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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on Dec 21, 1998

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Dec 21 Notes

The first day of the main draw is done at the $50K Ahmedabad challenger .. I had seen newspaper that AGETA (Ahmedabad Goverment Employees Tennis Association) is a well-run operation, after the new courts were put in place very efficiently last year .. After promptly receiving email results from there within a few minutes after the matches today (thanks Mr. Prasad and Mr. Krishna Kutti!), I have to agree!

Quite a few competitive matches were played today, but none of the four Indians (Mahesh, Srinath, Fazal and Vijay) have played yet and they will all play Tuesday - Mahesh and Srinath can certainly use an extra day of rest .. Ogorodov, Ran, Motevassel (all seeded, I believe), Svetlik, Boutter, Okun, Tomashevic and Parmar won today .. Five of the eight matches today went to close three setters, which show how competitive things have been there. Check out the results at the Ahmedabad challenger page.

Two Indian teams were in doubles action today, but both bowed out .. Vijay Kannan and Vishal Uppal lost to Jamie Delgado and Arvind Parmar in straight sets .. Vijay and Harsh Mankad who did so well at the Indian satellites might have been a better pair, in my opinion .. Fazal and Vikrant Chadha lost to Hideki Kaneko and Mitsum Takada, in three sets after winning the first set in a tiebreaker .. the Deccan Herald had reported yesterday that Mahesh and Srinath are playing doubles too, but they haven't played yet .. Alex Metrevelli (remember him from the Wimbledon finals in the mid 70s?), who is now the coach for the Uzbeks was quoted to be commenting on the competitive fight expected among all the top-200 to top-400 players there, and how that's how it should be .. This should be a fun week.

Dec 20 Note-2

Holy Molly ! - Not one Indian even made the final round of qualies at Ahmedabad (which means not much chance for any to be luckylosers either) - there were 19 foreigners in the qualifier draw which should make it one of the toughest qualifiers in any challenger outside of the US, perhaps .. The main draw closed at #360, which meant MB, Srinath, Fazal and Vijay took the wildcards .. They will be the only Indians in the field .. The timing of this challenger is causing this flood of top entries, as it is the only challenger (actually the only tennis action) happening anywhere in the world next week.. Mahesh plays #309 Barry Cowan of Britain, and if he advances, will probably play top seed David Caldwell (#182, USA). Fazal gets a qualifier, but not an easy opponent, in Jamie Delgado (#426) of Britain. Srinath runs into Ivan Ljubicic (#293) of Croatia and Vijay Kannan faces the toughest match - against 2nd seed Anthony Dupuis (who beat Leander Paes in the semis at the Vadodara in April), ranked 208, from France .. [Source: Prajwal Hegde's article in the Deaccn Herald] .. I havce started the Ahmedabad challenger page now .. Very curious entry list for this tournament .. Only one player in the top-200 unlike a couple in top-150 and another 5-6 in the top-200 as found in other 25K challengers, but 23 players in the 200-360 range (unlike the usual number of around 10 in that range) .. What it means is that anybody can win this tournament, as they can all beat each other ! .. Just can't predict even the final-8 of this .. Good chance for Mahesh if he has recovered from the physical punishment at the Asiad, but that is questionable.

Dec 20 Note-1

None of the online Indian newspapers have given any news yet on the Ahmedabad challenger .. I was hoping to find some qualifier results from Saturday in their Sunday editions, but no luck .. The three qualifying rounds are all done just now (Sunday evening) .. I found out from a phone call that there are no Indians among the four qualifiers .. They are Jamie Delgado (#426) and Arvind Parmar (#390) of Britain, Dmitry Tomashevic (#395) of Uzbekistan, and one more (Sebastien ???) .. The wildcards, as it stands are Mahesh Bhupathi, Srinath Prahlad, Fazal Syed and Vijay Kannan .. We will know later if there are any lucky loser entries from India .. Stay tuned - hopefully the Monday editions of the newspapers will give us more information .. Looks like the press folks are all taking a small nap after the Asiad hoopla :-)

Leander is quoted in today's Telegraph (Calcutta) to be saying that he was glad to see the Indian performance at the Asiad .. He was doing a tennis clinic for kids, as part of the buildup for the $50K+H challenger coming up in Calcutta in the first week of February .. By the way, one interesting thing about this challenger that has not received attention so far is that it is going to be on carpet (that is what I had heard earlier from Leander), but it is listed to be at the world-famous Calcutta South Club, known for the grasscourts .. If it is on carpet, I believe it will be the first carpet tennis tournament in India since about 1981 (when I am told there was some sort of a big carpet tournament, which I don't remember) .. The following two weeks of challengers (all three organized by Paes en Sport, the event management firm), are at Lucknow and Bangalore, listed to be on grasscourts and clay, according to the ATP calendar now.

Dec 19 Note-3

Some news on the Ahmedabad challenger coming up soon ..  Meanwhile, let's see how India did at this Asiad, in comparison with the previous ones .. I ran some simple stats on the last six Asiads .. Basically, I tried two points systems for the medals (3-2-1 for Gold-Silver-Bronze and 5-3-1 for G-S-B) .. Then I tried to account for the medal inflation (the increase of the total number of medals at the Asiad over the years) by dividing by the total Gold-medal-count and then normalized the points (adjusted) as a percentage of our points at the Delhi Asiad of 1982, our best in the last 20 years.. Here is what we get:

Year Place     |  G   S   B  | Asiad   |  Point          |   Point        
               |  O   I   R  | total # |  System 1       |   System 2     
               |  L   L   O  | of Gold |  3-2-1          |   5-3-1        
               |  D   V   N  | medals  |                 |                
               |          Z  |         |  Actual  Adj.   |   Actual  Adj. 
1978 Bangkok   | 11  11   6  |  191    |    61     62.6  |    94     67.0 
1982 New Delhi | 13  19  25  |  200    |   102    100.0  |   147    100.0 
1986 Seoul     |  5   9  23  |  270    |    56     40.7  |    75     37.8 
1990 Beijing   |  1   8  14  |  310    |    33     20.9  |    43     18.9 
1994 Hiroshima |  4   3  15  |  339    |    33     19.1  |    44     17.7 
1998 Bangkok   |  7  11  17  |  377    |    60     31.2  |    85     30.7 

It is very clear that however we look at it, this Asiad turned out to be better than the last two, and hopefully what we have seen is an up-tick in our performance compared to the downward spiral in the previous three Asiads (where, if you take Leander and PT Usha out, things would look even worse) .. This Asiad showed a little bit more of breadth with Golds coming from 4 different individuals and 2 teams .. But, don't let the Indian sports politicians start claiming that they have done something drastic to improve Indian sports - they really had nothing to with what Jyotirmoy, Sethi, Shandilya, Dingko, Sunita, Rosa, Mahesh, Srinath, etc, did .. If people had not completely messed up Jaspal Rana's chances at shooting, and had injuries not messed up LP, Usha and Aparna Popat, we would have done quite a bit better .. More on those things (and about some comments by the minister Uma Bharati) later - I don't want to clutter these pages with non-tennis news .. next bits of my (not-so-educated) opinions coming only after some more tennis news !

Dec 19 Note-2

How about Hockey ? .. 1-1 tied with S.Korea at end of regulation time, and then extra time, and we win 4-2 in penalty strokes (Ashish Ballal, the goal keeper becomes the hero, saving two goals) .. And we get our 7th Gold and the first in Asiad hockey in 32 years !!! .. Earlier, Ashok Shadilya upset Geet Sethi in the billiards singles to get the Gold .. That makes it 2 Golds, 3 silver and 1 bronze in effectively the last day (tomorrow is the official last day) .. India ends up as #9 in the medal standings closely behind Iran and North Korea, with 35 medals (7 G, 11 S, 17 B) .. Congrats to all those who wore Indian colours for bringing us up from nowhere to at least some respectability in the end .. A better show than the last two Asiads, for sure .. I will post some stats soon on how we have done over the years.

Dec 19 Note-1

At the Asiad, the women's 4X400 relay team (sans PT Usha) got a silver today (again a pretty close finish) .. With the men's 4X400 silver and a second bronze in rowing, we are up to 32 medals (5 G, 10 S, 17 B) .. Actually, add a silver and Gold to that - both Sethi and Shandilya have won today, which means they face each other in the final later, I assume .. That makes it 6 G, 11 S, 17 B .. Hockey final later today .. Pakistan beat Japan 3-0 for men's hockey bronze .. If we get a hockey Gold also, we may crack #10 in standing there .. Not sure what else is left at this point - I believe nothing much else.

Dec 18 Note-2

The sign-in for qualifiers is underway this evening at the AGETA courts in Ahmedabad for the $50K challenger .. Just talked to a nice gentleman there .. Here are some details - the top seed is #182 David Caldwell (USA) .. Other players are #193 Rizvan Sabau (ROM), #200 Justin Bower (USA), #208 Anthony Dupuis (FRA), #225 Oleg Ogorodov (UZB), etc .. The direct entry is closing at #308 based on the original list, but they expect it to go down a bit .. MB and Srinath should make it in by the time it is all finalized - otherwise they will get wildcards .. There are a ton of players waiting to get into the qualifiers, and it does not look like any player without ATP points will manage to get into the qualies this time .. We will see more news in the newspapers soon.

At the Asiad, our women hockey team lost the final 1-2, and so it will be a silver there .. Still a good show by them, after taking so much heat for the bad show at Utrecht ..

Dec 18 Note-1

I have put all of India's tennis results and some silly stats too, at the India at the Asiad XIII page .. Check it out ..

Mahesh Bhupathi has written an article in today's Indian Express where he says: "The goal before I came here was to have three or four medals in tennis. The good part is the goal has been fulfilled to the extent that we managed four medals and I have three -- from team, singles and mixed doubles. But the disappointing bit is all four turned out to be bronze. ... I have been asked time and again in the past 10 days or so, whether I should have skipped one of the events to conserve energy. Maybe yes and maybe not. The fact is if I had to skip one of the events, it may have been the singles. The men's doubles and mixed doubles were good possibilities for the gold and I personally wanted to play singles, because I get to play so little of it otherwise. ... In the last few weeks I probably played more singles -- in Asia Cup and then Asian games -- than I did in the rest of the season" .. So, there was a reason why Mahesh decided to take on the tough job of playing singles too .. In my mind, as long as he is returning from there without any big physical injuries (though he has said it is "aches and pain all over"), this was a gamble worth taking .. It's true that he has hardly played much singles over the last few months - he now seems to be in good shape for a good showing at the two challengers in India, the next two weeks .. He will need to pick up about 80 points from the two challengers to become a direct entry for the Australian Open qualifiers .. That will be tough (basically he will need to reach two finals in the challengers), but with all the practice he has had now, he can certainly take a crack at it, if the 5 days rest takes cares of the aches and pains. Still no news from anywhere, about the two challengers' entry list.

The article by G.Rajaraman in the Hindustan Times today talks about our tennis stars at the Boxing final where Dingko (Dishum- Dishum) Singh got his Gold .. He says, "nearly the entire Indian tennis team, men and women alike, hopped across from the billiards arena to the boxing stadium to be at hand to lend their support to Dingko, willing him to win gold," - Good to see that kind of spirirt from our tennis folks (I guess that earlier bit about three of our girls missing the men's team medal ceremony was not a big thing after all!) .. From all we have heard, Dingko deserves every bit of support for what he has done there, beating top-5 fighters in the world .. Hope he gets more support for his plans to get a medal at the Sydney Olympics - may be he will be cheering our LP-MB when they win the Gold there for us too ..

Sunita Rani missed a Gold in the 5000m by 0.02 second today - yikes, that hurts to run for 5 kilometeres and miss it that closely - she brings us the 4th silver from Athletics (going with 2 Golds and 7 bronzes there) .. I think the 4X400 men's relay team finished second just now for a silver, but I am not sure .. Sethi and Shandilya are doing their thing in the billiards singles today so far .. It still looks somewhat tough to move above Iran and North Korea for that 7th spot - we may end up 9 or 10 .. let's wait and see.

Dec 17 Note-3

Gold glut going on for India at the Asiad today - Geet Sethi and Ashok Shandilya just won the English billiards doubles Gold, our 3rd of the day - India is up to #10 in the standings with 5 Golds, 6 silvers and 16 bronzes .. As though that wasn't enough, men's hockey just beat Japan 3-1 to advance to the final against S.Korea (Pakistan lost 3-1 to Korea today) .. So at least two silvers more are assured from men's and women's hockey with the finals coming up over the next two days .. Anil Kumar got a silver in discuss also today (the other silver was Rosa Kutti's for finishing behind Jyotirmoyee in 800m) .. 27 medals and counting .. Great rear-guard action by India - If all goes well, we *can* finish as #7 behind the big six (China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Kazakhstan and Thailand, who will all end up with 75+ medals) ..

Dec 17 Note-2

It all ended in a hurry - and we return with four medals in tennis ..

8th seed Srinath lost to the 5th seed Yong Il-Yoon, 6-3, 6-3, and then 7th seed Mahesh lost to the 6th seed Satoshi Iwabuchi, 4-6, 6-7(1) today to end the Indian challenge in tennis .. Mahesh said that he was disappointed but that he was happy to be going home with three medals - "It would have been great if any of them had been a Gold," he said .. It was a bold decision to play all three individual events (while it probably made sense for him to have focused on just the doubles events), but it also helps him in the upcoming challenger tournaments to get some touch back in singles which he had not played for so long .. MB had said jokingly before the Asia Cup that he would have to see "if he remembered how to play singles" .. He and Srinath certainly showed that they are no pushovers in Leander's absence .. Srinath, especially, should get a big boost of confidence from his upsets here .. Actually I am happy that Mahesh' arm did not fall off and that he is not leaving from there with any big injury problems (MB played 12 matches in 8 days - 6 singles, 3 doubles and 3 mixed doubles!) ..

I found this comment I made in the June 4 Notes - "The Indian teams are about to leave for Bangkok from Calcutta .. We will see how things pan out, but I have this strange feeling that Srinath will pull off some upset wins that we don't expect him to" .. Upsetting the 2nd seed to get a singles medal definitely qualifies .. Hey, I should start a crystal-ball company, don't you think ? .. :-)

Have they gone beyond what people expected ? - Absolutely ! .. Let us all congratulate our team for the effort .. What could have happened if LP was there ? - We could have won the team medal and then MB could have played just doubles and mixed doubles .. we probably would have had 3 Golds from those three events, with LP and Srinath getting us at least a silver more from the singles events .. Yes, no doubt that not having our #1 player hurt us .. As for India, the medal tally, as of yesterday is 18 including 2 from tennis (2 G, 4 S, 12 B) - it will be at least 20 with two more tennis medals today - the Gold hopes are now in Hockey (men are assured of a bronze, and the women are assured of a silver as of now), Dingko Singh fighting a boxing final today (assured of silver) and Billiards (doubles with Sethi and Shadilya should be getting us a Gold - there will be at least another medal there too, I believe) .. If I am reading the results right at the asian Games web page, our "Golden Lady" Jyothirmoyee Sikdar just picked up her second Gold (800m) and Rosa Kutti picked up a silver just behind her ! - So, that should be over 27 to 30 medals altogether with at least 5 Golds, and India should finish just inside the top-10 among the 40+ countries there. We have done much worse in the past - and it is much better now than how it looked after the first week when India had about 3 medals from about the first 500 medals (a whole lot more from the next 500+).

Leander Paes is at Calcutta - There was a report in the Telegraph yesterday, that his heel seems to be healing well now, and that the pain is basically gone .. He will be doing a kid's tennis clinic or something there soon .. Definitely not playing the two challengers the next two weeks - has no plans to play till the Doha ATP tournament, the 3rd week from now .. Apparently the extended rest has helped him.

Alright, we are getting set for the $50K Ahmedabad and Mumbai challengers the next two weeks. Mahesh, Srinath and Fazal will now get about 5 days to rest the tired bodies, before they get back to ATP business .. No news yet on the Ahmedabad challenger entry list, the wildcards, etc - I am not sure if MB or Srinath would get a direct entry with their current rankings (though they probably will) .. If not, they surely get the first two wildcards, and Fazal the next .. Vijay Kannan, Vinod Sridhar, Sandeep Kirtane, Harsh Mankad etc are all deserving of wildcards after that - Vijay will surely get one if MB and Srinath are in the main draw.

Dec 17 Note-1

In the middle of all the Asiad excitement, I forgot to mention something from this week's WTA rankings - Shruti Dhawan, our 16-yr old junior sensation (can I call her that ? - I guess Uzma already *is* the junior sensation .. ok, Shruti is then the second "sensation") is now in the WTA rankings, straight up from unranked to #782 with 6.75 points from three tournaments .. WTA  lists only those with three active tournaments in the list, which is why Uzma (who has only played one tournament with WTA points this year and did pick up some points) is not in the list now, though she is our junior and senior national champion .. As I mentioned before, it is the first time that we have three women in the top-500 (I know .. not exactly .. I am counting Manisha also in there with Nirupama and Sai Jayalakshmi, though she is at #506, as she deserves it for the impressive jump from around 1000, picking up about 17 points in just two tournaments) .. The point now is for somebody to start giving these women talents some support .. Hope what tennis has done at Asiad once again, would help reinforce in people's minds the fact that this is a game Indians can compete well in and can excel at - it continues to bring us international respect .. Any chance any of the Corporate sponsors who so far has only looked at cricketers (and perhaps LP-MB) for endorsement, etc, would consider some sponsorship/endorsement deals with our upcoming tennis players ? .. With the kind of media exposure our tennis players have been getting lately, I don't understand why nobody finds any benefit from sponsoring them ..

As for sponsorship, this part of Indian sports just has got to pick up some time .. It just has to, for us to get better .. None of the aspiring Indian tennis players can move on, unless they play tennis full-time (that means "not working at a bank desk"!) .. Indian sportswomen have the added pressure from society/family to stop playing too, especially if they need to spend their own money on a tennis career .. Sponsorship is the name of the game around the world - and I am still waiting to see when things change in India on this front .. Shruti, Uzma, Manisha, Sai, Rushmi, etc, can all use support - not to mention the most deserving of them all - Nirupama .. Indians are very good at placing undue expectations on our sportsstars and complaining about the lack of medals, but we are very poor in our understanding of what is holding them all back .. .. Thought I would type some philosophy, as I wait for the semifinals at Asiad ..

By the way, there were a couple of small newspaper reports in the last two days that the Tata Steel Sports Foundation has decided to support Nirupama .. That is good news .. Hope some money actually goes to her .. I have heard way too many stories of somebody or other talking of sponsoring her, but nothing ever really materializes as cold cash that she needs to carry on in the circuit to get better (especially to pay a coach, which is what her top priority has been for such a long time, and she continues to be not coached by anybody other than her brother) .. This Tata Steel sponsorship sounds like it is not just talk .. Aty least I hope so .. We will find out later.

Also, the fan club's own plans to start something by way of a support system for the players is still in the works - I talked about it and had invited dicussion about 4-5 months back, but had to postpone serious work on that for a while - quite a few have written to me, and perhaps more of you can do that .. do send email, if you have any thoughts or would like to help .. We haven't forgotten that endeavour, just postponed it as it required some careful planning (mostly due to myself being a bit too busy) .. We will start doing something from the fans' side soon .. Though the fanclub itself may not have many rich people to directly help, we can certainly set some things up ..

Dec 16 Note-3

The accolades keep coming, about what our tennis heros have been doing at the Asiad .. Here are the excerpts from a nicely written article (no name of the correspondent) in today's The Hindu: "On show was the depth and dimension of Indian tennis. Symbolising this in all its incandescence was the burly Mahesh Bhupathi. If Prahlad Srinath softened the blow of playing in a competition without the touch and elegance of Leander Paes by beating second seed, Vadim Kutsenko, on Tuesday, it was the turn of Bhupathi to conquer another Uzbek, this time, the top seed, Oleg Ogorodov ... Displaying charm, craft and a combination of power and finesse, aside from the virtues of serve-volley, Bhupathi fought a three set duel to win 6-3, 3-6, 7-5. The rallies were pulsating with two of the continent's best battling it out to ensure the minimum - a bronze. Now India, with two, Bhupathi and Srinath in the last four, Indian tennis is well established here ... So impeccable were his return of serves, passing shots and his the winning weapon - the double fisted backhand - that the Uzbek was left in a state of inertia many a time. A glorious backhand shot down the line broke Ogorodov on the second serve and from there it was Bhupathi all the way to the threshold of victory" ... the big shots were there to watch its all - AITA president R.K.Khanna and the IOA president Suresh Kalmadi .. G. Rajaraman of the Hindustan Times says, "Mahesh Bhupathi delighted the small band of Indians with his amalgam of power and innovation ... with a big hand in three of Indiaís medals, Mahesh has done the country proud. Come to think of it, who would have fancied having two Indians in the menís singles semi-finals in top gun Leander Paesí absence" ... K. Rajeev of the Deccan Herald says, "DETERMINATION personified. That was Mahesh Bhupathi today. Battling against Oleg Ogorodov, an opponent rated higher than him, Bhupathi showed rare character to win in three tough sets and advance into the semifinals of the Asian Games men`s tennis ... In a match that was played as much in the mind as on the court, the eighth-seeded Bhupathi scripted a 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 win over the top seeded Uzbek player to ensure a second Indian presence in the last four. It was a twin blow from India to Uzbekistan, as Prahlad Srinath had knocked out the second seeded Vadim Kutsenko in the quarterfinals yesterday" ... Great to see recognition from our media on what Mahesh and Srinath have done so far ..

As for the loss in the mixed doubles match, it seems unanimous from everyone who saw the match that Mahesh was just plain too sluggish after the tough singles match .. With Niru being a bit unsteady with stomach problems and fever, things were tough against a pair of hot opponenets who have been a on a seed-killing dream run there .. apparently, after leading 4-1 in the first set, they lost 10 games in a row and lost 4-6, 3-6 .. Kim Dong Hyun kept the pressure up and Ju yeon Choi was giving him able support too ..

Dec 16 Note-2

Mahesh and Nirupama will have to be content with a bronze in the mixed doubles, as they were upset by the Koreans, Ding-Hyun Kim and Ju-Yeon Choi, 6-4, 6-3 .. That is very impressive of the unseeded Koreans, to topple two seeded teams on their way to the final - As I said yesterday, I had a bad feeling about this match .. Oh well .. We will still have four medals from tennis, though our Gold chances are now down to the singles, where either Mahesh or Srinath will have to come up big over the next two days ..

By the way, the Uzbeks are shutout from any medals in the individual events at the Asiad, despite having two of the three top-ranked players in their team .. All they have is the bronze in team events .. But then again, they were unlucky to run up against two Indians who wouldn't let their top players get any medal ! ..

Dec 16 Note-1

Here comes medal #4 from tennis !! .. Mahesh just upset the top seed Oleg Ogorodov, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 to reach the semis of singles !!! Earlier, the 6th seed Satoshi Iwabuchi beat 3rd seed Hyung-Taik Lee, 6-4, 7-5 .. The semis will be #6 Iwabuchi vs #7 Bhupathi, and #5 Yoon vs #8 Prahlad .. Who woulda thunk that we would have two guys in the semis, in Leander Paes' absence ! - Regardless of how farther they both go, it's fair to say that they have all made India proud ! .. Mahesh comes back later today to play the mixed doubles semifinal with Nirupama .. MB has played a lot of tough, long, close matches so far - It's been quite a heroic show .. Let's hope he has enough left to carry on even further ..

Here is the quick note from our press-friend out there (Thanks!) on MB's match: "Our man beat Ogodorov 6-3, 3-6, 7-5. He broke Ogodorov in the fourth game of the first set but wasted three break points each in the first, third and fifth games of the second set and was broken himself in the eighth game. He stayed tough and came up with bombs for serves when it mattered most, though he missed making capital of two break points in the second game when he forced deuce from 40-0. He did well to save a break point in the ninth game. Missed a first match point in the 12th -- actually ogorodov served an ace -- and came up with a super angled volley to close the match. He never let his chin down. Great to see him play like this." ..

In other matches so far today, Tammi Tanasugarn (THA) beat Jing-Qian Yi (CHN) to reach the women's final .. The magic ended for Fang Li (CHN) who lost 6-7(3), 1-6 to Yayuk Basuki of INA (now known as Nany Rahayu Basuki), who seems determined to make her good-bye tournament memorable - Tammi vs Yayuk will be a great final .. 4 doubles semifinals (men and women) and two mixed doubles semifinals comeing up in the afternoon there, now that the singles matches are all done ..

Dec 15 Note-3

A small note on the SF opponents for Niru and Mahesh tomorrow: Dong-Hyun Kim and Ju Jeon Choi are a surprise semifinalist pair in mixed doubles, based on their rankings of 669 and 396 last week .. They are really a couple of unknowns from Korea, so to say, but they have already pulled a big upset of the 3rd seeds, Chih-Jung Chen (#400) and Shi-Ting Wang (#54) in the pre-quarterfinals in a tough 3-setter 7-6(2), 6-7(6), 6-3 .. On paper, it still looks to be a very winnable semifinal match for the top seeds Mahesh and Nirupama, but never count your chickens before they are hatched ..

In other news, the new WTA ranks show two players in the top-500 for India, probably for the first time ever .. Niru has gone up to #157, her highest ranking in close to two years .. Sai Jayalakshmi is now at #479 with her points at the Delhi challenger .. Manisha Malhotra missed top-500 narrowly - she is at #506 .. Manisha's move up from close to 1000 to 506 in just two tournaments is particularly impressive, but it's fair to say that she has had a pretty forgettable Asiad in the couple of matches she played.

Dec 15 Note-2

India won two of the 4 matches played today to assure ourselves of two medals at least (Mahesh plays singles QF tomorrow) .. The disappointing news is that both our men's doubles teams lost close matches .. First, Nirupama and Mahesh are in the semis after beating Terachi and Hiraki in the QFs, 6-4, 7-6(3) !! .. (by the way, my guessed draw below was slightly wrong, and has now been corrected, for MxD) .. Mahesh and Fazal had lost earlier to Hyung-Taik Lee and Yong-Il Yoon, 5-7, 4-6, and later Vijay Kannan and Nitin Kirtane lost another close doubles match, to Chi-Jung Chen and Bing-Chao Lin (TPE) by a similar score, 4-6, 5-7 .. They were all fighting till the end, and I guess it sadly brings home the realization that we have just missed a medal which was perhaps THE most sure Gold in all of Asiad - the doubles medal for us, had Leander played .. But we can't complain - it has been commendable performance so far from our Mahesh-led tennis team in Leander's absence proving that we can still bring home some good medals if we play hard .. The draws in the two remaining events for us are as below:

Mixed doubles:

1-M.Bhupathi/ N.Vaidyanathan (IND) vs  D-H.Kim/J-Y.Choi (KOR) \
2-S.Iwabuchi/ N.Miyagi (JPN)       vs  F.Li/ S.Li (CHN)       /

Men's Singles:

QF - 7-Mahesh Bhupathi (IND) vs 1-Oleg Ogorodov    (UZB) \
QF - 3-Hyung-Taik Lee  (KOR) vs 6-Satoshi Iwabuchi (JPN) /   \_  Final                 \
SF -         5-Yong-Il Yoon (KOR) vs 8-Srinath Prahlad (IND) /

The best scenario is 2 Golds and a Silver .. Let's go for it ..

Today, Onoda-Terachi upset top seeds Ogorodov-Tomashevich in the doubles QFs - they face the Srichaphan brothers (Paradorn and Narathorn - the home teams only remaining medal hope, as Paradorn, running a fever, was upset in the singles ytesterday) in the doubles semis .. The other doubles semi is between the Korean and Taiwanese teams that beat the Indian teams today .. The player who is red-hot out there is Fang Li in the women's section who teamed up with Li Chen to beat Basuki/Prakusya today, and also teamed up with unranked Si Li to upset Sung-Hee Park and Hyung-Taik Lee in mixed doubles too .. I *never* expected to see China getting a medal in mixed doubles with the lack of quality male players there, but Fang Li is putting on a show in every which way ..

Oh, and we have got our second Gold - in Kabaddi, beating Sri Lanka and Japan today .. There is another team which almost never went to Asiad due to two factions of politicians playing games about a game they have never played, till a High Court decision forced the team to be sent in the last minute .. Kabaddi has got tremendous press coverage this time - I even saw articles in Chinese newspapers (South China Morning Post) talking about what an interesting game it is, and about how the Thais (who along with the Japanese have given it a non-subcontinental flavor) were absolutely amazed at the "Indian Lung Power", when they lost to us !! ..

Dec 15 Note-1

The first assured bronze (or better) in the individual events comes from the one who was down in the dumps just two weeks back after losing all his matches at the Asia Cup !! .. Srinath Prahlad, who has been lookling better and better after each match, has just upset the #2 seed Vadim Kutsenko, 6-4, 6-2, according to the Asian games website .. Great news ! .. 5th seed Yong Il Yoon of Korea beat Takahiro Terachi, 7-5, 6-4, and will play Srinath in the semis .. No other scores posted yet .. I am off to bed, and will report the other scores after a few hours (or you can check the website and select "tennis" to see the scores - they have been very prompt in posting the scores lately) ..

Just as I typed that, I got an email from Bangkok - MB will be playing his singles only tomorrow (which is actually good news) .. Today, MB-Fazal play doubles against Hyung-Taik Lee and Yong-Il Yoon .. Here is the note from the press friend about Srinath's win - "Sri looked good and was more ready to make things happen. In control, even firing a couple of bombs to surprise Kutsenko. Sri broke the Uzbek in the long fourth game to be 3-1 up (winning the sixth break points, he was 0-40 up) but allowed him to break back in the seventh with two unforced errors. Sri came back strong, the body language was good and won the 10th game with a great volley to the corner and had the Uzbek thinking it was out. Kutsenko was a broken man. Breaks came Sri's way -- MB calls him Hari -- in the sixth and eight games" .. Hari ? .. Cool .. We will just call him a winner ! .. Later, folks .. Go tennis - kick some behind !

Dec 14 Note-4

Below are the draws for singles, doubles and mixed doubles at the Asiad, as far as I can figure out - can't find the draws anywhere and the newspaper articles from Bangkok have been very reluctant in telling us who plays whom next .. Based on the patchy info I have and the Asiad rule that multiple teams or players from any country should be in the opposite halves of the draws, this is what I can construct (the numbers in the parentheses are the rankings as of Dec 7, though I think Dec 30 ranks were used for the draw) .. Some matchups here may be wrong, and I will correct them later [and I have] .. 2 are alive in singles and 3 doubles pairs are alive too - anyone who advances tomorrow to the semis is assured of at least a bronze.

Singles draw:

(226) 1-Oleg Ogorodov (UZB)    \
(390) 7-Mahesh Bhupathi (IND)  / \
(260) 3-Hyung Taik Lee (KOR)   \ / \
(322) 6-Satoshi Iwabuchi (JPN) /    \
(319) 5-Yong Il Yoon (KOR)     \    /
(373)   Takahiro Terachi (JPN) / \ /
(394) 8-Srinath Prahlad (IND)  \ /
(320) 2-Vadim Kutsenko (UZB)   /

Doubles draw:

1-(268  302) OGORODOV, Oleg(UZB)/ TOMASHEVICH, Dmitry(UZB)         \
  (709  758) ONODA, Michihisa(JPN)/ TERACHI, Takahiro(JPN)         / \
  (  3 1306) BHUPATHI, Mahesh(IND)/ SYED, Fazaluddin(IND)          \ / \
4-(487  550) LEE , Hyung-Taik(KOR)/ YOON, Yong-Il(KOR)             /    \
3-(539  623) SRICHAPHAN, Paradorn(THA)/ SRICHAPHAN, Narathorn(THA) \    /
  (669  820) KIM , Dong-Hyun(KOR)/ HAN, Min-Kyu(KOR)               / \ /
  (516  693) KIRTANE, Nitin-Anil(IND)/ KANNAN, Vijay(IND)          \ /
2-(400  596) CHEN, Chih-Jung(TPE)/ LIN, Bing-Chao(TPE)             /

Mixed doubles draw:

1-(  3 238) BHUPATHI, Mahesh(IND)/ VAIDYANATHAN, N.(IND)  \
  (758  86) TERACHI, Takahiro(JPN)/ HIRAKI, Rika(JPN)     / \
  (801 247) ZHANG, Yu(CHN)/ LI, Li(CHN)                   \ / \
  (669 396) KIM, Dong-Hyun(KOR)/ CHOI, Ju-Yeon(KOR)       /    \
4-(487  76) LEE, Hyung-Taik(KOR)/ PARK, Sung-Hee(KOR)     \    /
  (--- 581) LI, Si(CHN)/ LI, Fang(CHN)                    / \ /
  (331 352) KUTSENKO, Vadim(UZB)/ TULYAGANOVA, Iroda(UZB) \ /
2-(305  26) IWABUCHI, Satoshi(JPN)/ MIYAGI, Nana(JPN)     /

There is also some bad news out of Bangkok today - that Nirupama was running a fever and has been having stomach problems when she played Fang Li today .. There is even a chance that she cannot play the mixed doubles match tomorrow, which would be sad news indeed - let us all hope things improve tonight .. She is a strict vegetarian, and the canteen there has only one vegetarian dish which she is already sick of, I am told ! ..

Acorrection from earlier - it was Fazal and not Srinath who lost to Kutsenko at the Asia Cup, and so tomorrow's QF match is not a repeat .. Mahesh beat Ogorodov in Delhi, so that match tomorrow is a repeat ..

By the way, warm regards should go to our men's hockey team for a big win over South Korea to top the pool with no losses and move to semis where they will play Japan, who tied Pakistan today, eliminating contenders Malaysia (I must apologize for taking a subtle dig at our hockey team a couple of weeks back - see if anybody can find that in the notes :-)) .. And how about Dingko Singh for beating the world #3 Thai boxer in a close decision that caused the fans to riot out there, to move to the final and assure himself of at least a Silver .. Apparently Dingko, who has done very well lately was not cleared by the Government due to somebody claiming that he had a "bad attitude problem" .. I must say I like the "attitude" of anybody who literally "fights" for the country ! ..

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.

.. Previous notes are at Weekly Notes, ending Dec 14..