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LP/MB/NS/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Dec 8, 2003
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Dec 8 Notes

The ITF Grade-B2 Asian "Closed" Juniors has started in Delhi today ..Advancing to the second round were Karan Rastogi, R.ArunPrakash, Isha Lakhani, Kartiki Bhat, etc .. See the draws and scores in the Asian Juniors page .. I am not sure if those who were playing at the Malaysia Grade-3 over the weekend, like Tushar Liberhan and Shuai Zhang have arrived yet.

The last news we know about the Malaysia grade-3 is that Tushar Liberhan had reached yet another final ... [QF] Tushar Liberhan d. Keith Meisner (GBR,237) 64 61 .. [SF] d. Naoki Sato (JPN,328)  62 62 .. [F] vs Martin Pedersen (DEN,269) .. [earlier scores are in the Dec 4 notes below] .. Top seed Sanaa Bhambri went down in the semifinal though .. [QF] Sanaa Bhambri d. Evgeniya Rodina (RUS,165), 63 36 62 .. [SF] l. Shuai Zhang (CHN) 16 36 .. Great job by Tushar to continue his scorching win-streak .. 20 more extra points in the best-6 total for him to go up to top-85 with 255 pts .. He is assured of a top-40 type ranking early next yearr.

Dec 7 Notes

Now that Rohan, Prakash and Harsh are done with their year when they played the pro tour exclusively, I thought it would be interesting to look at some stats for their performance over the year.  The first thing I wanted to do was to see how many points each of them "earned" .. This is mostly because Prakash's points/ranking are a bit skewed due to all the wildcard help he got this year and I wanted to show that he has had a pretty good year even if we throw the cheap points out .. In addition, I also wanted to account for a silly thing that ATP has been doing for a long time, which is to give points for a first round loss at a challenger or tour event (where it is worse because one gets 1 race points; 5 entry points) .. If a player advanced after getting a wildcard, of course I count the points .. Here is how the three turn out in some stats .. Interestingly, Mankad is #2 in points earned this year, which actually surprised me a bit ..

Prakash Amritraj --
    ATP points "earned" = 100
    Extra points from wildcards and first round losses in the best-18 = 21
    Record for the year = 30-20 (excluding the  17-1 in the India satellite, it is 13-19 .. 4 losses in 3-stters)
    Futures record = 3-2 (only 2 futures played)
    Challenger record = 4-7 from 7 challengers; 0-2 abroad, 4-5 in India
    Win-loss against Top-300  = 7-11
    Losses against below 400 = 8

Harsh Mankad --
    ATP points "earned" = 86
    Extra points from wildcards/R1-losses in the best-18 = 6
    Record for the year = 37-29  (excluding the POR satellites, it is 34-26 .. 15 losses in 3-setters!)
    Futures record = 25-11 (excluding a couple of qualies)
    Challenger record = 7-9 from 9 challengers; 2-4 abroad, 5-5 in India (excluding some qualies abroad)
    Win-loss against top-300 = 4-10
    Losses against below 400 = 16

Rohan Bopanna --
    ATP points "earned" = 81
    Extra points from wildcards/R1 losses = 12
    Record for the year = 32-23 (3-set losses =- 6)
    Futures record = 20-6 (excluding one qualies)
    Challenger record = 5-12 from 12 challengers, 2-7 abroad, 3-5 in India
(excluding some qualies abroad)
    Win-loss against top-300 = 4-13
    Losses against below 400 = 6

Those are some interesting statistics .. Basically I consider top-300 wins as upsets by out guys, as all three are effectively in the 300-350 rank range, on points "earned" .. Below-400 losses should go as upsets allowed by them ..

A couple of things jump out at me -- one is that Prakash Amritraj has had a really good year .. Even if you take out his 36 easy/cheap points at the satellite level in India, he still has some pretty good results .. He got a bit lucky with wildcard entries, easy qualies and a retirement from Safin in the main draw, etc for an extra 30 points from a couple of ATP events (Indi, LA), but the fact is that he has pulled off more top-300 wins than both Harsh and Rohan, who are both at 4 top-300 wins each .. On the other hand, he has had a few more chances against top-300 players thanks to the wildcards .. The next things that jumps out is that there really isn't much to pick between Harsh and Rohan .. Rohan has done better at the futures level, but Harsh has done better at the challenger level (actually HM has a better record than both PA and RB, both in India and abroad) .. HM was the first Indian since LP and MB to reach a challenger semifinal this April with two top-200 wins too) .. PA matched it later at Dharwad .. The one knock against Harsh is that he has had a few more losses than I expected against below 400 players, though some of it is skewed by 6 or 7 losses on clay courts that the other two have been staying miles away from! .. Rohan's challenger record has been rather puzzling - he has won many a first round over the last 18 months but somehow he goes down in the second round every time.

Though everyone seems to list him as the 3rd best after PA and RB, actually Harsh has earned the second highest points total this year among Indians, better than Rohan Bopanna who wil be at around #345 this week with 90 points .. HM will be at about #350 with 88 points after a week [Edited later -- it turns out that HM ghot 12 points for the runnerup finish at the Delhi F7 futures, which was a $10K+H event as opposed to a $10K - the status was changed just before the tournament started .. Noticed it only after ATP added the points on Dec 8th .. That makes it 92 points for HM and a rank around #340 .. Jay] ..

It is rather sad that, due to perceptions of him as the 3rd best behind PA and RB, Harsh will quite probably miss out on getting a wildcard to the Chennai Open .. He has done quite well, having struggled with no money but managing to go week by week for a whole year and end it with his career high rank and points this week .. I was told that HM let out some of his frustrations to the press during the Mumbai futures a couple of days back (apparently it made the Indian Express print edition and not the online edition - you can find his comments that a fan, neh215,  typed in (thanks!) in our forum (See the Harsh Mankad thread in the player area)  .. He does have a point .. He is doubly frustrated, as he is also the highest ranked doubles player too, with a near-175 rank - I believe the first one to go into top-200 since LP and MB .. He must have killed his chances to get any wildcard from the Tata Open with that outburst, which was quite uncharacteristic of HM who is always known as a quiet and diplomatic type .. But, more power to Harsh for speaking out on a matter that most tennis people in India are always hush-hush about, namely that the Chenni Open has never really cared much for merit and propriety, but has rather been a party for the movers-and-shakers and newsmakers .. We knew that ever since they threw wildcards at Wesley Whitehouse and Brian Phau over Srinath and Fazal who were playing Davius Cup and could not even play qualies, back in 1998 .. The story has continued ever since .. Last year they grudgingly gave a wildcard to Rohan after much delay ..

Anyway, we will wait and see what Harsh Mankad does now .. HM must have left foir the US by now, to start a one month training stint at the Bolletieri academy in Florida with Happy Bhalla who will coach him .. I assume the academy is not charging him much; otherwise he can't afford it .. He still has no serious sponsorship from anywhere and is still struggling to scrape the bottom of a non-existent barrell .. He would have some money for a ticket to India to play Chennai qualies if some sort of a wildcard for doubles or something comes from the Tata Open (fat chance, it seems!) .. Otherwise he may go to the Auatralian Open qualies in the week after Chennai if he is close enough to the qualies initial list when it closes this month .. I am not sure a rank around 350 would be enough for Harsh Mankad to squeeze into the qualifying draw for the Australian Open .. The same is true for Rohan who will be ranked around the same too .. HM has entered for the AO qualies and will hopefully make it in ..  If not he will stay in the US through January to play three futures from the week after Chenni, as there are not too many other events to play anywhere ..  Anyway, congratulation to Harsh for staying tough and reaching two finals with a title in the last two weeks of the year for him .. I hope HM, RB and PA will all improve enough for a run into the top-200 during the next year.

By the way, AITA is showing a challenger in Delhi at the end of February (starting on 23rd), the week originally kept for the first of the next three Indian futures ..  Hopefully this challenger will come through and will be on the ATP calendar in the next few weeks.

Dec 6 Notes

It was a nice end to the first full year on the pro circuit for Harsh Mankad today, who finished on a high note winning the Mumbai futures over Jasper Smit (NED), 76(0) 63 .. Almost an identical score from this win over the same guy last week .. Nice work over the last couple of weeks from Harsh who was ill and rusty in the first of the three week series and had to play hard through a whole bunch of three-stters and gritty comebacks to play himself into form .. Good determination to defend the 20 points he had at the end of last year in the Indian futures .. He ends the year tying his career-high point total of 88 ATP points .. His ranking wil be right around 350 in two weeks, also a career-high .. I wuill have a small analysis of the performance of our top three for the year, later today ..

No news from Kuala Lumpur today on how Tushar and Sanaa did in the semis ..

Dec 5 Notes

Quick updates today -- Harsh Mankad won a barn-burner in three hours against Ajay Ramaswamy, and will face Jasper Smit in the final tomorrow at the Mumbai futures .. Jasper beat Vinod Sridhar .. Ghouse-Quereshi beat Ramaswami-Sipaeya in the doubles final today as well .. See
the Mumbai futures page .. Tushar Liberhan and Sanaa Bhambri reached the semifinals at the Kuala Lumpur grade-3 .. More tomorrow.

Dec 4 Notes

Three Indians reached the semifinals at the $10K Mumbai futures today - Harsh Mankad, Ajay Ramaswami and Vinod Sridhar .. HM got a serious fight from fellow-Mumbaikar Mustafa Ghouse but pulled through in yet another three setter .. Vinod easily ended the unexpected run of the lucky loser Sarvar Ikramov (UZB) and Ajay Ramaswamy beat the upcoming youngster, Somdev .. The only bad news was that 5th seed Sunil Kumar got upset by Jasper Smit (NED) and ended the possiblity of a all-Indian semifinals .. Harsh has so far picked up 12 points in the last two weeks - he was in need of some points, as he had 20 to defend from last November when he had a title and a runner-up finish in the futures .. HM will go back up inside about the top-365 in the year end rankings now .. Ajay is playing well, and can give HM some trouble tomorrow in the semi .. The doubles final will be between the top two seeds, Ghouse-Quereshi and Ramaswami-Sipaeya ..
See the scores in the Mumbai futures page.

At the Kuala Lumpur grade-3 ITF juniors, Tushar Liberhan extended his winning streak with two more to reach the QF .. Also reaching the QF are Vivek Shokeen and Sanaa Bhambri .. Ankita had to retire in the first round though .. Here are the scores so far - [R1] Tushar Liberhan d. Kento Takeuchi (JPN,595) 61 16 63 .. [R2] d. Andy Chirita (SWE,254) 62 10 Ret .. [QF] vs Keith Meisner (GBR,237) .. [R1] Vivek Shokeen d. Jonathan Lee (MAS,NR) 63 61 .. [R2] d. Roman Kelecic (CRO,188) 62 62 .. [QF] vs Naoki Sato (JPN,328) .. [R1] Sanaa Bhambri d. Punjaporn Ditthim (THA,316) 62 62 .. [R2] d. Yurika Sema (JPN,257) 63 16 61 .. [QF] vs Evgeniya Rodina (RUS,165) .. Pooja won one round - [R1] Pooja Kommireddi d. Varanya Vijuksanaboon (THA,277) 62 61 .. [R2]  l. Lizaan Du Plessis (RSA,435) 16 26 .. First round losses - [R1] Anshuman Dutta l. (1) Chu-Huan Yi (TPE,61) 3-4 Ret. .. [R1] Navdeep Singh l. Kirati Siributwong (THA,185) 67(5) 62 57 .. [R1] Sandri Gangothri l. Evgeniya ROdina (RUS,165) 26 06 .. [R1] Ashmitha Easwaramurthi l. Hanne Skak Jensen (DEN,190) 63 16 26 .. [R1] Ankita Bhambri l. Tinusa Sivagnanam (MAS,847) 1-2 Ret .. [R1] Parul Goswami l. Urska Klemenc (SLO,248) 26 46 ..

Dec 3 Notes

There was all kinds of good news today at the Muimbai $10 ITF futures, but one piece of significant bad news too .. First the bad news, which is that the top seed Rohan Bopanna got upset by Jasper Smit, mostly because of a hurting shoulder which caused RB to lose the second set 0-6 .. That is not at all good news - especially seeing that RB was coming off a good amount of rest and was only in his second match .. That sounds like a shoulder problem that he will need to find out more about .. Hopefully it is nothing serious and I am just being too pessimistic.

For good news, there were SIX Indians reaching the quarterfinals, which is the highest number that I remember in a futures event with a decent number of nicely ranked players .. Ajay Ramaswamy upset the 8th seed Ouvarov, Vinod Sridhar halted Vishal Punna, Harsh Mankad repeated his usual routine of dropping a set and coming back against Manoj Mahadevan, Sunil Kumar faced no problems against Kedar Tembe, Mustafa Ghouse easily took care of the qualifier he played, and in the match of the day, Somdev Dev Varman won a tough three setter  61 57 75 against a fighting Karan Rastogi .. If my memory is correct, this is Somdev's first win over Karan .. The last time these two close friends faced each other was in the final of the grade-3 at Mumbai, on the same courts I believe,  in Sep 2002 -- Karan won 64 61 then over the Somdev, a late starter in tennis who was just emerging as a top junior talent, though he was about a 17 months older than Karan .. Somdev's development over the last couple oif years has been quite pleasing .. Their match was a good one; Here is what Nandakumar Marar says in his article in The Hindu - (excerpts): The match showcased the future of Indian tennis, both juniors going for broke on court for two hours, 25 minutes before a winner could be identified. A few questionable line calls disturbed the players, friends and doubles partners, who put external factors aside to focus on matters within control. Somdev, high on confidence after having stunned favourite Aisam Qureshi, gained two breaks in the first and managed a vital 11th game break in the decider. Rastogi broke through in the second to wrest back initiative before bowing to his steadier opponent ... Both these young Indians will become richer by this experience, already showing streaks of brilliant strokeplay to make seniors sit up and take notice .. That is nice to see! .. Somdev gets two more ATP points to take his tally up to 6 and the ranking somewhere near 1000 .. Next week these two will be high seeds in the Asian Juniors ITF grade B2 at Delhi - hopefully we will see a final between them .. Somdev plays Ajay tomorrow, and Harsh plays Mustafa; both matches are in the bottom half of the draw, and we are assured of an Indian finalist this time .. See the scores in the Mumbai futures page.

Sonal Phadke was at the $10K ITF in Cairo as the second seed this week .. Bad news there too - she retired after a 2-6 set against a talanted Kristina Czafikova (SVK) in the first round .. Not sure is she is injured or ill ..

Dec 2 Notes

Some really exciting news today, as 18 year old Somdev Dev Varman upset the 3rd seed Aisam Qureshi, ending the 15 match win streak for the talented Pakistani .. To say that this was unexpected would be an understatement .. Yes, Aisam must have been a bit tired after all the matches he has played in three weeks, but top players like him (he was a top-225 player just last year) normally find a way to pull out a win  even while tired, unless the opponenet plays very well .. Somdev played a great match, went in there with no expectations and simply pullled out the shots .. Excerpts from Nandakumar Marar's article in The Hindu -- The National Tennis Academy-trainee, expecting to feel the pain of Qureshi's blows, instead found himself doing the punching, hitting a stream of astonishing backhand winners and covering the court as if he playing on stilts ..... "I did not have a plan,'' admitted the Indian youngster, as fellow competitors and tennis-watchers made a beeline for him. "He is a quality player and I expected him to pick holes in my game, so just went out and began hitting.'' .... Somdev felt positive vibes very early, breaking the 442nd-ranked Pakistani in the second game of the first set. "I thought of making a fight of it after winning the next game on serve and since I was moving well and enjoying his pace, I decided to go all the way,'' he said .... From then on, the game moved to a different level with the Indian, prowling the baseline with a spring in his step, began firing backhands deep and low, directing service returns to Qureshi's bootlaces at times and took charge .. The third seed, helpless in the face of such audacious onslaught, bowed out in 61 minutes. ...  Ataboy, Somdev .. I suppose that double fisted backhand was working well today for "Buji" -- "astonishing backhand winners" says the article .. I am sure this is the kind of win that can gives a very big boost to a youngster's career .. Buji has been doing the hard grind all year and the results are showing ..  Now he faces his good friend Karan Rastogi in a teenager matchup in the second round.

Harsh, Rohan, Sunil, etc, all won today .. We have eight Indians in the second round and we are assured of having at least two Indians in the QF - it may be as many as 5 or 6 .. See the scores in the Mumbai futures page.

Dec 1 Notes

The 3rd leg of the current futures series in India started today at the MSLTA courts in Mumbai ..The story once again is the emergence of Vishal Punna .. Continuing his giant-killing work the last two weeks, he upset the 4th seed Toshihide Matsui (JPN, 468) by a score of 76(4) 64 to advance to the PQF today .. Here are some excerpts from Nandakumar Marar's article in The Hindu -- Punna Vishaal is an advertiser's delight;fast and furious approach coupled with courage to back himself on court. A firm believer in taking risks to win points and matches, the Indian's pace and punch unnerved Matsui .. .. The hard-serving, powerfully-built Japanese felt the pressure building up in the face of constant net forays by his agile rival, almost like running into a wall. Punna troubled Matsui in service games with winners of effortless timing, growing in confidence with every backhand stop volley .. .. "I played to a plan, putting pressure on him at the net and denying him the pace. I am a serve-and-volley player so it was my normal game, just a little more careful,'' said the happy Indian, who sought advice from seniors Ajay Ramaswamy and Vinod Sridhar to update his information about Matsui, ranked 468th on the ITF computer .. That is how it should be done, epecially the part about scouting the opponent! .. P.Vishal is taking things seriously and coming through every time .. He is almost there with the upper echelon of our players like VIjay, Vinod, Ajay, Mustafa, etc, in my view .. I am reminded of a comment made in passing by Fazaluddin a couple of years back - he singled out Vishal Punna as somebody who had potential to do very well, and that surprised me a bit then .. I guess, Fazal knew what he was talking about - I guess the 20 year old is beginning to do just that .. In other matches, Karan Rastogi had an easy win against a lucky loser .. Somdev got a raw deal, as he has to tackle the 3rd seed Aisam Quereshi, who has been vurtually unbeatable for some three weeks .. Vijay Kannan withdrew due to some sort of injury I believe .. Prakash also had wuthdrawn earlier, but this time Riohan Bopanna is playing .. Manoj mahadevan and Kedar Tembe qualified into the main draw .. Manoj plays the second seed Harsh .. Sunil Kumar, RB, HM, etc are all in action tomorrow .. See the scores in the Mumbai futures page.

Manisha Malhotra, not quite retired just yet, but doing traveling coaching for a top-150 player Anastassia Rodionova, was out playing this week, in the qualies at the $50K Changsha challenger in China .. Played a usual Manisha-like three-setter (hey, some things never change, and Manisha always plays 3-setters :)) .. Cassandra Barr (AUS,734) d. Manisha Malhotra,  76(2) 46 76(3) .. Tough loss, but always good to see Manisha playing.

Today's new ITF junior rankings show Tushar Liberhan as the latest entry into the top-100, as he reached a career-high #95 rank with the grade-3 title at Maysia last week .. Actually, Tushar has been on a torrid pace with a 28-2 record in the last 30 junior matches he has played, a lot of them at the grade-4 level .. He seems ready for tyyhe next step of grade-2 and grade-1 events with top-75 players .. Mathivannan Jeevan Nedunchezhiyen, who turned 15 only a month back, moved up 90 spots to #202 in the doubles rankings, with his title with Tushar last week ..  I believe the Indian kids will all be at the second Malaysian grade-3 event this week.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Dec 1 ..

I am getting some inquiries 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 inquiring 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 inquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.