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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on Dec 14, 1998

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Dec 14 Note-3

Mahesh is now in the quarterfinals of all three individual evnts - singles, doubles and mixed doubles .. to do that, he had to play the final-16s of all three, which meant seven sets of tennis today ! - Hope the whole Indian physio contingent was working on him with ice-packs and massages last night ! .. That's a very impressive show by MB .. the other two players who are in QFs of all three are Hyung-Taik Lee of Korea and Takahiro Terachi of Japan ..

After winning his singles PQF in two sets, MB had to play the doubles against Sulistyo Wibowo and Bonit Wiryawan of Indonesia .. As I had expected, this turned out to be a very tough match, as they stretched MB and Fazal to three sets - our guys won in the end, 7-6(2), 4-6, 6-4 .. Later, Mahesh had to get back for a third match, this time with Nirupama, to beat Michael Misa and Maricris Fernandez of Philippines, 6-3, 6-4 ..

This stuff is hitting the tough stretch run - whoever has enough fuel left to go on, will come out the winner .. According to the original schedule, the quarterfinals of all three events are tomorrow (tuesday) and the semis of all three are on Wednesday .. Keep your fingers crossed.

Nitin Kirtane and Vijay Kannan also have advanced to the quarterfinal, beating a much easier team, Ramin Raziani and Seyed-Akbar Taheri of Iran .. Incidentally Kannan/Kirtane are higher ranked on paper, with 516+693 ranks than Mahesh and Fazal with 3+1304 !! .. Manisha and Fazal lost in the final-16 of the mixed doubles to the 4th seeds, Hyung-Taik Lee and Sung-hee Park .. On the whole, a fantastic day for India in tennis, with 2 singles wins putting 2 players in the men's QFs, two doubles wins putting 2 teams in men's doubles QFs, and one mixed doubles win to reach QF .. 5 wins are against the two losses today - by Niru in women's QF to the second seed Fang Li, and by Manisha-Fazal to the 4th seeds in the mixed doubles .. Not bad at all, but the fun starts tomorrow.

Our track and field folks did not disappoint today, picking up our first Gold (Jyotirmoyee Sikdar, 1500 m), a couple of silvers and 5 bronzes .. A bit more respectable now.

Dec 14 Note-2

Just got a note from our press friend at Bangkok - Nirupama and Mahesh are of course in the mixed doubles draw and are the top seeds there .. Man, that's a ton of tennis coming up for MB who seems to be going all out .. Also, in the singles quarterfinals (probably tomorrow, Tuesday), 7th seed MB will play #1 Oleg Ogorodv and 8th seed Srinath will beat #2 Kutsenko in an exact repeat of the finals of the Asia Cup two weeks back - damnit, we can't get away from these Uzbeks ! .. Later today, Nitin Kirtane and Vijay Kannan will be playing doubles, and so are Fazal and Manisha .. Fazal and MB are playing right now in doubles against Wibowo/Wiryawan .. Look here later for all the rest of the day's scores, after the matches are all done.

Dec 14 Note-1

It was probably too greedy of us to expect of Niru to pull off the biggest upset of her career, right after one huge upset yesterday, and it did not happen - she lost today (Monday) to the 2nd seed Fang Li, 6-2, 6-1 in the quarterfinals .. However, both MB and SP have advanced to the final-8 !! .. Mahesh Bhupathi beat Bryan Junio of Philippines, 7-6(4), 6-2 and Srinath Prahlad had a nice win over Wei Ju Chen (Taiwan), 6-4, 7-5 .. It's good to see two Indians in the final 8 .. Other wins so far today - top seed Oleg Ogorodov (UZB) beat thailand's Danai Udomchoke, 6-3, 6-4 and T.Terachi (JPN) beat Paradorn Srichaphan (THA), 6-1, 6-3 .. The Thais and Pakistanis have had a terrible time so far, especially the kids .. Hyung-Taik Lee (KOR) beat Bing-Chao Lin (Benny Wijaya) of Taiwan .. Other top players to win so far today - Yong-Il Yoon (KOR) beat Ramin Razian of Iran and Satoshi Iwabuchi (JPN) beat Sultan Khalfan (QAT) .. Vadim Kutsenko also won .. That means all the top players (Ogorodov, Kutsenko, Lee, Yoon, Iwabuchi, Terachi, MB, SP) have all advanced .. Not sure if all have reached the quarterfinals though (source: the Asiad website) ..

Dec 13 Note-3

The draws are the toughest things to find so far for the individual tennis events at the Asiad .. Here is what I think is the draw for the women's doubles which has reached the final-8 stage:

1-Tamarine Tanasugarn (THA)   d.   Maricris Fernandez (PHI) 6-3 6-3        \
6-Yuka Yoshida (JPN)          d.   Liliya Biktyakova (UZB)  6-0 6-0        / \
  Yi Jing Qian (CHN)          d. 4-Wang Shi-Ting (TPE)      7-6(3) 5-7 9-7 \ / \
8-Irina Selyutina (KAZ)       d.   Kim Eun Ha (KOR)         7-5 6-4        /    \
  Iroda Tulyaganova (UZB)     d. 7-Haruka Inoue (JPN)       6-4 6-3        \    /
3-Yayuk Basuki (INA)          d.   Tayana Babina (KAZ)      6-0 6-0        / \ /
  Nirupama Vaidyanathan (IND) d. 5-Janet Lee (TPE)          6-4 7-6(5)     \ /
2-Li Fang (CHN)               d.   Jeon Mi Ra (KOR)         6-3 7-5        /

As for the men's singles, Mahesh is seeded 7th, and Srinath is seeded 8th .. I will have a clearer idea of the draw once the complete final-16 round is done.

Also, no sign of Niru-Mahesh for mixed doubles so far .. Since MB is playing singles and doubles, I assume they are not entered.

Dec 13 Note-2

Yes, it's confirmed (from the Nation, Bangkok) - Nirupama did upset the 5th seed and world #86 Janet Lee of Taiwan (who won the team Gold for Taiwan two days back), 6-4, 7-6(5) !! .. The other upset of the day was by Li Jing Qiyan (who was Niru's doubles partner, by the way, when they reached the final of the Lexington challenger a few months back), who beat the 4th seed Shi-ting Wang of China .. It's great to see Niru come up with a terrific win to restore some respect to our women tennis team and advance to the quarterfinal, where she will face second seed Li Fang of China (world #40) who is considered to have the best Gold prospects here .. the Nation says that Janet Lee was "always in trouble against Nirupama's strong serve and groundstrokes" .. Go Niru .. The 3rd seeded veteran Yayuk Basuki, who is in the final-8, is quoted today to be saying that Li Fang "is the player to beat" - actually the top seed Tammy Tanasugarn (Thailand) was also quoted to be saying the same thing last week .. Niru will have to beat a very tough opponent to reach the semifinal, but huge congrats go to her for this upset win today.

It appears that Mahesh and Fazal (who is being called Fazal Syed Uddin by all newspaper reports now, due to a name mixup in the Asiad computers!) will be playing Wibowo and Wiryawan of Indonesia in doubles (Kompas, Jakarta) tomorrow .. As I have said before, Wibowo/Wiryawan are one of the top few doubles teams in Asia after LP-MB, Ogorodov-Kutsenko, etc, but Bhupathi-Uddin (:-)) have shown signs of being a terrific team too .. For some reason, the during-the-day updates in Indian newspapers have not said anything about tennis, on one of the nicest days we have had so far - will report later when the final editions for Monday come up later, with more news .. India picked up a couple of silvers and couple of bronzes more to go up to 3 silvers and 5 bronze after a week of competition (out of the 625 medals decided so far, which puts that in perspective) ..

Dec 13 Note-1

I have not received any confirmation on this from Bangkok, but the official site of the Asian Games gives the score of Nirupama Vaidyanathan's match against Janet Lee (#86, Taiwan) in the quarterfinals as 6-4, 7-6(5) in Niru's favor !! .. I hope it is right - and it is a very big win for her over a top-100 player, if so .. The other scores are - Mahesh beat Muhammed Gharib of Kuwait, 6-2, 6-1, Srinath Prahlad beat Adel Al-Shatti of Kuwait, 6-2, 6-3, Fazal and Manisha beat Aqeel Khan and Nida Waseem of Pakistan, 6-4, 6-2, in the mixed doubles .. That is 4 good wins by our tennis players today, though Niru's win is the only one which is a big upset ! .. We will await confirmation through press reports which should come up soon ..

Dec 12 Note-1

It's not often that I point out much criticism on players on thess pages, as I am a believer that most of them do want to excel in what they do, and it's the sports environment and the support system that really needs overhaul in India .. However, here is something that perhaps won't sit well with most of us, and I thought I should mention it .. G. Rajaraman's article in Sunday's Hindustan Times says, "Talk of interaction brings us to the anger raging in Nirupama Vaidyanathan’s minds. Though she would not say it in as many words, India's top woman tennis player hated the very thought of some of her compatriots not taking their trip to the Asian Games seriously. For example, on Saturday she looked around for them to hit after the two Indian pairs lost their doubles matches but the other three players had left for the Athletes Village, not even waiting to see India’s flag go up when the men's team collected its bronze medals .. Clearly, this trip is a fine opportunity for the three players to pick Nirupama Vaidyanathan’s brains and improve their own calibre but it would appear that none of them has shown the inclination to do that. At least not yet. Even granting that it was hard to find practice courts at a time that suited them, the amount of work turned in was not enough, in terms of either quantity or quality" .. Rajaraman made it a point to say that it is his obervation and that Niru did not say it in that way (she is a diplomatic enough!) - and we don't want friction among these players, but this is clearly not professionalism by the three other women players, who should know better .. I find it particularly troubling that three of them weren't around when the Indian flag went up with the medal ceremony for the men's tennis bronze .. I even saw words like "insipid" and "indifferent play" about Uzma's match today in another newspaper report .. I know that reporters sometimes have a habit of making too much out of one match and how it turned out, and I hope it was nothing more .. She is too young and talented to be picking up any bad reputation ..

Nirupama has a bye to the final-16 round, and plays the 5th seed Janet Lee (#86) of Taiwan (I believe on Sunday) .. I assume eight seeded players and a few more like Niru had byes into the pre-quarterfinals .. These two have met before a few times - Niru lost to Janet 2-6, 2-6 at the Phoenix challenger in 1997, but beat Janet at the Bronx challenger later last year in a 3rd set tiebreaker, 7-5, 5-7, 7-6(5) .. It is a tough match for Niru, but it's always good to face somebody that she has beaten before, though with narrowest of margins ! .. I have not got any other draw info.

Still no news on the draws for the men's individual events .. By the way, 3rd seeds Korea lifted the Gold in tennis beating Japan in the finals (the Koreans had beaten top seeds Uzbekistan in the semis yesterday) ..

Dec 12 Note-1

It's safe to say that our women players have disappointed us so far at the Asiad .. I did not have much medal hopes, but I was expecting a bit more of a fight from them, even though the losses so far have all been to higher ranked players and teams .. The women lost three matches today in the individual events, one in singles and two in doubles .. Uzma Khan lost to Maricris Fernandez (a very talented girl from Philippines, who some may remember playing in the Fed Cup in India 2-3 years back .. the score was 4-6, 1-6 .. Frankly, in my opinion, based on what I have heard, Uzma has a lot of work to do in her game - she has won a lot of matches in and around India with determination and intelligence, but still needs to get some good coaching to improve a lot of technical aspects of her game .. She has the talent, and perhaps she will get to improve when she will be in the US for college study soon. Nirupama is yet to play in singles, I believe. In doubles action, Manisha and Nirupama lost in the first round to Jeong Cho and Sung-hee Park of Korea, 2-6, 2-6 .. I certainly expected them to do better, but these things seem to just keep happening to India whenever we are in the international arena .. Also losing were Uzma and Sai Jayalakshmi to Rika Hiraki and Nana Miyagi of Japan, 2-6, 2-6 (they are a legitimate medal contender team, and so I won't hold that loss against Uzma and Sai) .. Well, that's how it has been going .. India still has only 3 medals out of about 450 dished out so far, though a couple more are assured. It just doesn't seem to get better at all for India out there, as days go by .. I have no info yet on the draws for the individual events in tennis.

Sheetal Gautam beat qualifier Sonal Phadke to win the Runglee Rungliot (still wondering what the heck that is!) ITF world junior ranking tournament at the Dakshina Kalighata Sansad courts in Calcutta .. Sonal had a great run here, including an upset of Shruti Dhawan, but it ended against Shruti's friend Sheetal in the final .. the doubles final was won by Shruti and Sheetal yesterday .. On the boys' side, 3rd seed Ravi Kiran Bhatt lost to second seed Stephen Nugent of Ireland today in the final .. Ravi Kiran had stopped the run of qualifier Calcutta boy Vinod sewa yesterday in the semis, and Stephen had beaten our budding young talent Akshay Vishal Rao .. The doubles final was won by Ravikiran Bhat and Kedar Shah over Nirmit Shetti and Stephen Nugent .. All in all, a good tournament to get an idea of the next group of youngsters to keep an eye on, now that Harsh, Vijay, Vinod, Mustafa, Saurav, Vishal, etc have moved on to senior ranks .. All the results are at the Calcutta ITF juniors page ..

Dec 11 Notes

Mahesh had won 9 matches in a row when he wore Indian colors (5 singles and 4 doubles) .. He had pulled upsets over one top-100, two top-150 and one top-250 players while going 10-3 in the singles matches he has played for India in the last 15 months (with the only loss to a lower ranked player being to Andrian Raturandang at Asia Cup 97 - the other losses were to a top-10 Henman and a top-50 Gaudenzi) .. He had to have a bad day some time, and he did today - unable to upset and losing to Hideki Kaneko (#242) of Japan, 3-6, 3-6 .. India lost it's semifinal tie 0-3 to Japan and will get a bronze in the team competition .. Considering LP's absence, I guess we did fine .. The main hopes for Golds were anyway next week in the individual events..

Srinath started the day very well, leading 6-3, 3-3 against Satoshi Iwabuchi (#322), but had a bad line call go against him, lost focus a bit, got broken immediately, and ended up losing the set and the next with a few unforced errors and mistakes creeping in late .. 6-3, 3-6, 2-6 was the score. Then it was up to Mahesh to do his rescuing act once again, facing elimination for the 7th time in the last 8 matches for India and he failed finally in extending our hopes. He got broken in the 5th game of the first set and the 8th in the second, with some uncharacteristic volleying errors against Kaneko, who looked strong throughout, running down everything and even coming up with some great two-handed backhands, of the kind that Mahesh normally pulls out .. I am told that MB was a bit down after the match, as could be expected, and went with Dr. Vece Paes to take care of his troubling back .. Let's hope he will be fine again after a couple of days of rest to get back to doubles, mixed doubles, etc .. India did play the dead-rubber doubles which did not mean anything much, and Nitin and Fazal lost to Onoda and Terachi, 3-6, 4-6 ..

India picked up a silver and a bronze from weightlifting and equestrian yesterday, and things have looked somewhat better over there today and yesterday, but still India has had a much poorer show in many events than expected ..

At the ITF junior world ranking tournament in Calcutta, there was a huge upset today, as the #2 seed Shruti Dhawan went down to Sonal Phadke, 4-6, 1-6 .. Sonal was apparently a qualifier there (which surprises me - she is definitely better than quite a lot of players there!) .. The top seed Sheetal Gautam (again, the seedings are funny - Shruti is definitely the best player of the field, though she has not played as many ITF tournaments to be ranked higher in the juniors, I believe) .. 3rd seed Radhika Tulpule who seems to always run into and beat Radhika Mandke, won against her again .. On the boys' side, the story has been a Calcutta boy whom I had never heard much about - Vinod Sewa .. He was a qualifier too, and has now reached the semis, beating 7th seed Punna Vishal earlier, and now Kedar Shah (who in turn had upset the top seed Kedar Tembe in the first round .. He faces #3 seed Ravi Kiran Bhat in the semi .. The 4th seed Akshay Vishal Rao (watch out for this 16 yr old) faces the 2nd seed Stephen Nugent of Ireland .. This is a tournament for 18 and under players, so any 16 yr-old doing well should be noted .. This being a grade-5 ITF tourney, the title is worth 30 ITF junior points .. The results are at the Calcutta ITF juniors page.

Dec 10 Notes

I checked the medal tally at the Asian Games site after three days of competition yesterday, and felt like picking my computer and throwing it with the violent intention of breaking it .. It's utterly embarassing .. There were 244 medals picked up already (74 Golds, 75 silver and 95 bronze) by 22 countries, including Pakistan, Nepal, Mongolia, etc .. Our big, huge, "super-power" country had a big huge ZERO .. Thank God for tennis - we are at least assured of a bronze from it, the medal coming by Saturday .. And that was it ! .. I know we still have Geet Sethi's medals and some other possibilities coming up, but come on ! .. This is our beloved country - of 950 million people (OK count 50 million sports fans - we are still huge!) stinking the whole place up. Would anybody wake up and smell it ? .. We are behind, have been behind for a while, we are actually far behind, and now we are falling farther and farther behind .. Don't tell me we don't care for any pride from sports .. Don't tell me the whole rest of the world are fools for taking sports and the national pride from it seriously .. Just admit that we all would like our country to do better, but have no vision on how to go about it .. Admit it .. No, excuses, please. (..and I am not going after our sportsmen - they are not the real problem!)

Anyway, yesterday I sent a note to a couple of my sports media friends just to vent about this .. G. Rajaraman of the Hindustan Times told me how embarassed some of the Indians are at Bangkok about all this - he had already filed a story on that .. Take a look at this article in today's Hindustan Times .. Not even giving a tee-shirt for our billiards king is just incredible apathy from those who run sports in India .. The Indian Express had a piece on how our big hopes in shooting went down the tubes as Roopa Unnikrishnan and Jaspal Rana had not been allowed enough practice with the slow (sub-standard) trolleys used in Bangkok .. Reports on lack of doctors (5 for the huge 230+ contingent just does not make sense), and even lack of coaches (Rajaraman's article yesterday mentioned how a seperate coach for the women tennis team could have made a difference for Uzma and Nirupama, as the men's event was at the same time) .. So on .. So on .. OK, enough of whining for now, from me..

The ITF World Junior Ranking tournament in Calcutta is proceeding without much notice so far - Except for top seed Kedar Tembe losing in the first round, there has not been many huge upsets .. Two qualifiers, Kedar Shah who beat Tembe, and Vinod Sewa who upset 7th seed Punna Vishal in round-2, are in the quarterfinals .. Talented Karan Doctor and Akshay Vishal Rao, members of our under-16 team that finished #9 in the world at Italy this year, have both been playing well so far. Karan had a tough 3-set win in the second round over Chandrashekhar Mohanty .. Fifth seed Dipesh Rao had a 3-set loss to Sonchat Ratiwatana of Thailand (who won the Grade-5 junior event in Pakistan last week) .. On the girls's side, all the big names are in the quarterfinals (Shruti, Sheetal, the two Radhika's, Sonal, etc) .. Check out the Calcutta ITF juniors page ..

In other news, there is a change in the January men's caledar in India .. The originally planned 4-week satellite circuit (Delhi, Chandigarh, Indore, Mumbai) has now been changed to a three-week series of $10K futures, as confirmed by the ITF when I checked yesterday (this was reported in The Hindu earlier, I am told) .. ITF said that they still need some final paperwork from AITA, but the futures series is well set now - The venues are Chandigarh (starting on Jan 11th), Ahmedabad (18th), and Mumbai (25th) .. Another change is that they have announced this week that the points for the futures events have gone up. One can get 16-12-6-3-1 for winning F-SF-QF-R2-R1 in a $10K Futures, as opposed to the earlier points table of 12-9-5-3-1 .. It appears more fair to me, considering the competition at the futures compared to the satellites .. We can expect some tough competition at the Indian sequence, just as last year.

Also, the ITF junior world ranking tournaments early next year are now on the ITF calendar .. The 5-week sequence starts on Jan 25th with a Grade-4 event in Colombo on clay, followed by two weeks in India (Grade-4 at Delhi on synth-handcourt and Grade-5 at Chandigarh or grass), followed by two weeks in Bangladesh (a Grade-5 event in Rajshahi and a Grade-3 event in Dhaka) .. It's good to see at least one Grade-3 event in the sequence .. I am not sure why we cannot have more Grade-3 events in India (at least one Grade-4 event is there, at Delhi, this time) .. A lot of our young players have missed playing good foreign competition because of us continuing to have all these grade-5 events as at Calcutta this week .. Anyway, the Asian sequence continues in the following weeks with a Grade-4 at Brunei (Mar 1), three Grade-3 events in Jakarta (Mar 8), Kuala Lumpur (Mar 15) and Singapore (Mar 22), ending with the most prestigious Asian event, the Grade-2 Mali Milk Cup at Bangkok on Mar 29th .. Now, I have the big question - can AITA or somebody show the foresight to send a team of 3-4 youngsters (with a coach) to this 10-week sequence ? .. That is one of the important things we can do to develop our kids .. I guess I am asking for too much here, but no harm in trying, right ? ..

Dec 9 Notes

There comes at least a bronze for us !! .. Hell, after going through the first couple of days and seeing India not get even one medal among the 70 or 80 decided already, it was looking very bleak - and here comes tennis to the rescue!

Just received a note from a press friend (thanks!) with the scores .. India beat Pakistan 3-0 to move into the semifinal against Japan, which assures us of at least a bronze. Today, reportedly it was no-nonsense, business-like stuff from India .. First, Srinath beat Mohammed Khaliq 6-3, 6-2 (time for me to pat myself on the back for predicting this win yesterday, despite Khaliq easily beating Srinath at Delhi two weeks back) .. Khaliq held serve just twice in the match - in the first and seventh games of the first set, though he broke Srinath a couple of times too .. The press friend writes about Mahesh's assessment after the tie - "Had a good gameplan and executed it well," Mahesh said, paying rich tributes to Srinath. "It was hard not to be motivated after such a great start." .. In the second match, a motivated Mahesh beat Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi 6-4, 7-5 (the same scoreline as at Delhi), breaking the young Pakistani in the first game of the first set and in the 11th game of the second .. Apparently MB rallied from 40-0 to deuce and an adv-Pak to deuce before getting that final break with a lob and a forehand crosscourt. He then completed the job serving a love game. Fazal and Nitin Kirtane then beat the Pakistanis 6-4, 6-2 in the doubles.

Mahesh has a lower back and shoulder pain he has had for the last few days .. A "strained ligament in the lower back" is what he told me a couple of days back .. The report from Bangkok today is that he said his back and shoulder are feeling much better. I believe it is not affecting his play now, but he needs to be careful about not making it worse .. I think the semifinals are after a day's rest now (I will try to confirm this). MB said today that he will decide about what individual events to take part in next week, only after the team events get done this week (on Saturday) - I think mixed doubles is the most probable one along with doubles.

Dec 8 Notes

From the Asian Games XIII, Bangkok, the good news is that the men won easily, and the bad news is that the women couldn't pull the upset of their lives to get themselves a bronze medal .. Qatar was an easy foe for us and we didn't even need Mahesh for the tie, as he was in the captain's chair, cheering the team, according to a press friend's note from there .. Fazal started it off, beating the Qatar #2, Mohammed Ali al-Saoud, 6-1, 6-2 in 43 minutes and then Srinath did a 60 minutes job on their #1 player, Sultan Khalfan, 6-1, 6-2 .. Then Fazal and Nitin Kirtane beat the same two guys 6-1, 6-1 to finish the tie 3-0 .. We next play Pakistan, who won 2-1 over Philippines .. In the other ties today, Thailand beat China 3-0, Indonesia beat Kuwait 3-0, and Chinese Taipei beat Iran 3-0 .. the QF line up is:

1-Uzbekistan  vs Chinese Taipei \
3-South Korea vs Thailand       / \
4-India       vs Pakistan       \ /
2-Japan       vs Indonesia      /

Pakistan will give us a good fight just like at Delhi and we should  never underestimate them .. but I think Srinath will not lose his match to their #2 Mohammed Khaliq, as he did at Delhi .. The win today after a terrible Asia Cup, would give Srinath some confidence too .. Mahesh would want to beat the tough kid Aisam ul Haq Qureshi once again and not have to come back for doubles - That would be the best scenario, but things don't always go like that when the opponent takes it as a big grudge match .. Indonesia will find it tough to get over the Japanese firepower, even though they have a good doubles team in Wimbowo and Wiryawan .. Look for the Thais to possibly pull an upset over the Koreans - I believe young Paradorn is in good form and with the home crowd behind them, they just might do it .. Taiwan and Benny Wijaya (oops, Lin Bing Chao!) don't have much of a chance against the Uzbeks .. That's how I see the quarterfinals.

I cannot believe the way Nirupama started today, going up 5-1 on #56 Yayuk Basuki .. She gave a couple of breaks back, but still had three set points on Yayuk in the 9th game ! .. I am sure Basuki put it into high gear right then (that's what vastly more experienced veterans do, and she probably took Niru too lightly at first), as it went to a tiebreaker which she won 7-1 .. The final score was 7-6(1), 6-3 for Basuki .. Before that Uzma also gave it a good attempt in the first set against perhaps Asia's most talented youngster, Wynne Prakusya (#195, seventeen yr-old and an Australian Open junior champ) but lost 6-7(2), 0-6 .. The meaningless doubles tie followed with Sai and Manisha losing to Liza Andriyani and Irrawati Iskander, 2-6, 3-6 .. Only a humongous upset would have got our girls a bronze, but at least they tried hard.

The Runglee Rungliot (what is that?? ..) ITF Junior World Ranking tournament has started in Calcutta DKS courts yesterday (the Statesman, Calcutta, has thankfully given the scorecards - I was afraid that nobody would cover this, as a lot of our journalists are in Bangkok) .. The big upset was the top seed Kedar Tembe losing to Kedar Shah .. Punna Vishal and RaviKiran Bhatt also won .. In a notable match between two very talented kids, Akshay Vishal Rao beat Sunil Kumar in three sets .. Shruti, Sheetal, Radhika Tulpule, Radhika Mandke, etc, won today on the girls' side .. One notable match between two talented youngsters was Nandini Perumal's win over Nandita Chandrashekhar in a comeback three-setter .. I will post the results soon at this site.

Dec 7 Note-2

ATP seems to have made a break from tradition and have posted new rankings this week - they have never posted rankings after the "official year-end" rankings which come out after the Hanover tourney for singles and the Hartford tourney for doubles (that would be Nov 30 and Nov 23 respectively) .. Anyway, now they have posted the Dec 7 rankings. Leander is at #92 now - he only slipped one spot despite losing the 25 points from the Ahmedabad challenger semis last December .. Mahesh lost 7 points last week from the Mumbai challenger and 7 this week from the Ahmedabad challenger, and has gone down to a total of just 80 points, his lowest in about 2 years, with a ranking of #390 .. Srinath lost 3 points and is just 4 spots behind Mahesh at #394 .. The good news is that MB now has no points to defend till March when he has 33 points to defend .. Basically Mahesh's ranking of 390 qualifies him as the most under-ranked player in the ATP list ! .. He has 80 points from 8 tournaments, and has played only 12 tournaments (one of those tournaments saw him qualify into the Wimbledon main draw and take Carlos Moya to a 5th set before cramps caught him!) ! .. If he had played around 25 tournaments as most do and had with 14 in the best-list, he would probably have at least about double those points and would be nearer the top-200 easily .. But that is what happens to him when he concentrates on doubles .. But then again, he probably shouldn't feel much pressure about his ranking, as most people know he is a top-150 caliber player if not much better.

WTA also has published new rankings today, though I believe last week's rankings were the "year-end official" rankings .. Niru has moved up to #169 now .. The points from the Delhi challenger have not gone into the computer yet.

As for India's opponent Tuesday, Qatar, the only player pleople have heard of is Sultan Khalfan Al-Alawi, the Qatar champion whose claim to fame is getting the obligatory wildcard every year to the Doha tournament and losing in the first round - he does win all the Qatar tournament and is clearly their best (though ranked with 1 point in the 1300s) .. Another player could be Hared Quassel who was in the Doha qualifiers and actually pulled an upset over Fabio Maggi (#601) of Italy in straight sets .. That's about all I can dig up on Qatar .. MB would know more having been around that part of the world while growing up.

Regarding the Indin women's tie against Indonesia, this is what Yayuk Basuki (#56) said - ''Kami sudah siap menghadapi India. Dan tidak ada masalah yang berarti yang kami hadapi menjelang pertandingan tersebut,'' according to Media Indonesia online .. Anyone knows Bahasa Indonesia to figure out what that means ? .. :-) .. Basuki has been in a war-of-words in the media recently with Thailand's Tammi Tanasugarn regarding the behavior of Thai and Indonesian fans at Fed Cup ties .. Can India find her taking us easy ? .. Probably not, as this is the the final good-bye event representing Indonesia for the 28 year old national icon who was a mixed doubles partner for Leander a few times in the past .. She has announced that after this she will only play the Australian Open before retiring .. Can Niru be the one who gives her a nice final good-bye loss ?? .. Hey, I am always an optimist!

.. Previous notes are at Weekly Notes, ending Dec 7..