Notes for week ending on Dec 8, 1997

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There won't be any news updates here from Dec 11th till right after Christmas !

Dec 9 Notes

Oleg Ogorodov is playing at the 50K Israel Challenger at Eilat this week, where he is the 4th seed. He has 357 points now. If he wins 3 matches and reaches the semis, he will overtake Leander by 1 point at 380, for the Asian #1 spot... again, by my calculations.. That's all the news for now.

Dec 8 Notes

A news item in today's Indian Express (from Express News service) has left me a bit confused about the Asian wildcard business, to the Aus Open. As of now, Leander is around #120-125 and #1 in Asia. Ogorodov can unseat him only if he reaches the semis in a challenger this week (I don't think he is playing anywhere though..). Anyway, Indian Express says that Leander could squeeze into the direct entry based on the #114 year-end ranking, and if so Mahesh wouldn't be considered for the wildcard as the agreement between Asian Tennis federation and the Aus Open is to not consider a player for WC if another player from his country is already in the draw. Plus IE says that there are TWO Asian wildcards this time (there was only 1 last time, but the Aus Open web site that just came up mentions the Asian wildcard"s", without saying how many, so the IE info seems correct on this). What confuses me are two things. LP said during the chat on Rediff that "he HAD TO do well at Ahmedabad and stay ahead of Ogorodov for the Aus Open wildcard", which seems to imply there was only one; otherwise they are both in without any contest, at #120+ and #125+ rankings. The other confusing thing is that even if LP were to get a direct entry based on the #114 ranking (that would mean AO will be using the Nov-24 ranking for direct entries and the current ranking for wildcards), Mahesh still doesn't have a chance, because Ogorodov and Yong-Il Yoon of Korea (at around #200) are above him. So I am confused about the headline in Indian Express that "Paes may cost mate Bhupathi a spot at Aus O".. By the way, every year there is confusion about who will get into the Aus Open, and this year seems no different ! .. Will try to clear things up soon.

Leander received the 1996 Sprtstar Sportperson of the year award in Chennai this weekend. Congrats to him! .. LP should be leaving for South Africa soon, for the Mandela Childrens' Charity event. It appears Mark Roesset will not be there, and is being replaced by Marcos Ondruska of South Africa (Wayne Ferreira of RSA is already in the list). Agassi and wife Brooke Shields are already there.

Dec 6 Notes

Wanted to see Indians win them, but at least we have Asians winning the two Indian challengers, with the Uzbek Vadim Kutsenko winning the Ahemedabad challenger yesterday and Suzuki winning Mumbai earlier (hmm.. ok.. I know we all need to still get used to thinking of Uzbekistan as part of Asia, but they are..). Emmanel Couto and Joao Cunha-Silva (both from Portugal) won the doubles over Motomura/Ogorodov... The same pair won the Mumbai doubles title last week and got over a tough Paes/Kirtane team this week... Should we mark this team as one that will make some noise next year ? .. perhaps.. Here's some scoop on them. Cunha-Silva is #119 and Couto is #136 in the Nov-17 ATP rankings. Interesting thing is that this is the first time these two Portugese are playing together this year ! .. Cunha-Silva has most points this year with Nuno Marquez (remember him at Ahmedabad last year ?) and Couto has points with Bernard Mota (who was at Ahmedabad this time, but played with Hromec in doubles, and lost the semis 1-6, 2-6 to Couto/Cunha-Silva!).. It requires quite a bit of chemistry normally for two players to not have played much together at all and then win 8 in a row all of a sudden (sort of like how LP/MB jelled in challengers last year).. Plus, you know the conventional wisdom that the best doubles teams in history have mostly all been from the same country ?.. Are these two poised for a good year next in 98 ?.. may be, if they like each other and play together. OK, I will stop my armchair analysis there (hell.. I haven't even seen them play!)..

 Singles Final

  Vadim Kutsenko (Uzb)        d.  Herbert Wiltschnig (Aut)    6-1, 6-4

 Doubles Final

  E.Couto - J.Cunha-Silva     d. G.Motomura-O.Ogorodov        6-4, 3-6, 6-3

News on Qatar Mobil Open in Doha that kicks of the 1998 ATP tour on January 5th: The Gulf Times reports that Leander Paes is currently listed among the qualifiers, but will be seeking a wildcard. He had received wildcard entry there in 97 and 96, and should possibly get it again this year. They haven't decided the wildcards yet, as far as we know. Ivanisevik, Rusedski, Henman and Korda are some of the top guys in the draw. The considerable Indian population out there will be quite upset if they don't get to see LP in the main draw. Leander lost in the first round there last year, in his first match after a real bad typhoid problem during the december vacation (hope he avoids that this time).

Dec 5 Note-2

How did Asians do this year in the ATP tour ? .. as for singles, not too well ! .. Here are some tidbits to munch on.. Only three Asians have gone past the semifinals in any challengers or ATP tournaments.. They are: Mahesh Bhupathi at the Kyoto Challenger in Japan, Takeo Suzuki at the Mumbai challenger, and now Dmitryi Kutsenko at Ahmedabad !!.. Takeo Suzuki is the only Asian with a title so far, the one last week... Neither Leander nor Oleg Ogorodov have reached a final this year (last year, Leander won at Mauritius and Oleg won over Leander at Chennai).. Oleg leads the group with 5 semifinals this year (all losses!) in challengers including today's loss at Ahmedabad.. Bhupathi and Yong-Il Yoon (Korea) have two challenger semis each, and leander has one challenger semifinal. Leander of course has the most impressive stat, of reaching the semis of two big ATP tournaments (the $300K Shanghai tournament and the $255K Newport HOF tourney), and the 3rd round of a grand slam (US Open).. No other Asian has gone past the quarterfinals in any ATP big tournaments.. As for doubles, well, I don't need to say anything, do I ?..

Dec 5 Note-1

Anticlimax.. Both Leander and Ogororodv lost today, and that finishes Leander's season at 379 points and at about #122-125 in ATP rankings.  Ogorodov ends with 357. Not sure if Ogorodov is playing at the Perth (Australia) or Eilat (Israel) challengers next week, the last week of tournaments in the year (Leander will be in South Africa playing the Mandela children's fund exhibition).  Oleg will need to reach the semifinals of the challengers next week to overtake Leander as the Asian #1 at year-end, even if he plays (probably not, as he is pretty tired playing so many doubles and singles matches these last two weeks). Interesting that last week at Mumbai we had two lucky losers in the final, and this week we have two qualifiers in the final !! .. I'm sure the reason for Leander's loss is probably the six sets he played yesterday (3-setter in singles and 3-setter in doubles.. it *was* a bad idea to play doubles here) .. Need to watch out for this guy Kutsenko in the future ... Leander is now 1-4 in the last 5 matches against the Uzebks (1-2 against Tomashevich, 0-1 against Ogorodov and 0-1 against Kutsenko) .. He will have revenge in mind at the Asiad next year ! .. The results from today are:

 Singles semifinals

  Q-Vadim Kutsenko (Uzb)      d.1 Leander Paes (Ind)          7-5, 6-2
  Q-Herbert Wiltschnig (Aut)  d.2 Oleg Ogorodov (Uzb)         6-4, 2-6, 7-5

 Doubles Semifinals

  E.Couto - J.Cunha-Silva     d.  H.Hromec-B.Mota             6-2, 6-1
  G.Motomura-O.Ogorodov       d.  Randjelovic-V.Voltchkov     6-0, 6-3

Leander's season-end points at 379 is the highest season-end point-total of his career. His ranking should be better than the #128 of last year at this time, which means he has imprroved his ranking every year, consistently, through his 7 year pro career. I expected a top-75 finish for this year, but considering how well his doubles performance was, and how it affected the singles play (not to mention the new coach and injury problems during the first part of 97), this is pretty good.

Here are the results of earlier rounds doubles at Ahmedabad:

 Doubles Quarterfinals

  M.Hromec-B.Mota             d.  B.Cowan-H.Wilschnig         3-6, 6-4, 6-3
  E.Couto-J.Cunha-Silva       d.  R.Sridhar-A.Wakalkar        6-1, 6-2
  G.Motomura-O.Ogorodov       d.  D.Hilpert-D.Nainkin         6-4, 2-6, 7-6(3)
  S.Randjelovic-V.Voltchkov   d.  N.Kirtane-L.Paes            6-4, 6-7(5), 6-4

 Doubles Round-1

  L.Paes-N.Kirtane            d.  E.Ran-E.Erlich              7-6(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
  E.Couto-Joao Cunha-Silva    d.  M.Bhupathi-S.Kirtane        5-7, 6-3, 6-3
  M.Hromec-B.Mota             d.  Caldwell-Shimada            6-3, 7-6
  B.Cowan-H.Wiltschnig        d.  O.Fukarek-R.Tieleman        6-3, 6-1
  S.Sridhar-R.Wakalkar        d.  ??
  G.Motomura-O.Ogorodov       d.  ??

Dec 4 Note-2

Leander will be playing Vadim Kutsenko and Oleg will be playing Herbert Wiltschnig in tomorrow's semifinals. This match depends a lot on how much the two matches today have taken out of Leander's stamina (Leander and Nitin Kirtane lost the doubles quarterfinal today, played after the 3-sets singles match LP won). Apparently he expected to play after 6 pm after the late-night 3 setter against Mahesh last night, but was shocked and upset when they scheduled him to play the singles QF at 2.30 pm, and he had barely had any practice in the morning. He was less than ready, ended up losing the first set and was on the brink of disaster in the 2nd set, down 1-3 and 15-40 on his own serve ! .. Then his never-say-die spirit got lit up in a hurry and it was a tremendous comeback, where he won the 2nd set and wrapped it up in the 3rd set tie-breaker with an ace at 9-7 !! The question is if he will be fit for battle tomorrow. Hopefully it will be a night match and he will be well-rested and ready to do his thing.. Kutsenko is not an easy foe, and has been looking better than his ranking (he's only in his 2nd year on the pro tour).. He did pretty well during the Asia Cup in Delhi last month. He did not play Leander there, but lost to Mahesh 6-3, 6-4. Leander knows Kutsenko's game, so expect him to use his experience here.

Some fans have emailed me enquiring about the point details.. Basically Leander has 355 points this week and the semifinalist gets 25 points here. As the lowest total in his best-14-tournament list is 1 which gets replaced by the 25, he is at 379 now. As for Oleg Ogorodov, he had 327 points before last week, got 13 points at Mumbai for 2 wins.. Assuming he also had 1 as the lowest in his 14-best, he gets +12 which gives him after last week, 339 points.. Now it gets interesting.. From what I can figure out, he has 7 or more points in 14 tournaments right now (10 challengers including Mumbai, and wins at 4 ATP tournaments). That means he will be replacing 7 points with the points from here. So the situation is better than I said yesterday. If LP loses tomorrow, and Oleg wins, he will get 43-7 = 36 points which will still place him below LP by 4 points.. I have to correct what I said yesterday that he would be ahead by 2 points ( I didn't expect him to have filled up his 14-best list after Mumbai and thought he would get 42 if he reached the final here). If they both win and LP loses to Oleg in the finals, LP will have 397 and Oleg will have 392. So, if LP wins tomorrow, it appears he is assured of being the Asian #1 for now. My calculations could all be wrong, so no guarantees !

Dec 4 Note-1

Phew.. another comeback win for LP.. Motomura seems to have pushed him all the way to the limit.. 9-7 tiebreaker in the 3rd set wins it for leander.. #2 seed Ogrorodov also won today. The other two semifinalists are both qualifiers ! Not sure which of those two qualifiers Leander will play in the semis. If Leander loses tomorrow and Oleg wins, he will overtake Leander by 2 points, 381 to 379, and become the Asian #1, by my calculations.. we'll see.. Yes, this is essentially now a 2-round qualifier for the Australian Open ! Good to have such drama in a challenger. Here are the results from today:

1 Leander Paes (Ind)          d.  Goichi Motomura (Jpn)       1-6, 6-4, 7-6(7)
  Q-Vadim Kutsenko (Uzb)      d.  David Nainkin (RSA)         6-2, 6-4
  Q-Herbert Wiltschnig (Aut)  d.  Steven Randjelovic (Aut)    6-4, 6-2
2 Oleg Ogorodov (Uzb)         d.  Vladimir Voltchkov (Belrus) 6-4, 7-5

Dec 3 Note-2

Correction on the score of the LP-MB match.. It was 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-1 The Hindu (Newsbriefs) online says the following about the match: Bhupathi fired his aces (seven) in the first set which he won, but thereafter began choking in the face of Paes' determined and successful effort at making him move around, Paes now came on to his own, fired nine aces in all (including one of second serve), some beautiful passing shots and at least one breathtaking drop volley. In short, Paes was in supreme command and justified the high expectation reposed on him by the fans here. That Mahesh could fire just one more ace after that brilliant first spell, in a nut shell, explained his decline. The two-hour encounter was so absorbing that none quite remembered the near 45 minute delay in starting the match...

Dec 4 Note-1

Just as predicted here yesterday, Mahesh came out with guns blazing, I assume.. He won the first set against Leander, 7-6 on a tiebreaker. Leander fought back and took the next two sets 6-3, 6-2, in what appears to have been a pretty good match there tonight.. No more info on match details except the scores.. Due to it being completed pretty late at night under lights, none of the online Indian newspapers have reported anything, including the score yet.. (as these are the first editions of the day which seem to come up online, except for The Hindu which comes on almost 12 hours after the other national newspapers).. Hope our score info is correct .. Ogorodov played another match inconsistently (he has been consistently inconsistent from last week) but won again today.. 3 more seeds fell today, the unexpected one being the talented 4th seed Stanoytchev who had to concede the match to Wiltsching due to stomach trouble (poor guy.. he says he has been eating too much of spicy food .. ATP should have a special note to all going to India not to binge on tasty Indian food unless you can stomach it!..).. He has had a tough trip to India, losing in the first round at Mumbai last week due to jetlag and now this.. Wiltsching and Kutsenko are now the two qualifiers in the quarterfinals.. and the only seeds left in the quarterfinals (tomorrow) are #1 Leander and #2 Oleg.. Leander now plays Goichi Motomura and Oleg plays Voltchkov.. Motomura has been the #1 Japanese player for a while now, ever since Shuzo Matsuoka disappeared from the face of the earth about a year back, and has been ranked up to about ATP 175 (currently around 235); ..but LP beat him pretty well the last time they played (6-1, 6-4 at the Chennai challenger in Sept 96).. If LP loses in the quarters and Oleg wins, LP will still be ahead in points to Oleg, but if Oleg wins the semifinal also, then he becomes the Asian #1... Nah.. Paes won't let that heppen ! .. Go Leander, Go ! Here are today's results (only 2 of the QF matchups are known to me, as shown):

1 Leander Paes (Ind)          d.  Mahesh Bhupathi (Ind)       6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2 \
  Goichi Motomura (Jpn)       d.8 Eyal Ran (Isr)              2-6, 6-3, 6-1    /
  David Nainkin (SA)          d.  Ota Fukarek (Czech)         6-4, 7-5
  Q-Vadim Kutsenko (Ubz)      d.  Martin Hromec (Czh)         6-4, 6-1
  Steven Randjelovic (Aus)    d.6 Frederic Fontang (Fra)      6-1, 6-2
  Q-Herbert Wiltsching (Aut)  d.4 Orlin Stanoytchev (Bul)     6-4, 1-0 wd
  Vladimir Voltchkov (Rus)    d.  Jao Cunha-Silva (Por)       6-3, 6-4        \
2 Oleg Ogorodov (Uzb)         d.  Martin Belgraver (Ned)      7-6, 6-2        /

Dec 2 Notes

What are the odds for this ?.. There were 6 Indians in the draw at Ahmedabad and 4 of them (including LP and MB) end up in the same 1/8th of the draw.. That meant LP and MB would win and face each other in the second round, and they will do eactly that tomorrow !.. Don't know when these two played each other in an ATP match before .. not for around 2 years at least, even though they played an exhibition benefit match at Calcutta a few months back (a one-setter which LP won). Hmmm... Think the best-buddy would do a favour to Leander and make sure he advances to get some points and wrap up the Aus-O wildcard ?.. Think again !.. Mahesh will come out with guns blazing, and Leander will be ready for the counter attack.. Lucky folks up at Ahmedabad, having a chance to see this classic tomorrow (Wednesday) evening. The newspaper coverage of this challenger has been very patchy so far (at least based on the online articles), and I cannot believe that not one top online newspaper has said anything about this potential second-round matchup for three days since the draw came out, till Prajwal Hegde of Deccan Herald brought out the scoop finally.. Kamesh Srinivasan (The Hindu) is only now getting to Ahmedabad after Hartford, and Kannan Srinivasan (Hindustan Times) is still in the US, which means the tennis coverage suffers there. Only Prajwal has had anything insightful to say so far.. Haven't seen any reports from SK John of Indian Express in a while... alright, enough of complaining about the press coverage; after all it's only a challenger.. The ongoing cricket test series may be another reason. Unfortunately, we have nobody in our fanclub from Ahmedabad to send us news and match reports (one member may be getting there from Bombay; if we get anything we will post it here). Anyway, it appears Vasu was a quick kill for LP and Nitin was lunch for MB today. Harsh also lost today; so only one Indian will be there in the quarterfinal. Here are the completed results from the first round :

1 Leander Paes (Ind)          d.  WC-Vasudev Reddy (Ind)      6-3, 6-2
  Mahesh Bhupathi (Ind)       d.  WC-Nitin Kirtane (Ind)      6-1, 6-2
8 Eyal Ran (Isr)              d.  Q-Dmitriy Tomashevich (Uzb) 7-5, 6-1
  Goichi Motomura (Jpn)       d.  Takao Suzuki (Jpn)          1-3 (wd)
  Martin Hromec (Czech)       d.3 Andrei Merinov (Rus)        5-7, 6-2, 6-3
  Q-Vadim Kutsenko (Uzb)      d.  Laurence Tieleman (Bul)     6-3, 6-1
  Oto Fukarek (Cze)           d.5 Eyal Erlich (Isr)           6-4, 6-3
  David Nainkin (RSA)         d.  Harsh Mankad (Ind)          7-5, 6-0
  Steven Randjelovic (Aut)    d.  Emanuel Couto (Por)         7-6, 7-6
6 Frederic Fontang (Fra)      d.  Andrei Stoliarov (Rus)      6-2, 6-2
  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
  Vladimir Voltchkov (Belrus) d.  WC-Sandeep Kirtane (Ind)    7-5, 6-2
  Jao Cunha-Silva (Port)      d.7 Rainer Falenti (Aut)        6-4, 6-1
  Martijn Belgraver (Ned)     d.  Barry Cowan (GBR)           3-6, 1-6 
2 Oleg Ogorodov (Uzb)         d.  Q-Saotoshi Iwabuchi (Jpn)   6-3, 6-3

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 Voltchkov (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.