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LP/MB/NS/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Dec 15, 2003
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Dec 15 Notes

Interesting stuff from London yesterday .. BBC flew in Leander Paes to give a surprise present to Martina Navratilova .. The Life Time Achievement Award at their Sport Personality of the Year show yesterday .. Here is the BBC article -  http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/tennis/3310727.stm .. Excerpts - "It's a great honour," she said, after being presented the award by mixed doubles partner Leander Paes who has recently overcome a serious illness ... "The most amazing thing is Leander being here. It wasn't the icing on the cake, it was the cake." .. 

I actually knew about BBC planning this, but it was all in strict confidence, as they wanted it to remain a surprise for Martina .. The old lady deserves all the accolades, of course ..

At the DSCL Nationals, there weren't too many surprises today in the first round, except for Divij Sharan upsetting the 5th seed Jaco Mathew - which really can't be considered a big surprise ..  I have updated all the singles results at our DSCL page .. Will add doubles results soon.

Today's ITF junior ranks show three Indians in the top-6 of doubles .. Divij Sharan is #5 with Karan Rastogi and Somdev Varman tied for 6th .. Arun Prakash is at 12th .. In singles, Karan Rastogi moved to a career-high #17 in the junior ranks and Arun to #35 .. In the ATP men's ranks, Harsh Mankad moved up to a career high #340 .. Prakash is at #280 and Rohan is at #345 .. In doubles, Harsh is at #181, Rohan at #210 and Prakash at #237 .. These are pretty much the year enmd rankings ..

Dec 14 Notes

The tennis year has not ended just yet in India .. The most prestigious and important national hardcourts championships conducted well every year with sponsorhip by DCM Shreeram Consolidated Limited, is here again! .. It is unfortunate that the biggest tennis mela in India, the DSCL Nationals, the de-facto big national championships gets short-changed with moving schedules and lack of interest from a lot of the top players ... Come on, this is THE natiional championships and somehow we just cannot seem to get it done at a propoer time when players would be there .. Mid december is a bit too late .. It was in October in 2000, December in 2001, back to October in 2002 and thanks to National Games, etc, it is again in December this time .. Two of the main draws have come out, and I have posted them at our DSCL page .. By the way, as usual, one of the best-run tennis tournament websites in India (the official dsclopentennis.com page -- by the way, the "rich" Tata Open that did such a shoddy job with their web site last year, should take note how a few caring guys can keep a nice website up) .. They have promptly put up the men's singles draw and the girls u18 draws which were made today.

The men's draw sees the return of last year's national champion Vinod Sridhar, with Punna Vishal, Ajhay Ramswamy, Somdev Varman, etc also there .. The top three (PA, HM, RB) are missing as expected .. Mustafa and Vijay Kannan are also missing, sadly .. Ther draw also did not come out like I wanted - matchups like Rupesh and Tushar playing each oither in the first round - yuck .. The girls u18 draw is even worse, with one quarter of the draw having a big chuink of the talented players -- Sanaa, Kartiki, GK Shwetha and V.Poojashree ..

Dec 13 Note-2

Terrific news from Delhi .. ArunPraaksh Rajagopalan and Isha Lakhani signed off from the junior ranks in great style, as Asian Junior Champions! .. 4th seeded Arun beat 3rd seed Chu-Huan Yi (TPE) 64 64 and 2nd seeded Isha Lakhani won 64 30 (conc.) over the top seed Yung-Jan Chan .. With doubles titles going to Karan-Somdev and Chan-Lakhani, this has been an extremely successful Asian junior championships for India ... For  Isha, who played her first junior event of this year, this is a nice additional feather in her cap .. For Arun, who only played 6 months of junior events and is genuinely the biggest surprise comeback player of the year, a finish inside the world junior top-35 with this title is a fantastic achievement ..  

Also winning a title, in the u14 Asian invitational, was 2nd seed Shweta Kakhandki who beat top seed E.Ashmitha, 75 60 .. On the boys' side, 4th seed Agnel Gladwin went down to 3rd seed Agung Bagus Dewantaro (INA) 67(4) 36 .. Congratulations go to all the kids!

Dec 13 Note-1

OK, I found some confirmation that Tata Open had invited former champion Guillermo Canas (ARG) .. Here is a (fan) web site for Canas reporting his comments after an exhibition match in Argentina on Dec 1st - LINK ..  He is quoted - "This will be a good starting-point for me, the initial kick for my return to the international circuit where I will start playing in Chennai because they gave me a special invitation" .. I don't know why we have not seen any news release from Tata Open on giving an invitation and wildcard to Canas .. Perhaps I missed it, or they were trying to keep the news under wraps for whatever reason.

In other news, the boys doubles title at the Asian Juniors went last evening to Karan Rastogi and Somdev Dev Varman, who beat the Taipei pair, Chu-Huan Yi and Chun-Yuan Chen, 61 57 75 .. The girls' doubles title was won by the singles finalists, Isha Lakhani and Yung-Jan Chan (TPE) who beat Sanaa and Ankita Bhambri,  75 06 61 .. Awaiting scores of today's singles finals.

If my calculations are correct, both Karan and Somdev will end the year with 505 doubles points each and will be ranked at #6 and #7, with Divij Sharan at #5 and ArunPrakash somewhere in the #8-#11 range in world doubles rankings next week (depending on what some of the other top doubles players do this week) .. Sounds great! ...

Dec 12 Note-2

I hear that Guillermo Canas (ARG) may have got a wildcard for the Tata Open .. I need to confirm this .. He is coming back from a wrist injury that kept him away for 8 months since the Australain Open .. His #273 ranking now does not matter - he was a top-20 player when injured and he is also the former champion at Tata Open which he won as recently as last year ..  Can't complain about him getting a wildcard, but there goes Rohan's chance for a wildcard .. The three wildcards, it would appear, would be Prakash, Leander and Canas if this is true .. I will look for news confirmation.

Dec 12 Note-1

Running a bit late in updates .. Only the Asian Juniors is going on though .. We had 8 kids in the QFs, which was pruned to 4 in the semifinals on thursday, as Karan beat Sanam Singh and Tushar went down after a massive three-set fight to the 3rd seed Chu-Huan Yi (TPE) who is in tremendous form it seems .. Somdev and ArunPrakash played as expected and took their place in the semis yesterday .. Isha was the only one to advance from among three girls in the QFs, as Kartiki and Ankita could not put up much of a match against the Taiwanese opponents, and Isha faced no problems against Pichittra Thongdach (THA) ..

Out of the 4 semifinalists, two Indians were left standing after today .. Both the semifinals today on the boys' side ended up as upsets, as the 4th seed Arun Prakash Rajagopalan upset Somdev Dev Varman in a 64 64 match and Karan Rastogi went down in a close 67(8) 57 match to the 3rd seed Chu-Huan Yi (TPE) who has been coming on very strong late in the year and is yet another in the never-ending stream of top-25 caliber junior players that Taiwan has been producing over the last few years .. I hope ArunPrakash has what it takes to get past the 16 year old who seems to have a big lefty serve (well, if he was able to give Karan trouble in handling him, he has to be quite good!).

On the girls's side, Isha Lakhani, formerly in the top-30 but now unranked in ITF juniors and seeded second here due to her being the Indian senior #1, had a bad start getting upset at some line calls etc, but she was just way too good not to come back against talented 15 year old 3rd seed, Wen-Hsin Hsu (TPE,42) .. Isha now faces probably the most talented girl to emerge from Asia in recent years, the 14 year old (can you believe that???), Yung-Jan Chan, also of TPE .. What the hell kind of spinach are they feeding these kids in Taiwan these days? .. Yung-Jan, ranked 15th already and just 4 months since turning 14, has hardly dropped many games in four easy straight sets wins so far .. I think Isha wants to win this one badly; we can be sure that she will go after the kid, but this match is not a gimme for her by any stretch of imagination .. See the Asian Juniors page for scores.

I am still speechless at how ArunPrakash reappeared out of nowhere just in the nick of time, merley six months before finishing his junior eligibility, to play only 10 junior events and reach a ranking which will now be around #40 in the world .. That is tremendous -- the goal for us should be to produce at least a couple of players finishing in the top-50 or top-30 and moving to the pros every year .. Ultimately that wil give us somebody or other who turns into a top-100 player in the seniors as well .. Somdev will add 30 more points to his best-6 total and finish his junior career with a top-50 ranking .. All put together, Somdev played something like 32 events this year in the juniors and seniors and has been perhaps the busiest man in Indian tennis - that has left him totally drained, I am sure, but he has had a fantastic year too, having picked up some big wins and  some points in the senior level as well .. Very nice to see ArunPrakash and Somdev leaving the juniors, after having fully utilized the circuit and as ready as we could expect for the pro tour grind ..

As for Karan, though he is surely disappointed at the close upset match today, he is also finishing the year on a good note .. He adds 30 more to his point total (up to 470) and will go up to his career high ranking  - just inside the top-20 for the first time .. In fact he will be ranked very highly in the new year rankings next month - in the top 6 or top 8 .. Having turned 17 only a few weeks back, he is the 4th youngest player in the top-20 - Andrew Murray (GBR), Alex Kuznetsov (USA) and Michail Zverev (GER) being the three younger ones.

I was bit disappointed about how our girls finished the year though - Isha's perforance notwithstandiung .. But we knew about Isha and that she is fully ready for the nexy level - she is playing this event only to add a final feather on a very good junior career .. The girls I wanted to see poise themselves inside the top-50 and be ready for huge exploits next year, namely Ankita, Sanaa, Tara and Kartiki have all had a so-so time in the latter half of the year .. Sanaa's bad injury did not help either .. Tara is in the big Florida events and is not done with the year yet though .. I still do not have a good read on  Ankita from her results .. She was good enough to beat Sai, Sonal, Sheetal, Shruti and Archana as early as in April 2002 (!), and she was the runner-up at Asian Juniors to Sania last year! .. She had also beaten Isha, Liza , etc earlier this year too and I had expected her to do better late in the year when she returned to the junior levels which she never played consistently ..  Hopefully she will concentrate on the junior circuit early next year and play the last three grand slam juniors she is elgible to play .. Both Ankita and Kartiki will miss the cut for the Australian Open, but if they play the Indian circuit early in the year (which will now include a grade-2 event for the first time in the subcontinent, at Delhi), they will have enough points and hopefully top-50 rankings to do just that .. Kartiki turns 17 only next february and has two years remaining .. Sanaa and Tara are ranked highe enough to make the Australian Open and both have a lot of time remaining - three years each in the juniors .. No other name has emerged on the girls's side as a top prospect in over a year, which is also not reassuring .. The pipeline needs to KEEP producing, and we cannot just feel too good about all the talent that came out in the previous couple of years .

All the best in the finals tomorrow to Isha and Arun! ..

Dec 10 Notes 

At the $50K challenger in Shen Zhen, China, Manisha Malhotra tried another qualifying match over the last weekend, but went down 16 57 to Maki Arai (JPN) in the Q1 ..

The Asian Juniors in Delhi today saw most of the seeds advancing without much trouble .. Two of our younger prospects put up impressive shows on the boys' side .. First was the big upset by Sanam K. Singh, perhaps the best prospect among our u16 boys - he beat the 7th seed Divij Sharan in a nice 16 63 63 comeback .. Rupesh Roy took the 4th seed ArunPrakash to his wits' end, losing in a 5-7 3rd set .. Nice to see these two play well .. I hope to see Sanam Singh, turning 16 next month to have a great year in the ITF junior circuit, where he has three years of eligibility left .. He has to tackle top seed Karan Rastogi in the QF though; not an enviable position to be in .. On the girls' side, Kartiki Bhat beat the 6th seed Madura Ranganathan, which is only technically an upset .. Seeds Somdev,Tushar, Isha, and Ankita also advanced, placing seven Indians in the QFs, Sanam and Kartiki being the two unseeded players .. See the Asian Juniors page  - doubles draws are also well underway ..

At the ITF grade-1 USTA Winter International in Florida, Tara Iyer, based in the US went down 16 46 to talented varvara Lepchenko (USA) .. Tara hasn't played in a while ..

In other news, I heard today that Sania has left for San Remo, Italy, where she will be coached for a few weeks at the Bob Brett academy ..

Dec 9 Notes

First of all, some great non-tennis news .. Arjun Atwal became the first Indian to qualify for the US PGA golf tour by finishing in the top-30 at the qualifying school after six gruelling days of golf where he came up from 100the spot on the first day to tied for 7th on the last day .. There was double-joy for us Indian golf fans, as qualifying a few minutes before Arjun, finishing one stroke ahead at the 6th spot was Daniel Chopra (Hindi-speaking Indian by all means, though technically Swedish, born in Stockholm to an Indian dad and a Swedish mother; he grew up with his grand parents in Delhi and learned all his Golf there) .. After the heartbreak of Jeev losing out on qualifying by one shot last year with bogeys in the final few holes, it was sweet yesterday to see these two both finish with birdies on the final hole .. Nerves? -- what nerves .. If you want to know the excitement we had, take a lookj at the 50 odd posts from yesterday as these two were cruising towards history, in our golf forum at www.sports-india.com, which turned into almost a chatroom .. History was indeed made yesterday .. I thought I should write here, because what Arjun did yesterday, in the minds of true sports fans, is right up there among the best performance of the year by any Indian sportsperson, along with Anju winning a track and field medal at the world athletic championships .. The Indian newspapers, who post articles on cricket within two minute of some listless draw or some useless Aussie tailender's wicket regardless of press time and all that excuse they give for all other sports, have acted in their usual clueless manner so far .. The Times of India has the whoop-dee-doo headline in their sports page, "Sachin is No.1 - says VVS Laxman" .. Who the hell cares (except star-struck cricket fans and newspaper correspondents in India who look as childish as some Brittney Spears tour groupies)? ..  OK, calm down Jay, have a coffee ....

Anyway, huge congrats to Arjun Atwal and Daniel Chopra.

I found yesterday that ATP had given $15K status to the IND F7 futures in Delhi, as Aisam got 16 poinst and Harsh Mankad 12 for the final there .. AITA confirms that it was indeed a $10K+H event, not $10K as was previously advertised .. AITA gave hospitality to the players and so it was changed to a $10K+H just before the start of the tournament .. I have now edited the analysis in the Dec 7 notes .. Harsh Mankad will finish the year as #2 among Indians with 92 ATP points, ahead of Rohan with 90 points ... Congratulations go to Harsh for a very nice year which he finished by reaching a career-high in points and ranking .. Well, more ammunition now for those of us asking the Tata Open to give Harsh Mankad a wildcard, at least in doubles .. I will be fine if the singles wildcard goes to PA, Rohan and LP and it would not be fair to take a wildcard away from Rohan just because he was unable to play some futures due to injuries .. But not to give at least some consideration to the guy who is the second-highest in singles and highest in doubles among the three youngsters would be a terrible act by the Tata Open if they go that route .. Take a look at the Harsh Mankad thread in our forum for some fans venting a bit on it ..

The first round is all done at the Asian Juniors today in Delhi .. Bad news for Sanaa Bhambri who has a had a terrible time ever since the arm injury a few months back .. The 4th seed got upset in reportedly an error-filled match .. Otherwise there were no surprises, with Somdev, Ankita, etc moving on easily .. See the Asian Juniors page .. There is also an invitation u14 Asian event simulatneously being conducted at Delhi .. This seems new -- anyway, Agnel Gladwyn, Tariq Jacob, etc, won yesterday .. I will rouond up those scores later.

It turns out that Tushar Liberhan's long win streak enbded in the final at the Malaysia gradd-3 on Sunday, 26 26 to Martin Pederson (SWE) .. Tushar has got to Delhi and has won his first round at the Asian Juniors.

Dec 8 Notes

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

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

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Dec 8 ..

I am getting some inquiries from US college coaches who are interested in Indian junior players .. I would like to be able to contact Indian players (some of the coaches are inquiring about specific names) .. If any of the junior players are reading this, please contact me .. Or if any of the other readers know the contact emails/address for any junior player, let me know .. I would like to have a mailing list where I can post general announcements and inquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.