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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Dec 6, 1999

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Dec 6 Notes

Leander had an easy day today starting off his run at the Jaipur challenger .. Paes d. (Q) Kamlesh Shukla (IND), 6-1, 6-2 in the first round .. He faces Justin Layne (GBR,480) in the second round on wednesday .. Layne beat Mustafa Ghouse, 6-4, 6-4, today .. No other news yet from Jaipur.

Leander has moved up to #166 in today's new rankings .. These rankings are actually not being used for anything at this point .. ATP is not publishing their newly named "entry rankings" which are based on the players' 52-week 18 best tournaments .. I know that they are using it already for entry into tournaments next year (The entry ranking list was first used for the Chennai/Adelaide/Doha tournaments strating on Jan 3rd) .. ATP has again published the current rankings based on 14-best at their site today .. These two rank lists are prety close, actually .. The 52-week 18-best rank list is what really matters next year, though ATP is going to try to market the so-called "Race rankings" with calendar year points as the best thing since sliced bread - I won't even look at that list till at least after Wimbledon! .. That rank list is not going to be used for anything except for hype (as though the tennis fans are such fools who find a 52-week system oh-so-difficult to follow) .. We are all still waiting to see if ATP would make the entry rank lists available somwhere, but so far no such luck .. Anyway, as far as Leander is concerned, he only has 15 tournaments in the list so far .. He has 263 points from 14, and 264 from 15 as of monday .. He has picked up 7 more today with the first round win at Jaipur .. If he can pull off another title this week, he would get 60 points plus possibly a couple of bonus pts, which will bring him back up in a hurry to just outside top-140 and well on the way to a good comeback in singles .. Let us hope he can do that.

The runner-up at Lucknow, Ramon Delgado, is also a big mover this week, as he came up from #201 to #172 in the rankings .. That makes it 5 top-200 players in the Jaipur draw (100 Srichaphan, 155 Navarra, 166 Paes, 168 Ketola, and 172 Delgado), which can also boast of a top-100 player in Paradorn Srichapan, who cracked top-100 for the first time with 463 ATP points! .. Though LP is actually the 3rd highest ranked player this week, he is seeded 5th behind Ketola and Delgado as the seedings are based on last week's ranks.

Dec 5 Notes

Was out most of the weekend, so the news from the $25K+H Jaipur challenger qualies (3 rounds over the weekend) is a bit late .. Three Indians made it in - Manoj Mahadevan, Vijay Kannan and Kamalesh Shukla .. Kamalesh got a bit lucky in facing CS Mohanty instead of the top seed in the qualies, Nitin Kirtane (who made the main draw after the qualy draw was made but before qualifier play started, due to a main draw withdrawal) .. He faced young CS Mohanty who reached 3rd round instead of Nitin whom he would have faced in second round .. Still somewhat of a surprise for Kamlesh to make use of the opportunity and beat a good player like Mohanty and make it in - Kamlesh also beat Jayant Sood of the US in round 2 .. His reward for all the heroics ? - one ATP point, $280 and a chance to learn some lessons from Leander Paes!! .. Leander Paes vs (Q) Kamlesh Shukla in R1 .. For once, I am going to predict something -- Kamlesh will lose this match :-) .. Vijay Kannan had a couple of relatively easy opponents in the qualies after a first round bye .. 18 yr old Manoj Mahadevan faced 17 yr old AV Rao in the final round and won 62 64 .. Rohan Bopanna lost in three sets to veteran Tomas (Zdrazilla) Anzari in the final rould of qualies.

Leander is seeded 5th in the main draw as opposed to 6th at Lucknow, due to Ogorodov not playing at Jaipur .. Also missing is Martin Lee of UK, and so Iwabuchi and Barry Cowan are seeded at 7th and 8th .. Most of the Indians have tough first round matches .. Sunil Kumar against 3rd seed Ketola , Fazal against 4th seed and Lucknow runner-up Delgado, wildcard Rajasthani warrior Jagdeesh Tanwar against 6th seed Terachi, Srinath against 8th seed Barry Cowan .. Top seed Paradorn Srichaphan should also be playing an Indian lucky loser, probably Rohan Bopanna ..  Ouch! .. That's about as bad as anybody could have hoped for, for the Indians .. The worst is Fazal and Srinath ending up with a couple of seeds who are very good grass players from Britain .. Leander is in the upper half of the draw and could face Delgado in the QF and Paradorn Srichaphan in the semis ..

An junior ITF player ranked in the 500s, 17 year old Peter Schuster of Germany, has been given a main draw wildcard, reports Kunal Pradhan of The Pioneer (Delhi) today .. I really think Paes-en-Sport is picking up unnecessary bad name doling out some wildcards to foreign kids like this .. Wesley Whitehouse and Kristian Pless were earlier ones - at least they were talented kids.. I have no idea who this guy Schuster is -- had to go around with a microscope trying to find who he was  .. All I know is that he is ranked 31st among the juniors in Gramany .. I cannot figure out any reason for this wildcard choice, but I have to think that Dr. Vece Paes, a reasonable man, has some reason with him .. but really, I still don't like wildcards going to foreign kids, just because nobody ever gives one to an Indian anywhere .. OK, Mahesh got a couple in Asian challengers and in Istanbul, but that was after he was the world #1 doubles player with name recognition .. I mean, how many wildcards did even Leander get when he was the #1 junior in the world ? .. I had no problem last week, because most Indian guys did not even show up for the qualies, but this week looks different .. Giving WCs to unheard-of foreign players is not good. Vishal Uppal and Sunil Kumar got the other wildcards - as did Jagdessh Tanwar of Rajasthan ..

Dec 4 Notes

I thought this would be a tough final, but not this tough .. LP and Delgado played a close one today with LP coming through in two tiebreakers ..  Paes d. J.Delgado (GBR,201), 7-6(5), 7-6(5) for the title at the $25K+H Lucknow challenger today ..  The news agency update tidbit I saw on the match says LP was about to drop serve in the 12th game of the first set falling 0-30, and then faced a set point against him at 30-40, before managing to send it to a tiebreaker where he was down a minibreak at 0-2 and had to win 7 of the next 10 to go ahead! .. We will await newspaper reports later.

60 points and a top-165 ranking for Leander after this title .. A nice start to a comeback.

Delgado had double heartbreak today, as he and Martin Lee (4th seeds) were beaten by Srichaphan and Kristian Pless in another well-fought match (I haven't seen the score yet).

Here is an interview in the Indian Express with Leander Paes, titled "We would like to win Olympic gold and get into history book" .. Take a look.

Dec 3 Note-2

Sorry, correction -- Paes beat Terachi 62 61, not 63 61 .. LP must have worked on Terachi's mind a bit by saying he was going to play baseline tennis and all that .. So Terachi decided to come up to the net -- bad idea, though it worked at first .. He broke LP to start the match, but that was a nice wake-up call, and a charged-up and aggressive LP was at the net all day taking the match completely away from the young Japanese, winning 12 of the next 14 games! (source: Deccan Herald)

Dec 3 Note-1

The reports are that Mahesh will miss a significant period due to rehabilitation from the shoulder surgery in New York, and that he is expected to be away all the way past the Davis Cup against Lebanon in early February .. Leander was reportedly visibly emotional talking about it yesterday in the press conference - he said he had not been able to get hold of Mahesh as he has been in and out of the hospital, but that he had got reports on Hesh's status .. He said that the most important thing for MB was not to hurry in his return and reinjure himself again .. LP said he had a few names in mind as a temporary partner for doubles early next year at Chennai, Australian Open, etc.

Now the good news .. Oh yeah, Leander is feeling it now .. Today he reached his 3rd challenger final in India this year - Paes d. #8 Takahiro Terachi (JPN,293), 6-3 6-1 in the semifinal! .. Looks like Leander completely took out the talented 20 year old, Terachi .. Jamie Delgado upset the top seed Paradorn Srichaphan (THA,109), 6-3, 6-3 and will play Leander tomorrow .. The win gives Leander 43 points and will move him up about 30 spots to around #170 in the rankings.

Leander seems to be taking this tournament dead seriously and has looked supremely focused so far this week, based on all newspaper reports .. After yesterday's QF win over Iwabuchi Leander said he was playing a tactical baseline game since to prepare for the match against Terachi who is not a natural grasscourt player .. In fact, knowing that Iwabuchi hilself would be trying to pin Leander at the baseline, LP went out practising baseline tennis in the morning with Barry Cowan he had beaten the previous day .. In yesterday's 64 64 win over Iwabuchi, Leander was cruising well till going up a break at 3-2 in the second set  - but then played a couple of loose shots and gave the break back .. He broke Iwabuchi in the 9th game and wrapped it up soon - but said that he was concerned that he had had trouble in his first three matches in wrapping up sets where he was up a break .. It looks like he took care of that problem also today against Terachi.

He will need to play very well against Jamie Delgado of Britain (#201) who certainly knows how to play on grass.  Delgado is one of those couple of young UK players (Arvind Parmar being the other) who have had somewhat of a breakout season .. He started the year near 400 in ranking and did so so in a few challengers, till he qualified into Wimbedon and won a main draw round over Ramon Delgado (the match of the Delgados! :-)) .. He did not have great results in the British grass challengers that followed but then shocked everybody by winning two hardcourt challengers in a row over two weeks in Brazil which pushed him up near top-200 .. Interestingly the draws in both those places fell somewhat in his favor and he did not face anybody inside top-250 in winning those titles - still it was commendable for him to win 10 matches in a row .. This was followed by a terrible stretch over three months when he lost seven matches in a row .. He is another player like Leander who is regaining his confidence at Lucknow having broken a long losing streak - and he too is hungry for wins .. A relatively compact 5'-10" player who is 22 years old .. Pretty impressive that he beat Paradorn in straight sets 63 63 today .. It could be a good final tomorrow against this dude (as usual, Doordarshan will show the saturday challenger final on TV in India, I assume).

Dec 2 Notes

This week is the "Lucknow Mahotsav", the big fair showing the Nawabi culture there, etc .. And Leander is adding his own fireworks to that .. In today's quarterfinals at the $25K+H "BPL" Luckow challenger, Paes d. Satoshi Iwabuchi (JPN,296), 6-4, 6-4 .. In the semifinal tomorrow, he will play the 8th seed Takahiro Terachi (JPN,293) who defeated the second seed Oleg Ogorodov (UZB, 134) 63 46 61 .. The other semifinal tomorrow will be between top seed Paradorn Srichaphan (THA,109) who beat unseeded Ivan Vajda (CRO,386), 36 63 61 (yet another three-set comeback for Paradorn!), and 5th seed Jamie Delgado (GBR,201) who beat 4th seed Tuomas Ketola (FIN,166) 46 75 62 .. LP had the only straight sets QF win today .. See the Lucknow challenger page.

Reports about yesterday's second round win over Barry Cowan say that LP played another good game  .. He got off to a brilliant start - "Like an evenly fried dosa waiting to come off the pan", as Prajwal Hegde of Deccan Herald called it :-) .. Fired 11 aces, quite a few at the beginning to go up 3-1 .. He had a let up later in the first set and was broken in the 9th game .. He was in more trouble in the 11th game, going down 15-30 on his serve, but then played his signature grasscourt shot - that incredible dive parallel to the ground on a delicate drop shot from Cowan which he sent screaming back to the middle of the court leaving Barry dumbfounded .. It was tiebreaker soon - LP  went up 5-0 before finishing it off at 7-3 ..  The second set was all Paes after that, as Cowan could only watch is distress ..  According to Kamesh Srinivasan in The Hindu, Paes served 11 aces, two service winners, four return winners, six volleys, four passing shots and seven other winners while Cowan had seven aces including the four in the last game, three doublefaults, five volleys, two passing shots and three other winners .. Another match of interest yesterday was from the only Indian doubles pair in the quarterfinals - Mustafa Ghouse and Vishal Uppal .. They showed they can play very well at this level, and  took the second seeds Ogorodov and Anzari to a 3rd set tiebreaker which they lost at 5-7 .. The reports are that a bit more experience would have allowed them to pull it off in the 3rd set when they were up a break and dropped serve late to face her tiebreaker.

AITA announced yesterday India has decided to play the next Davis Cup against Lebanon, on grass at Lucknow .. It will be in the week following the Australian Open .. at the beginning of February .. Avadh Gymkhana is doing a very good job of bringing a lot of tennis to the grasscourts at the "City of the Nawabs" ..

There was an important report out of Calcutta in the Times of India that Mahesh has undergone shoulder surgery in New York and depending on how extensive the surgery was, could be missing anywhere between 3 weeks and 3 months .. I have not been in touch with Hesh (though I would leave him alone to enjoy his off-season) and have no other details .. Will try to find out - let us hope it will be more like 3 weeks, or they will miss doubles at Chennai, Australian etc ..

Dec 1 Note-2

Leander is on a winning streak !! .. Today he reached the quarterfinal at the $25K+H "BPL" Lucknow challenger .. Paes d. Barry Cowan (GBR,309), 7-6(3), 6-2 .. Bad news is that Srinath went down to second seed Ogorodov, the current Asian #2, after a good fight, 4-6 6-3 1-6 .. Nitin Kirtane also went down .. The only seed to lose today, I believe, was Martin Lee the 7th seed - taken out by Ivan Vajda of Croatia .. Leander plays Satoshi Iwabuchi of Japan next .. This is now becoming a very interesting good quality challenger, with six of the eight seeds making it to the final-8 .. See the Lucknow challenger page for the few scores I have heard from a phone call to the tournament supervisor (what's up with all the newswires, etc -- it's taking awfully long for news to come out from Lucknow) .. And, no sign of any of the promised faxes to me from the organizers either :-(

Srinath picked up 7 points for his first round win, and that should keep move him up from 324 to about 310 next week .. The 13 points earned so far should move Leander up about 5 to 10 spots from his current #204 to back inside the top-200 again .. By the way, some interesting names in the low rankings this week - #174 Paul Haarhuis, #188 Tomas Muster, #190 Lionel Roux, #194 Todd Woodbridge, #200 Richey Reneberg, #202 Leander ! ..  I have a feeling that only Leander is young enough to move back up from that group of quality players! ..

There is an AITA u14/u16 tournament underway at Secunderabad this week .. A cuouple of upsets (C.Nandita and Vikrant Sane) so far in the early rounds .. Will compile some scores and post them soon .. There is absolutely no news coming out from the Central India AITA ranking tournament for seniors at Allahabad this week, though - no idea who is playing there.

Dec 1 Note-1

I had reported yesterday about a PTI story in the newspapers that Tamarine Tanasugarn (#71) of Thailand had "confirmed her entry" for the Delhi women's challenger starting on the 13th .. I found it odd that she would want to play a $25K challenger .. Sure enough, I just received from AITA the updated entry list and Tammi has of course withdrawn .. Why do they send entries, I wonder, if they are withdrawing ? .. Last year's champion Amanda Hopmans (NED, #76) has also withdrawn, but the runner-up Tathiana Garbin of Italy (#116) is still showing in the list .. There should be some more withdrawals and no-shows by the time it starts, and I am pretty sure that Sai Jayalakshmi will get in directly [Manisha is already in] .. That should free up wildcards for both Venkatraman sisters , along with Rushmi .. Nirupama is now sure to be seeded at about 7 or 8 ..  See the Delhi women's challenger page .. Mr. PF Montes of AITA has also sent (thanks!) the entry lists for the two $10K satellite events that follow the challenger, at Lucknow and Chandigarh .. See the Lucknow and Chandigarh satellites' pages ..  Manisha is in both the satellites lists, and should be the first  or second seed in the end .. On significant withdrawl from the first satellite is Shruti Dhawan, who has basically gone underground ever since her wonderful title at 16 years of age last November in the Indian satellite masters - she has hardly played junior or senior events this year - not sure what's up with her .. She is still in the list for the second satellite.

I have updated the latest AITA under 14 and under 16 rankings at our rankings archives .. Links at the Rankings/Results page.

Nov 30 Note-2

Based on the newspaper reports, Leander played a pretty good match today, serving strongly (12 aces and only 3 double faults) and had some of his stronger shots going (forehand baby! .. that hasn't worked in a while) .. He was broken in the 5th game of the first set, but perhaps for the first time in a long time decided that he was not going to fold and came back with a break in the 8th game .. In the tiebreaker he went up 5-0, had a little lapse and found himself down 5-6 facing a set point .. Played strongly there and won it 8-6 .. In the second set his confidence was fully going again, and he was in control .. A break in the 7th game was all he needed .. He took the Dutchman to another break point in his next service game, but he held on for dear life and then LP served off the 10th game for the match .. After the match he said, "a year back I would have said I played so-so, but considering how it has been, I would say I did fine out there today" .. Pretty appropriate .. van Scheppingen was in the top 100 before and was near it just about 10 months back, and he had ended his own losing streaks with some wins recently .. He made some mistakes and had a ton of double faults, but he also had Leander pinned back, passing him at will in the beginning in the first set, till Leander got that confidence to play his own game somewhere along the way .. Funny story - LP ran out of grasscourt shoes and had to borrow shoes from Mustafa Ghouse during the match - just about when he was down a break - apparently he did a little dance-move to get used to the shoe, used some delaying tactics, etc :-) .. That was enough to throw off the Dutchman's rhythm when he had LP in some trouble  .. LP later said "I couldn't even sniff his service at first" .. Once he got going, reportedly LP started looking like the Leander of the old days (well actually Leander from just over a year back :-)) .. LP made 33 unforced errors though, but only 13 in the second set - so perhaps things are looking up .. Touchwood - one win does not a comeback make! .. but Go Lee!!!  [source:  Kamesh Srinivasan in The Hindu, Prajwal Hegde in Deccan Herald, Kadambari Murali in Indian Express -- nice reports from all]

There is only one seed that went down in the first set - 3rd seed Mose Navarra, finalsist at the last Lucknow challenger in february this year .. Taken out in 46 46 straight sets by the #1 junior in the world - the wildcard Kristian Pless .. As for Leander, he goes up against Barry Cowan (GBR,309) next .. Leander has played Cowan once before, on grass at the Vadodara challenger in April 98, when LP beat him 64 36 63 in the first round .. Cowan is one of the most frequent visitors to India, by the way .. He was at the Calcutta and Lucknow challenger this year too, losing to Zingman and Navarra .. He is a good player, and Leander will need to continue his good tennis from today to beat him .. Don't forget that Cowan had a straight sets win over Mahesh at Ahmedabad, just last December (but he also has a loss to Harsh Mankad in the qualies at the Chennai Open last year) .. The 25 year old has a few wins over top-250 players this year, but a few losses too .. Plays a lot of challengers, and basically goes to all grass challengers around (ie, in India and UK) .. Had a wildcard into the Wimbledon, but lost in three sets to Courier 36 46 46 .. He is the 6th highest ranked British player behind Henman, Rusedski, Jamie Delgado and Arvind Parmar .. He can play.

At the $15K Bangladesh F2 futures, Rohan Bopanna and Manoj Mahadevan won two rounds each and qualified to the main draw, but went down in the first round .. Ashley Fisher of USA beat Rohan 62 62, and qualifier Igor Ibrisbegovic beat Manoj, 67(5) 63 60 .. (Is it just me or doesn it look like Manoj's losses are always in three sets ?) .. They are in the doubles main draw and play Kyrill Ivanov-Smolenski (RUS) and Abdul-Hamid Makhkamov (UZB) .. In the qualies, Rohan beat Yevgeny Bondarchuk 63 64 and then Bangla wildcard Lakhan Lal, 61 61 .. Manoj beat Ibrahim Kimmerling 64 61 and then upset the 8th seed in the qualies, Alexander Sikanov 36 76(5) 63 .. Good match experience for both guys, but no ATP points for all that work .. Vijendra Laad was also in the qualies but lost to Matthew Trudgeon 63 46 62

Nov 30 Note-1

Leander wins! Leander wins! Leander Wins! Leander Wins!!  :-) :-)

It was beginning to look like he was never going to win another singles match, ever .. But the 8-match losing streak is over today, as Paes d. Dennis van Scheppingen (NED), 7-6(6), 6-4 ! ..  No other details yet, but it's a good start for a long climb back .. Mentally, it is much more important for LP than just a win over a struggling 449-ranked van Scheppingen .. This is the first singles win for Leander since beating Wayne Ferreira in July at Newport .. In fact he had lost 16 of the previous 17 sets, the only set he won being against Zhu last week in the three-set loss at Asia Cup (two of those straight set losses were against players ranked #300 and #644 then) .. Starting from the second set tiebreaker he lost to Wayne Arthurs after winning the first set tiebreaker at Newport, he had lost 4 tiebreakers in a row too .. So, all those streaks ended today ..

The tournament supervisor says there were three more withdrawals, putting everybody who walked in for the qualies in as lucky losers .. Srinath faced LL Captan Karsolia (instead of dave Abelson of Canada) and won 6-0 6-1, The eighth seed Takahiro Terachi (JPN) faced LL Akshay Vishal Rao instead of Riccardo Ciruolo and won 6-0 6-1 too .. The best performance from a lucky loser was by none other than our own fanclub member Jayant Sood of USA, who faced Nitin Kirtane as Igor Kournienko was a no-show .. Jayant lost 2-6 1-6, and picked up $260 and his first ATP point! .. I love those brave lucky losers .. How about that ? .. Nice to see three Indians (LP, Sri and Nitin) in the second round .. It is a pretty good quality tournament from now on with quite mostly top-400 players in the final-16 .. See the Lucknow challenger page, where I will add the remaining results as soon as I hear them.

Nov 29 Note-2

Leander plays his first round match against Dennis van Scheppingen (NED,448) tomorrow (Tuesday) at about 2.30 pm at Lucknow .. After talking to Leander this morning, I get the feeling that he is not feeling fine in singles matches yet .. He thinks he needs more work, particularly in court coverage and shot accuracy .. At the end of a tough year, his body hurts on hardcourts now, and he expects to find another few weeks in Orlando some time soon for more work on fitness with singles in specific focus .. Anyway, hopefully his body will hold up on the grass courts and he may get some rhythm back - but I won't be surprised if we see nothing much from LP at the Lucknow challenger .. And van Scheppingen is not an easy foe, as he was at or around top-100 just a few months back ..

There was another bad match for Indians today at Lucknow that I did not mention below .. Sandeep Kirtane had to retire at 0-4 in the first set, due to back problems (see the Lucknow challenger page) .. The best show today was from (who else?) Sunil Kumar .. The boy elicited a lot of "oohs" and "aahs" with his very talented display in winning the first set .. Though he lost, he reportedly had his charming smile still on, and chalked it up as another match where he learned something .. Leander, who incidentally spoke to me this morning extremely impressed by Sunil Kumar, said he will do whatever needed to help the boy .. Leander spoke about the need for Sunil to play a lot of ITF junior events and get into junior grand slams, etc .. He said sponsorship for Sunil would not be too difficult to find at this point, but that he won't mind throwing even some of his own money in, if needed .. Pretty much what I had heard from Mahesh also earlier, about helping really promising kids .. Leander said that as long as everyone keeps the boy's best interest in mind and nurtures him, we may have found a "real deal" in him .. That is good news.

Saw a newspaper report that Tamarine Tanasugarn ranked #71 has confirmed her participation for the Delhi women's challenger in a couple of weeks .. The other top players are Amanda Hopmans (NED,#76 - winner last year) and Tathiana Garbin (ITA,#116 - runner up last year) .. Nirupama and Manisha are in the main draw direct entry (see the Delhi women's challenger page for entry list) .. Sai Jayalakshmi, Rushmi Chakravarti and Archana venkatraman have got wildcards to the main draw.

Nirupama has dropped a few spots to #220, after losing her Australian challenger points from last year, according to today's new rankings ..

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Nov 29 ..