen).. And you will be reporting on him from down under in January when Mahesh and Leander beat your guys.. and, oh, by the way, in case you didn't know, Rafter and Philippoussis have lost to Mahesh this year (semifinals at the LA Infinity.. I know.. I was there seeing Bhupathi's two-handed backhand whizzing past Philippoussis to win the tie-breaker in that 2-sets job!).. and also, now that you bring it up, Rafter/Phil did not qualify even as an alternate into the Hartford draw; ... Mahesh was playing the finals there and I didn't see the Woodies anywhere (actually the Woodies have been televised for one match here in the US, and Mahesh has been for two !) .. Now, go and crawl back under that rock, OK ? .. Boy, do I hate nagative journalism.. If you have nothing to report, just take up some other job !