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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Dec 4, 2000
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Dec 4 Notes

Nothing much going on; hence no news yesterday .. I have seen the $100K Costa Rica challenger draw that just came out .. Leander is still listed in the draw as the 3rd seed, drawn in the bottom quarter of the upper half with 6th seed Laurence Tieleman (ITA) .. Gaston Eltis as the top seed .. LP is drawn to face Adrian Garcia of Chile in the first round, but that match is not in the schedule for today .. As it is an injury situation, LP could withdraw anytime without penalty, I guess - and based on what Dr.Paes said a couple of days back, LP had dropped plans to play there.

The draw at the $75K women's challenger in France closed above #160 there and Niru would have had to play qualies there to enter  .. So, unless LP decided to play Costa Rica, the only action this week is at the Adidas AITA u18 junior event in Delhi, along with an ITF junior event (Prince Cup) in Miami, where Sania Mirza may be playing.

Unseeded Prakash Amritraj of USA reached the quarterfinal of singles at the prestigious grade-1 Eddie Herr Internmational ITF junior event ..  He had a win over the world #23 and 6th seed, Radoslav Lukeav of Bulgaria, 63 41 (retd.) in the second round .. He however fell in the QF to the world #16 and 4th seed, Michael Lammer of Switzerland, 36 26 .. This would raise 17 yr old Prakash's world junior ranking from #102 to inside the top-75 .. Prakash and #80 Sunil Kumar are the highest ranked Indian "names" in the ITF rankings (but Prakash is of course a US player unless he decides to play for India, which he apparently can!) .. 10th seeded 15 yr old, Sunitha Rao (USA), ranked #22 in the world (incredibly high for her age) was in the quarterfinal of singles, but lost to the 8th seed (world #21) and eventual winner, Edina Gallovits of Romania, in a dogfight - 57 62 57 .. For some reason, Rajeev Ram of USA did not play this event .. By the way, the Far East junior circuit ended last week with agrade-4 event in Vietnam .. No news has come from there yet; so I am not sure if Sunil Kumar, Vinod Sewa, Megha Vakharia, etc, had gone there.

Dec 2 Notes

Niru didn't have a good day yesterday at the $50K Tucson challenger .. In singles, she went down fighting to the 6th seed Dawn Buth (USA,125), 36 64 36 .. Then in doubles, the 9-match win streak ended for second seeds Nirupama and Nana Miyagi against Dawn Buth and Jolene Watanabe in the QF, 67(3) 26 .. That ends the year for Nirupama in the pro circuit, with next week being the last week of the year with challengers .. There are challengers in France and Colombia next week, but I had not heard that Niru had any plans to play those - she will be in action next at the ATF Cup in Delhi, after a two weeks of break ..  All in all, Niru did very well to make good use of the rest of the year after she lost 4 months at the beginning of the year with the foot injury at the Australian Open qualies .. She has raised her ranking from near 200 to about 180 despite having lost some time .. As she only has 16 points at the AO qualies to defend till May, hopefully she will be able to move up much further by thaat time .. In doubles, this was a terrific year for Niru as she came up from near #225 to around #150, her highest ranking in four years - all in virtually about 6 months with a whole bunch of titles and finals.

There are reports today about Vece Paes saying yesterday that Leander has skipped the plans to play the Costa Rica challenger, as his knee tendinitis has taken one extra week more to heal than originally thought - he is beginning to practice only now, I believe .. That's unfortunate, as it was a good $100K challenger and he was the #4 seed with a good chance to easily reach semifinals with only four players in the top-175 playing there .. Oh well .. So he and Mahesh will get 2-3 days more to practice at Bangalore before the WDC.

Harsh Mankad managed to get his air ticket taken care of, to get to Delhi for the Asia Cup .. That is the final exam week of the semester at the Univ of Minnesota and he had to arrange to take exams early before leaving to India on Dec 16th and getting there on Dec 17th .. After the Asia Cup, Harsh hopes to play at the invitation tournament in Chennai at the Krishnan Tennis Center and then play the qualifying rounds at the Gold Flake Open if he can make it in.

Dec 1 Note-2

Nirupama reached the quarterfinal at the $50K challenger in Tucson challenger yesterday, beating Maret Ani (EST,281), 63 26 75 .. In the quarterfinal today, she is playing the 6th seed Dawn Buth (USA,125) .. She has picked up 11 points so far .. It would be good for her to pick up some points, as she has 26 points from two $25K challenger semis falling off in december (Manila and Delhi) .. In the doubles first round yesterday, Niru and Nana Miyagi beat Tracy Almeda-Singian and Marissa Irvin, 62 63 to reach the QF ..

Dec 1 Note-1

I have not seen the result from Niru's second round match at Tucson yesterday .. Will know soon.

There is an article in The Hindu today - "Leander's decision shocks doubles tourney organisers", about LP's playing at the Costa Rica challenger next week .. Excerpt - "The tournament in Costa Rica gets over next Sunday and that would hardly give any time for Leander to settle down with Mahesh for the World doubles, which starts on December 13. That could even affect the performance of the Indian duo. But we hope for the best", said an official .. I don't know, I personally find it fine that LP is playing in Costa Rica, which is a $100K challenger with pretty good price money and managable competition  (I had commented on this below in the Nov 27 and 28 notes) .. The dude needs to pick up some singles points with a big chunk of his points falling off in the next 8 weeks .. I wouldn't want to see him going to the Chennai Open on January first without having played any serious singles (unless he plays singles at the Asia Cup) for over two months .. Lee seemed to be in decent form in singles at the Belgium challenger he played in early November, and so let him build his confidence and form with more match-practice next week in Costa Rica .. In any event, unless LP does really well and reaches the semifinal over the next weekend, he will be reaching India a couple of days after Mahesh (who was expected to leave from US after 10 days of training in New York and reach India only late next week) .. They will get at least 2-3 days to practice, as WDC doesn't start till the wednesday of the week after next .. Now, if he actually wins the Costa Rica challenger, he has a chance to make even the direct entry at the Australian Open (or get close to 110 in ranking), I would trade that anyday for an extra couple of days of practice .. Hey, if they are healthy, Hesh and Lee do not need a whole lot of practice to start beating anybody anyway .. I know I have been guilty of this too, but I think we should let our players decide where they should play and not make such a big deal of it - after all, they know best about what they should do .. But I can understand the organizers' anxiety in Bangalore .. The good thing about WDC is that regardless the form, people will get to see every team in at least three matches, due to the round robin format at first .. Hopefully LP-MB will be playing two more matches and winning the title!

Here is a nice article in The Hindu from a couple of days back - Indian women do well in Indonesia and Manila .. I had resported most of those results here, but this gives a nice compilation of the exploits by Sai, Rushmi, and Shruti .. Yes, the women have been doing well.

By the way, when we talk about our women, there is one name we always forget - Jahnavi Parekh .. She is doing really well in the US at the Baylor University .. I am not sure if I reported earlier, but she won the Intercollegiate Tennis Associations singles title for her region last month .. That's a pretty good achievement .. She is ranked in the top-10 in the US colleges, which is even better than how Manisha did in the US when she was beating up people at the Univ of Tennessee a couple of years back .. Jahnavi is about 22 years old I believe, and had had some great results in the domestic scene about 3-4 years back, before the upswing in the Indian women's tennis with internationalization .. In the collehe regionals last month, in addition to Jahnavi winning a title, Harsh Mankad, Ajay Ramaswamy and the Canadian, Kavitha Krishnamoorthy had reached semifinals of their respective regions.

Talking of Harsh Mankad, I heard yesterday that he was having trouble finding an air-ticket to travel to India in two weeks, to be at the Asia Cup .. AITA had informed him that he is in the team this week .. I will update soon, if Harsh manages to find a way.

Nov 30 Notes

Good news from the $50K Tucson challenger yesterday .. Nirupama d. (LL) Kristen Freye (GER,312), 62 63 .. She faces a pretty hot player in the next round today - qualifier Maret Ani of Estonia (#281), who upset the top-100 ranked second seed Holly Parkinson in three sets .. In doubles Niru and her partner for the last 3 challengers, Nana Miyagi (JPN,37), are seeded second and they play Tracy Alemeda-Singian and Marissa Irvin in the first round today.

Nov 29 Notes

Nirupama plays the first round today at the $50K challenger in Tucson (Arizona) .. Niru vs. Sabine Klaschka (GER,295) .. I don't think Niru has ever played Klaschka .. If she advances, Niru is drawn to possibly next face the second seed Holly Parkinson (USA,92), somebody she lost to closely, 57 57, three weeks back .. No info yet on the doubles draw .. The high altitude of Tucson has been giving some problems to players, according to newspaper reports from Arizona.

AITA announced the teams for the ATF Cup.   Here they are - Men: Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Nitin Kirtane, Harsh Mankad and Syed Fazaluddin .. Women: Nirupama Vaidyanathan, Manisha Malhotra, Sai Jayalakshmy and Rushmi Chakravarti. Stand-by: Shruti Dhawan ..  The notable omission is actually Srinath .. Tough to complain about that, as he has not played in months due to an injury (though Srinath reportedly said that he had conveyed to AITA his availability for the event starting on Dec 19th) ..  On the women's side, Manisha is also injured but is ready to play now after a few weeks off to heal her shoulder .. There was a newspaper report yesterday where her father confirmed that she has reduced her racket weight to take care of the shoulder tendinitis problems she has had a couple of times in the past .. It is also unclear if both LP and MB will be playing .. Neither has said no, but in LP's case, if there is any hint of injury or tendinitis discomfort during the WDC, then he will be well-advised to rest the next week rather than play this event .. Mahesh also perhaps would like to not strain too much.  They only get a week of rest after the ATF Cup before the new year starts with the Chennai Open on January 1st.

14 yr old Sania Mirza played perhaps better than I expected against four years older and world #16 Alyssa Cohen, yesterday at the Eddie Herr International ITF Junior Grade-1 event in Bradenton, Florida .. She lost 36 26 .. I believe she is also playing doubles there.

Nov 28 Notes

I had thought that the Costa Rica challenger next week was on a clay surface, as it is part of the big Copa Ericsson challenger tour in Latin and South America every year, which includes eight $100K challenger events, with some very competitive tennis from south american claycourt players ..  So I was surprised to hear that LP was playing one of those, as his aversion to clay is well-known .. Well, it turns out that they do play a couple of events every year on hard courts, as is the case with next week's challenger .. I see a lot of non-clay players in the entry list, including Leander .. LP is the 4th seed in the list, behind #87 Tieleman, #88 Gimelstob, and #96 Sargis Sargsian .. All the other players are ranked under #170 .. That's not as strong a field as I would expect at a $100K event .. This year the Copa Ericsson tour has gone through Argentina (Buenes Aires), Peru (Lima), Brazil (Rio), Chile (Santiago), Mexico (Guadalajara), and Uruguay (Montevideo) .. The following week after San Jose is the Copa Ericsson masters event at Sao Paolo, Brazil .. Anyway, it looks like LP picked a really nice challenger to play, as it gives up to 90 points for the winner .. This would be the first time he would be playing anywhere South of US and Mexico since 1994 when he was in Brazil for some challenger .. Go Lee!

Sania Mirza is playing this week at the prestigious Eddie Herr International Grade-1 junior ITF event in Bradenton, Florida (I believe at the Bolletieri Tennis Academy) .. It is one of the largest junior tennis events in the world, along with the Orange Bowl next month in Miami with several 100 players from around the world .. Sania is in the 18s draw .. I am not sure why she is not playing the 14s or 16s draw there .. The 18s are really tough there .. Anyway, Sania also got the toughest possible matchup it seems .. She plays this morning at 10.30 am against Alyssa Cohen ranked #16 in the world and 4 years older than her (actually Alyssa is the highest ranked junior US player now) .. Yeek .. The Hyderbad kid is getting quite a baptism by fire in the world circuit - it will hep her in the long run if she stays positive .. Some of our junior players who are in the far east may be at the grade-4 event in Vietnam ..  Also, the latest ITF ranking shows 16 yr old Megha Vahharia jumping up to #186 with her title last week in the Bangkok junior ITF event.

I still have not seen the draw from Tucson challenger .. I have seen the list of matchups for today and Niru is not on today.

Nov 27 Notes

Delayed posting of some notes from Monday --

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

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

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

No news from Tucson on Nirupama yet.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Nov 27 ..

I am getting some enquiries from US college coaches who are interested in Indian junior players .. I would like to be able to contact Indian players (some of the coaches are enquiring about specific names) .. If any of the junior players are reading this, please contact me .. Or if any of the other readers know the contact emails/address for any junior player, let me know .. I would like to have a mailing list where I can post general announcements and enquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.