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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Dec 13, 1999

(Previous week's notes) (Next week's notes) (Daily Notes Index 1997 thru 99)

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Dec 13 Note-1

Poor Manisha Malhotra was returning from some injury rehabs (the problems started when she was doing well and reached both the singles and doubles finals in the British satellites a couple of months back but withdrew with injury) and it showed, as she lost today to #442 Eun-Young Ha (KOR) at the $25K Delhi women's challenger in a 3rd set tiebreaker .. Manisha lost the points from last year's qualifier wins and dropped in rankings today by 36 spots to #351 .. She gets one WTA point only at Delhi this time .. The other loss today was by wildcard Radhika Tulpule, who went up against another youngster,  Anna Nefedova (#664) of Russia and lost in three sets .. The one to win today was wildcard Archana Venkatraman, reportedly using her bread-and-butter shots - the lobs that frustrate the opponents .. She won in three sets .. All the big names play tomorrow - the top seed Garbin, the 6th seed Nirupama etc .. Niru is playing doubles with Tathiana Garbin again - they reached the semi last week at Manila, and should be expected to be tough here again .. Apparently as of Monday evening a few more players had still not arrived from Manila via Tokyo, but Niru somehow reached early with a direct flight from Manila ! .. See the Delhi challenger page (as always, I update that page with scores as soon as I get any) .. The bad story in the newspapers today was that there were no ballboys or linesmen at the challenger - apparently the ITF supervisor, who is from Dubai, said that it is allowed by ITF (and only 6 matches and no doubles were scheduled today) .. AITA may have tried to save some money there, and apparently will have ballboys and linesmen from tomorrow .. I believe there is no title sponsor for this event and AITA may be putting in some of their own money for this event - something that most national associations don't do .. If that's the case I will go easy on complaining .. Otherwise it is really a shame.

Leander has come up to #142 in the rankings .. I believe this is the last ranking with the old system that ATP will publish ..  As for the new system next year, despite all the hype from ATP, nothing much will change, except for a new points table and 18 best tournaments being used .. They will make a big deal of the "Race ranka" based on calendar year points (the old "Race to Hannover" ranks), which won't make sense till at least after Wimbledon anyway .. Nobody in the public has yet seen the new points table, except that a grand slam title will be worth 200 points, a "masters series" (new name for Super 9s) title will be worth 100 and and the next level will be worth 50 - and no bonus points any more (not sure of the next three levels - only six levels in the new table - may be another championship levels and two more world-series levels .. The challenger/satellite/futures may count only for "entry ranks" and not for "race ranks") .. The points are effectively about the same as what we get if you divide by 4.5 or 5 the points earned now in GS, Super 9s, championship series events [about 950 for GS, 425 for Super 9, 225 for championship series] .. The ranks that will be used for all useful purposes such as entries to tournaments will be the "entry ranks", which are based on 52 weeks' points in the best 18 tournaments for each player .. This rank list will not show much difference from the current list, as most top-200 players have more than 18 events and hardly have any points beyond the best 10 or so .. Expect Leander, for instance, to be ranked around 135 to 150 in the new entry ranks too .. The points from this year will stay on (probably divided by 5 to roughly match it with the new ranking table in effect next year - or they might recompute the points for this years results with the new table) and will be replaced each week in 2000 by points according to the new ranking table .. Or equivalently they can use new points multipled by five to match it with old points - not clear what ATP will be doing .. ATP has been releasing only hype so far, and a lot of procedural details are not available for the public yet (I also heard that they actually have not worked out all the details - horror - and that that is why only hype is coming out!) .. Anyway, my close examination of the Chennai entry list reveals that they used the current points table itself (but with best 18) for the entry rank list and that they probably did not recompute the ranks with the new points table.  Interestingly, the best 14 and best 18 based on the current points would result in exactly the same 25 direct entries for Chennai - only the order in the waiting list (ie qualifier entry list) would be somewhat different .. I had noticed the dicrepancies when I posted the entry list at the Chennai Goldflakes page -- that is why I looked carefully to figure out what was up.

Anyway players will be able to keep the current points and defend them just as before .. In other words, in sum total, nothing much will change - despite the hype that it will be a "clean slate" for everyone in January ! .. Nope .. It isn't - unless we care for the "race rankings" -- we shouldn't, till midway through next year .. And, oh, they are also hyping up the fact that all who make the entry to grand slams and masters series will *have to* play those events, or they will be "docked" spots in the best 18 .. Nobody who is not injured (except for three or four Spaniards who avoid the grass at Wimbledon) ever skip the grand slams and most top 65 players play at least 7 or 8 super-9s now, and so this is not going to be much of a change either .. Things *may* get a bit more straight-forward though, for the causal tennis fan .. Till I see the full points table and satellite/futures points, I can't comment on how the ranks below the top-400 would change.

Dec 12 Notes

The qualifying is all done and the main draw has been made for the $25K Delhi women's challenger starting Monday .. Nirupama is the sixth seed .. She is in the bottom half and potential matchups in the QF and SF are the 4th seed Wynn Prakusya and the 2nd seed Katalin Marosi .. Niru faces wildcard Arathi Venkatraman in the first round .. Indians have got decent chances in the first round with the other 5 all facing unseeded opponents .. #316 Manisha Malhotra is the second highest ranked Indian .. She has a winnable first round opponent in Yoon-young Ha of Korea (#447)  .. Sai and wildcard Radhika face qualifiers and Archana faces a lucky loser, but they are not necessarily easy opponents .. Rushmi has the toughest match, against Abigail Tordoff of Britian (#324) .. None of the Indians qualified in , as opposed to last year when Manisha and Archana did that .. This was not surprising, as the top tier of Indian players have all gone in as direct entries or wildcards (except for perhaps Janaki Krishnamurthi, Shruti Dhawan and Sheetal Gautam - not sure if any of them played the qualies .. Only Shalini Thakur and Vishika Chhetri were in the final round, and I have not seen the scores of the earlier rounds of qualies).  See the information I have so far, at the Delhi women's challenger page.

The problem is that due to an earthquake 10 miles from Manila, there were some eveacuations, and about 11 players coming from Manila are coming in after a roundabout trip through Tokyo to Delhi .. If they don't reach by Tuesday, the organizers will have some trouble .. Apparently they would get in by Monday night .. The top seeds, including Niru are in that party .. They will all be playing only on Tuesday .. Normally the women's challengers conduct some first round matches as late as Wednesday, but that may not be allowed at the Indian challengers where the finals are always set for Saturday due to the TV contract, as opposed to Sunday which is the normal finals day everywhere else .. 5th seed Hiraki, 8th seed Daskovic and Manisha Malhotra will be playing on Monday, as will be Archana and Radhika.

Dec 11 Note-2

If you are wondering what Leander will be up to next, he will be going to South Africa for a couple of exhibition matches and vacation before Christmas .. It will be at the MTN Cape Town challenge (Dec 16-19) .. I read a report that LP will be playing doubles there with 22 year old Jeff Coetzee of South Africa (I believe MB was supposed to be with him originally, but they had to find another partner as he can't play) ..  Jeff has had a pretty good doubles year - I wasn't aware that the guy had come up to #73 in doubles .. He has won six challenger doubles titles this year, in the company of five different people! .. Damien Roberts, Tuomas Ketola, Jan-Ralph Brandt, Neville Godwin, Alejandro Hernandez (two titles) .. He has to be a good player to win that many titles with that many different people .. A bit too short at 5-8 though, and I am not sure if he could support LP in the power department like MB can .. Anyway, actually if he turns out to be alright in the exhibition matches, perhaps LP could consider playing a few tournaments with him - LP has been having trouble finding a good partner for early next year, as most of the top players who are interested in playing with him have all committed to other partners .. If Leander wants to have a regular partner for a few events, it would be tough to find good players now (he can easily find some top-25 player to sign in at most places, but changing partners every week normally doesn't normally lead to any worthwhile doubles results) .. Jeff Coetzee is actually one of the very few people in the top-75 who don't have at least semi-regular doubles partners .. With somebody in the top 70 or so, LP could be seeded at any tournament he wants to play (Basically Chennai, AO, Dubai and may be Indian Wells - LP may be at a few challengers in the other weeks, and wouldn't need a doubles partner) .. Coetee is ranked at #184 in singles .. LP did not tell me if he was considering somebody ranked that low, but had told newspapers this week that he might have to play with somebody not at the top if he wants a regular partner till MB gets back .. He also said in an Indian Express interview that another option could be to forget doubles altogether till Hesh gets back and focus on just singles .. I doubt he will stay away from doubles that long though (ie a several weeks) .. Apparently, he did say today (according to The Pioneer, Delhi) that he is not considering any Indians for now - there were speculations in the newspapers that he was considering Fazal, but I guess that was not the case, though LP likes Fazal a lot .. According to Deccan Herald, he said today, ''I have looked from the number 1 to the number 100 player and no one is free. I have looked under every rock and stone. I have no idea who it will be now,"  -- Nah, don't worry Lee .. I am sure the world #1 can find *somebody* to play with soon..

In today's singles finals, LP started slow, and was down a break in the first game .. He was in serious trouble at 15-30 in the 3rd game, but found his rhythm at the right time to hold on .. He broke Cowan soon, and actually had three set points off Cowan's service at 4-5 .. Cowan held and in the tiebreaker LP faced a set point at 5-6 before finishing it at 10-8 (apparently 15 of the 18 serves in the tiebreaker were first serves - that means it was a high-quality tiebreaker they played .. Leander converted his sixth set point of the set with reportedly a "delectable running forehand") .. Cowan fought all the way in the second set too, but LP was smelling the title and wouldn't let him back into the match .. LP had ten aces today to two by Cowan .. LP had 5 double faults, but 38 unforced errors .. The crowd (even perched on top of buildings there) was loud and apparently were shouting at awkward times, including just when he was ready to return one of the triple set points he had at 5-4 .. LP got angry and shouted back at the crowd to keep quiet .. Actually I have heard this comment about Indian crowds, especially at doubles matches where LP and MB play, that screams come out at awakward times ! .. Somebody actually wrote in at our bulletin board after Hartford this time that Indian crowds are nice crowds, knowledgeable in applauding good tennis, but that the screams come out at weird times like during second serves, when a player is ready to return serve, etc .. But LP thanked the crowd, as they were a big part yesterday in getting him going in the 3rd set - he thrives on the crowd support, as long as they don't disrupt his concentration at key times.

The doubles title went to the 2nd seeds Satoshi Iwabuchi and Tomas Anzari, who beat Karlovic and Svhukin in a good final, 7-6(8), 4-6, 7-6(5)

Dec 11 Note-1

Good news - #5 Leander d. #8 Barry Cowan (GBR,304), 7-6(8), 6-4 in the final today .. Make that 64 more ATP points for 124 pts in two weeks, a 10 match win streak where he won 20 of 21 sets .. And Leander screams back up into the top-150 near #140, up some 65 spots .. What a great way to end the year and get some hope for next year .. The man has not lost his singles abilities or anything .. It just had to come back to him .. He goes to Cape Town (RSA) now for a short exhibition thingy before a nice Christmas break and then a trip to Chennai where he will start off the new year hopefully with more heroics ..

Bad news - Nirupama lost two semifinals today at Manila .. Top seed Tathiana Garbin beat 6th seeded Nirupama 6-4 6-3 in the singles semifinals .. Niru had beaten Tathiana at the US Open qualies in two tiebreakers, but the Italian got revenge today .. Niru and Tathiana were doubles partners there too, and they reached the semi in doubles as well, as the second seeds .. They got upset by Na Li and Ting Li of China today 64 61 .. Still a pretty good tournament for Niru .. This is the first time since her double crown titles three years back at the Bad Goggong (Germany) challenger that she is reaching the semifinals of both singles and doubles .. Good show .. The final at Manila is between Tathiana and 18-yr old 4th seed Wynn Prakusya of Indonesia, who upset the 2nd seed Katalin Marosi, 6-1 6-1 flat .. Yes, the same Marosi who lost 16 16 to Niru at the US qualies too .. She should stay away from this group of players :-) .. I believe most of these players will be coming to Delhi for next week's challenger .. Niru should be the 5th or 6th seed at Delhi too.

Dec 10 Note-2

It's not just Leander who is having a pretty good week ! .. Nirupama reached her first challenger semifinal of the year today at the $25K Manila challenger beating Akiko Morigami (JPN,299), 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 !! .. This is her first singles semi since Nov of 98 when she reached the Port Pirie challenger semi in Australia .. She picks up 12 total points for this, and it couldn't have come at a better time, as she loses 17 points next monday (she will drop closer to #240 next week, but will have these points and whatever she gets at Delhi go into her kitty in three weeks to bring her back up near top 200 with a good chance to make the Australian Open qualifiers) .. Niru's scorelines in the three wins at Manila are, 46 61 61, 61 60, 46 61 61 .. It looks like she has really been playing well this week in the sets she has won .. It is great to know that Niru will be in good playing shape for the delhi challenger next week .. Since I find Amanda Augustus in the main draw scores from Manila, I guess Sai Jayalakshmi lost in the final round of qualies to Amanda (USA,688) ..

As for Leander's match today against Paradorn, all newspaper reports are that he played a superb match and never let Paradorn get into the match.  LP had 61 unforced errors in the quarterfinal yesterday, but just 26 today .. Fired 6 aces to one by Paradorn (who did not have one of his better days serving) .. Paradorn said, "he has got so much experience .. I am just coming up to his level .. Leander served well and his first volley was good. I planned to keep the serve and possibly play the tie-breaker. With my  game I couldn't have done better than that on grass," .. Not that Paradorn is that bad on grass - after all, he qualified in at Wimbledon and advanced a round in the main draw too, this year .. According to Kamesh Srinivasan in The Hindu, It presented a pretty sight when Leander appreciated Srichaphan's brilliant backhand passing shot at the end of the match, as he walked towards the umpire shaking hands with the Thai .. He was all praise for the Thai later as well .. "He deserves to be No. 1 in Asia. I have given him an alarm that I am coming back .. I just let my game take over, and went with my instinct,'' said Leander ... It seems to have been a nice match today .. In the other semi, Delgado with an upset stomach faced Cowan with a viral infection, and Cowan won 75 64 .. So, LP goes up against Barry Cowan (GBR,304) tomorrow in the final .. At the Lucknow challenger last week, these two met and LP won 76(3) 62 .. Let us root for Leander to finish the year on a great upswing with yet another title and a near-140 ranking .. I assume the final will be on Doordarshan Saturday afternoon (the usual time of 2.30 pm?) .. See the Jaipur challenger page for all the scores.

I had a nice chat with Mahesh this afternoon .. He is still at NY city .. His sling will be gone in 2 to 3 weeks or so, but it will be a while after that before he can start hitting the ball again.

Well, both Sai and Rushmi have now squeezed into the main draw of next week's $25K Delhi women's challenger .. I had fully expected Sai to make in, but nice to know that Rushmi also went in (Sai was #7 and Rushmi was #20 in the qualifier list as of last week!) .. That leaves the three wildcard spots for Archana and Arti Venkatraman sisters and 17 yr old Radhika Tulpule .. There will be enough spots in the qualifier for a lot of Indian girls (the list now stands at only 10 foreign players in the 32-spot qualies .. I doubt 22 Indian girls would show up for qualies, actually - they should, as they can make a few dollars playing that ! .. Including Niru, Manisha, Sai, Rushmi, Archana, Arti, Radhika and at least 2 or 3 Indian qualifiers, we will have about 9 or 10 players in the main draw - not bad at all .. See the Delhi challenger page for the early entry list etc ..  I would expect young Sheetal Gautam to be one of the seeds in the qualies.

Dec 10 Note-1

Sorry for the slow updates .. One of those busy weeks.

Good news .. Leander isn't ready to crown Paradorn as the undisputed Asian #1 yet! .. Today in the semifinal at the $25K "Bikaji" Jaipur challenger, #5 Paes d. #1 Paradorn Srichaphan (THA,100), 6-3, 6-4 .. He faces Barry Cowan (GBR,304) in the final tomorrow .. The win gives Leander 46 more points .. The 9 match win streak in two challengers has now given him 106 points to bring up his points total to 309 which will help him crack top-150 again .. That is a nice and fast move up from #205 he was recently.  A win tomorrow will give him an extra 17 more points for a near-140 ranking ! .. Today's win was especially sweet as it is against the Asian #1 and it is his first win against a top-100 player since July.

In yesterday's quarterfinal, LP was looking good till the middle of the second set when, up a break, he was serving, down 15-30 .. a bad call at that time and LP went ballistic against the chair umpire and the linemen .. The newspaper reports seem to be quite critical of LP's "bad behavior", screaming and shouting .. LP said later, "look, I am 26 and I am starting from scratch doing it all, all over again .. It's just my fire in the belly coming out" .. Leander seems to be picking up quite a bad boy reputation right now .. A new Tarango in the making .. Naah, don't get carried away there :-) .. but I couldn't help but remember Agassi in the Burbank and Las Vegas challengers a couple of years back when he started his comeback from #140s - he did some really bad stuff on court (If I am not mistaken, the Las Vegas newspaper's tennis beat writer vowed to never again cover Agassi, who is from Las Vegas!) .. Though I don't condone court antics, LP is generally not foul-mouthed even if he is screaming and quite close to picking up fines arguing .. I am glad to see him finally taking singles seriously enough to do that .. As for the match itself, he got broken in the next point, got distracted, and pulled it back together only after losing the second set on a tiebreaker (the first time he dropped a set in 8 matches, after 17 sets he won in a row .. He had lost 16 of 17 before that!) .. He calmed himself down and won the match with a 63 final set where he broke Ketola three times while getting broken once.  Basically these are unpredictable courts with low bounce which are his favorite surface and he has made use of the Indian challengers very well ..  Go Leander.

As for all the emails I am getting asking what is new between LP and MB, all I can say is that there doesn't seem to be anything new, despite all the newspaper correspondents wondering why LP is sounding quite different this week about his plans for doubles next year - he has also been often somwhat angry and upset .. Hesh is in New York, and is basically minding his own business, and LP has not talked to Hesh since the middle of last week as LP told me .. I talked to LP yesterday and he says there is nothing new and that he will call MB sometime soon .. He has certainly left the newspaper folks quite convinced that there is something up .. LP sounded quite the same as always yesterday when I talked to him, and said he basically is so fired up about focusing on singles for now that he doesn't know what he has said in the press conferences and what the newspapers have been writing .. I think LP should be careful though .. Nobody wins a war against newspapers (:-)) and particularly so by making oneself look like an egomaniac in public and sounding insensitive towards one's partner .. But then again, Leander is quite the enigma sometimes .. He asked me how Hesh was doing, as I had talked to Hesh on Monday .. I asked LP pointedly if he has any plans for other partners even after MB gets back, and he said, "no, nothing like that .. Gosh, the Olympics is in September .. we will be playing soon after he is back in full strength - that may be a while though .. may be 3-4 months" .. I am not saying he would necessarily tell me if he has other plans, but he has told me things off the record in the past though .. It just didn't sound like he had any big new plans or anything .. I hope MB does not get upset at all the quotes from Leander appearing in the newspapers .. The quotes themselves seem to be accurate, but the contexts in which he said some of those are not clear .. The Hindu had one comforting article (link here) that says Mahesh didn't want to disturb Leander during the Jaipur challenger and will talk to him afterwards .. So, that's what I know and as far as I can see, there is nothing new! .. Once again, let us leave them alone, and let me go back to reporting news!

The 4th seeds Fazal and Srinath lost in the doubles semi at Jaipur today to the second seeds Anzari and Iwabuchi, 4-6, 4-6 .. Still 25 points for Sri and Fazal from reaching the semis.

Dec 9 notes

Leander is in another semifinal .. Had a little hiccup in the middle, but  Paes d. #3 Tuomas Ketola (FIN,168), 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-3 .. Up next for him is the new Asian #1, Paradorn Srichaphan (THA,100) .. The match that everyone was waiting for since last week - it should be a good one .. LP has picked up 26 points so far and can make it 47 with a win tomorrow.

Nirupama reached the QF at the $25K challenger in Manila today beating wildcard Czarina Mae Arevalo (PHI), 6-1, 6-0 .. She gets 7 WTA points so far .. It's important to pick up points at this challenger and next week at Delhi, as Niru has 17 points dropping off next Monday from last year's Delhi challenger where she was in the QFs.

Dec 8 Note-2

There are quite a few newspaper reports today about Leander saying things which don't look too comforting, with regard to when he and MB will get back together again after MB's injury recorvery .. I have had some emails asking me if I knew what was up .. No, nope .. No idea what's the latest, but I will talk to both soon and try to tell you what I can tell :-) .. Every time Leander goes to India, some stuff starts hitting the fan .. I don't trust all the lines, quotes and soundbytes in the newspapers, as they undergo multiple edits, and willful and unintended mischief is part of the media .. At the same time, I am not one who thinks that media can be blamed in the end for whatever ensues as they are not the ones who cause actions from any part .. I hope LP and MB would once again put to rest what seems to be another brewing storm .. Anyway, LP said that as of now he has some name in mind as a partner for the next few months .. Couldn't get Bjorkman for AO, as he was tied up, and also Lareau is taken (LP said Lareau was upset that he was told earlier that LP would be available) .. I just read in CNNSi that Rafter has ruled himself out for singles but might play doubles at AO - I assume that's what caused Bjorkman to be tied up .. LP said he might consider a player not right at the top and "nurture him" .. We will wait and see what transpires, but something gives me an uneasy feeling in my gut which hopefully would change after I get in touch with the two champs.

Dec 8 Note-1

LP is in the quarterfinal again .. Paes d. Justin Layne (GBR,487), 6-2, 6-4 in the second round at the Jaipur challenger ..  The effort of the day was put in by Vishal Uppal who was down with fever but still gave a massive scare to the top seed Srichaphan before gtting tired and losing 46 57 36 .. Vishal continues to impress with his spirited play in every match - nobody ever gives the guy much credit for his tennis abilities (the best the newspaper reports always say is that he is "crafty":-))  but he never seems to play a match he should be ashamed of .. Paes plays Ketola next .. See the Jaipur challenger page.

Nirupama is indeed at the Manila Challenger! .. I thought she was going to wait another week due to the illness, but must have recovered fast .. Good news, she advanced to the second round after beating Marina Ciazzo (FRA,337) 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 .. Niru gets a potentially easy opponenet in the second round - 14 year old Filippina wildcard Czarina Mae Arevalo who beat another Filippina girl in the first round (source: Manila Bulletin) .. I will try to find later about what happened to Sai and Rushmi in the qualies .. I know Sai was in the final round of qualies against Amanda Augustus of USA, but I have not seen the final round result sor the complete main draw scores yet (Rushmi seems to have lost in the second round of qualies).

I got a couple of comments at the bulletin board page, basically asking me to chill a bit and not get carried away with my opinions on Sunil Kumar being given main draw wildcards, etc (my last note below) .. That is fair criticism, especially when I am not a tennis player or authority  -- I was of course sounding a bit too opinionated below .. No intention of upsetting anybody though - just something that I felt was important to talk about .. I will write more with some facts and numbers to try and clarify what I was talking about .. later though .. Busy day today for me.

Dec 7 Note-2

There were 12 Indians in the main draw when it started .. Only the two who went up against Indians advanced to the second round -- whatever be the excuses we can give, this is just a terrible show by our players ..  See today's scores at the Jaipur challenger page .. Among the 8 who played foreigners, only ONE managed to even take it to the 3rd set, which was Fazal today against 4th seed Jamie Delgado .. Fazal lost 4-6 6-3 2-6 and reportedly played a very good match .. God bless Fazal for trying in every match, and he was indeed unlucky in getting the shaft from the draw, going up against the top seed last week and against last week's runner-up today .. Rohan Bopanna became the 3rd Indian player in the first round who played a close 5-7 first set who then fell apart in the next set ..  Sunil Kumar had another 3-6 1-6 loss .. I repeat, what is the point in asking the kid to keep on playing these matches with wildcard entries, when it is clear that he has a lot more work to do gaining experience in winning tennis at the junior international levels? -- it would be OK if he is getting match practice in the qualies before picking up the first round loss, but nothing like that, and he has basically wasted three weeks at the Asia Cup and the challengers, with just three matches .. Had he played qualies these two weeks, he would have most probably made it in both times, would have at least some wins under his belt along with 6 extra ATP points as bonus too .. As it stands, everyone has to tell him that it's OK that he lost as nobody expected him to win anyway, lest the kid starts losing confidence .. What a terrible thing to keep telling a boy! .. No, it's *not* OK to lose, whatever match one is playing .. Man, we need to get a grip on how to groom a champion .. Look around, and see what people do with top players around the world .. What we are doing with Sunil Kumar is the dumbest thing, that is not done anywhere else with any top young player .. One or two ITF junior events is all he has played, and he is being given challenger wildcards .. Champions do not just happen because we all so badly want it .. It needs planning, hardwork, and slow and steady progress ..

Right now, if I were Sunil Kumar, I would be getting quite comfortable with where I am, as the goodies keeping coming my way (a sure way to kill the fire in the belly), or I am feeling too much pressure to perform, or I am getting too much of advice too early from everybody .. He is definitely not getting a chance to play enough, think clearly, and build his own experience at his own pace .. There has to be a purpose in any match one plays, and a kid should never have confusion in his mind what exactly is expected of him at every stage, in every match ..  Not so in Sunil's case (even if people tell him that he is only supposed to get experience in top-level mateches and nothing else, he has to be wondering what he gets in a match where he lost 12 of 16 sets!) .. If things were being done right, he would be picking up points at the ITF junior event two weeks back and trying to get into junior grand slams next year .. Now, there is a good purpose to shoot for .. Here is something to look at - if he were to win all five junior ITF events in South Asia early next year, he would still not qualify for grand slams, as he is ranked near 400 now with a paltry 40 ITF junior points - that means he will find it tough to get experience against top *junior* players next year .. The year after next will be his last junior year when he will end up against top players for the first time and could get rattled .. These are all possibilities that hopefully may not happen, but should be carefully avoided - and I am not seeing any indication that anybody is planning this kid's 2-year schedule well .. Sunil is reportedly a very nice kid, humble and level-headed, but at the age of 17, whatever you say, things could affect a kid in disastrous ways .. Please, get a grip people! .. but, unfortunately, I doubt if anyone is listening to my continued whining on this issue, and it is sad when it is all being done with the best of intentions from all quarters but with quite clearly a lack of understanding of how things are done in the tennis world .. I am certainly no expert on these matters - just somebody who follows world tennis as closely as possible for a non-tennis guy .. After all India produces a champion only once a decade or so, and people are not really experienced in these matters! .. Then what everyone should do is to take a deep breath, look around, and learn how top players are/were groomed around the world .. I feel that I am repeating myself so many times on this matter - sorry about that!

Dec 7 Note-1

Talked to Mahesh Bhupathi yesterday and he is doing fine in New York, recuperating from the Arthroscopic surgery performed on his shoulder to repair ligament damage .. His arm is in a sling .. He does not know yet exactly how long he will be away; could be anywhere from a month to 3 or 4 months, as reported earlier in the press.

As for the Jaipur challenger, the newspaper reports, specifically from S.Kannan of Hindustan Times and  Kunal Pradhan of The Pioneer, are very critical of how the Indian second string performed on Monday .. Take a look at the scores in the Jaipur challenger page and their criticism looiks fair .. True that most of them were expected to lose, but the fact that not one among them put up a fight in their losses is very disappointing .. Srinath clearly seemed to just not have the confidence that he could do anything on grass, admittedly not his best surface .. Vijay Kannan played great till 5-6 in the first set and then lost 7 of the next 8 games in a hurry .. A similar story with Nitin Kirtane .. Mustafa Ghouse who is in a slump ever since his show at the hardcourt nationals was another .. The only one to advance to second round was Vishal Uppal, whom everyone calls the "crafty guy" .. Vishal beat Manoj Mahadevan in a disappointing match .. Disappointing, because reportedly 18 yr old Manoj was the one who dominated the match, except that he played badly in two games at 4-5 in each set - a good indication of the mental side of tennis not being solid .. Vishal has shown time and again that he will go out there and play positively .. What I have always read about Vishal's matches is that if he loses it is because the opponenet was simply better, not because his mind came in the way of a win, as seems to happen to so many other Indians .. Vishal picked up 7 ATP points and over $400 for the win .. As for Leander,  here is what Kunal Pradhan writes, "Kamlesh Shukla, the boy who played Leander Paes, hails from Gorakhpur and looked most odd for someone from that part of Uttar Pradesh. Sporting a samurai warrior like ponytail and wearing shades of maroon, along with a rather superior expression on his face. Nevertheless, being Gorakhpur No 1 and India No 1 are two different things as Leander showed him soon enough with his 6-1, 6-2 victory. The scoreline would have been far more humiliating had Paes played with any sense of  seriousness; he just ambled on court and it was a wonder he did not sleep halfway through his match" .. Funny stuff! .. As for Srinath, Kunal said, "the Mysore boy just did not seem to have the will or the arsenal to match the tall, hard-hitting  Cowan. There were some brilliant shots unleashed from the Srinath backcourt, no doubt, but they were no more than flashes in the pan, put there on purpose to tell a tale of wasted talent" -- impressive line, though brutal in criticizm .. But really, it's time our players started doing something in these challengers at least occasionally - after all they are getting so many opportunities to play .. Let us hope Fazal, Sunil Kumar, and Rohan Bopanna can put up a better fight today (but they face the 3rd, 4th and 1st seeds respectively - what a pity!)

Sai Jayalakshmi and Rushmi Chakravarti are at the $25K Manila challenger .. Both are in the qualies, and won their first round matches on Sunday .. Sai beat unranked Filippina, Sommer Bisagas in a doubles bagel 60 60 .. Sai was to play American Leslie Kramer (#982) in the second round .. Rushmi pulled an impressive upset over Satomi Kinjo (JPN,470), 6-3 6-3 and picked up an extra WTA point for beating a top-500 player .. I have no news about the next two rounds in the qualies .. In the main draw, some of the same names who will be at Delhi next week are playing - Tathiana Garbin, etc .. The reports in Manila Times said Tammi Tanasugarn, the original top entry, had withdrawn over the weekend, but they still listed Nirupama as the 6th seed - I don't think she has gone there, as she has been advised for three weeks rest in India after some infection a couple of week's back.

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.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Dec 6 ..