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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the 2 weeks ending on Dec 24, 2001
(Previous week's notes) (Next week's notes) (Daily Notes Index 1997 thru 2001)

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Dec 24 Notes

.. Merry Christmas! ..

Mahesh Bhupathi was offered a wildcard today to the $400K Chennai Tata Open ATP main draw starting next monday .. Not in any way unexpected .. Leander had already been told of his wildcard too .. Not sure who will get the 3rd wildcard - probably some foreign player, as usual.

Rain prevented all play at the tournament at the Krishnan Tennis Center in Chennai today .. So, no news.

The Tata futures tournament to select a qualifier wildcard player from among the juniors will start in Chennai on the 26th .. The finalist from the four regionals will be in the 8-player draw .. According to chennaionline.com, they are: Chatwinder Singh (CHD), Amanjot Singh (CHD), Sunil Kumar (CHD), Vishal Punna (AP), Ananth Sitaram (AP), Parantap Chaturvedi (DLI), Saurabh Kohli (MAH), Vinod Sewa (WB) .. Some of the Chandigarh players like Sunil Kumar played in other regions, and thus there are three of them in this (Sunil played in the Eastern regional, as he is now technically in Kolkata under Paes-en-Sport's watch) .. It should be interesting, but Sunil Kumar will be tough for any of the others to beat.

Dec 23 Note-2

The invitational at the Krishnan Tennis Center will start on monday, ahead of the Chennai Open starting on Dec 31st .. Here is a news item in ChennaiOnline.Com - "Top players, including newly crowned National champion Vijay Kannan, would be seen in action in the IndianOil-Servo All India Invitational Tennis Tournament to be held here from December 24 to 27 ... The tournament, being conducted by the Krishnan Tennis Centre for the fifth successive year, would feature singles events for men, a release from the organisers said here today ... Others who have confirmed their participation are Prahlad Srinath, Sunil Kumar, Ajay Ramaswami, Mustafa Ghouse, Vishaal Uppal, Vinod Sridhar, Kamalakannan, under-18 champion Arun Prakash, Somdev K Dev Varman and Jaco T Mathew ... Leander Paes would play an exhibition match on the final day of the tournament which carries a prize money of Rs 50,000 for the title winner and Rs 30,000 for the runner-up ... The semifinals and the final would be telecast live by Doordarshan, the release added" .. Not sure why Rohan Bopanna is not playing this event .. He and Harsh Mankad (who won the title last year) will be missing .. It is normally a draw of 16 with four rounds of matches, and gives the players a chance to get into match shape ahead of the Chennai Open qualies that start on Saturday the 29th.

Barney asked in our forum about the $60K Asian Championships that was in Hong Kong this week and why India did not participate .. I believe this is the same thing as the Asia Cup that was in Delhi for the last few years .. Paradron Srichaphan (THA) beat Hyung-Taik Lee (KOR) for the title, and Yoon-Jeong Cho (KOR) beat Mi-Ra Jeon (KOR) for the titles .. Those like Takao Suzuki, Wynn Prakusya, etc, had showed up for it this time .. I am a bit bugged to see a few more top players showing up to play this event this time, while the participation was less-than-stellar at Delhi all these years (except for the Uzbek players who religiously showed up every year) .. A wildcard for the Australian Open main draw was also on the line for the winner, which also was not there as an incentive in Delhi .. And AITA basically ended up spending a bit of money to conduct it for the Asian Tennis Federation too, I think .. I am not sure why India did not play this time, though .. LP and MB probably didn't want to cutr short their Christmas break for a trip to Hong Kong, I guess .. In LP's case, he is better off just playing the three-round AO qualies rather than play the Asian Cup which has about the same or higher competition .. The prize money is not exactly a big attraction at this event either.

Dec 23 Note-1

The title matches in the u14/u16 DSCL National Championships went on expected lines -- Tushar Liberhan (CHD) won the u16 over Nihal Advani (MAH), Sanaa Bhambri (DLI) upset the top seed Parul Goswamy (DLI) easily in u16, and Kartiki Bhat (MAH) easily beat Sandri Gangotri (AP) in u14 .. In fact, the only competitive match was between Vishnu Vardhan (AP) and Sumit Prakash Gupta (UP) in the u14 title match which went to three sets with both kids hitting the ball hard (Vishnu is about 6 ft 1 in tall, and I believe Sumit is also quite a tall kid for the age group) .. See our DSCL juniors page for all the scores .. Here is a picture from The Hindu of the winners (see their article)

DSCL-u14/u16-winners 2001 (courtesy: The Hindu)

I believe those are (from left to right):  J.Vishnu Vardhan (u14 singles), Tushar Liberhan (u16 singles and doubles), Kartiki Bhat (u14 singles) and Sanaa Bhambri (u16 singles and doubles) .. Funny order of heights for these kids!

Dec 22 Notes

It turns out that Sumit Prakash Gupta, the 13 yr old UP boy in the DSCL u14 final, is from a small town called Etawah .. It is a district headquarters near the UP-Rajasthan border .. I am always encouraged by players who come out of places which are not among the traditional urban tennis centers .. The Times of India writes today, "Etawah does not figure in the tennis consciousness of the country, but Sumit Prakash Gupta may well influence a change ... What is creditable about (his) win is the fact that Sumit does not have a coach to guide him through the technical labyrinth of tennis. Basic flaws in his stroke execution not withstanding, the UP boy has shown ample guts and mental strength to make his way into his maiden mini-junior national final" ..   Hey, if he can do what he has done so far with flawed technique, it's time to get the 13 year old some coaching help! ... Are you all listening, AITA and the tennis academies in India? .. Sumit is of the rare cases of talents from out of nowhere, like Sunil Sipaeya who came from the rural search program of the Chandigarh Lawn Tennis Association .. About his u14 final opponent, Vishnu Vardhan (AP), the TOI correspondent says that his SF "win came off largely on account of his ability to hit the ball clean and hard. He is quite solid in stroking but does show a marked reluctance to pounce on the away ball" .. Nice to see such detailed reports from this event by many newspapers ..  I do think that Vishnu will be a handful for Sumit in the final.

The TOI also had a disturbing note about the u14 final that Kartiki Bhat won 67 64 62 over Sanaa Bhambri - "The match itself was overshadowed by the antics of Sanaa’s father on the sidelines. He reportedly hit his daughter after she lost her match and that earned him a severe reprimand from tournament referee Puneet Gupta" .. Damn .. Come on, she is just 13, and after all she has done so much with focus lately - like reaching u16 final this week (with a win over the same Kartiki along the way), not to mention the QF in u18 and the doubles title last week at the women's DSCL over the near-unbeatable Rushmi-Sai, and the SF in the Asian Juniors the week before .. I have nearly lost count of the number of matches this little girl has played for three weeks .. And it's not like she lost to just anybody - Kartiki is very talented too .. OK, true that discipline is a key aspect missing from many Indian kids .. And I am not one who believes that it is so morally reprehensible for parents to discipline their kids a bit - but I don't believe hitting a kid is ever needed for this .. Anyway, give Sanaa a break, after all she has done lately .. I hope the dad just over-reacted and lost his cool a bit and this is hopefully not a pattern .. Kids sometimes also require a pressure-free environment to improve their game -- take Sania Mirza for instance - though her parents have got her to play a whole lot more than is perhaps normal for her age, I have seen many newspaper reports mentioning that she does play without feeling much of pressure, especially since she has time on her side (as does Sanaa), so that she can also concentrate on improving her game rather than worry about rankings and winning all the time .. It is also reported that sister Ankita was a bit concerned about Sanaa's mental state and was a bit subdued in her loss to Sanaa in the u16 semifinal that followed the u14 SF .. Hopefully the dad has bought Sanaa an extra ice cream and talked it over with the girl later - after all he has been doing so much for his two talented daughters and he certainly has more interest in their development than any of us! .. Hoping not to hear such unpleasant news again, let's leave it at that, and not make a huge deal of this.

Later, with today's finals scores from Delhi.

Dec 21 Notes

S.Kannan reports in the Hindustan Times that Syed Fazaluddin is officially retiring to start a coaching career with a club in Philadelphia .. I am sad to see that .. Somehow I never felt that Fazal reached his potential as a player - on the other hand, he perhaps realizes that it may be more beneficial to get on with his life and coaching career .. He has informed Ramesh Krishnan, etc, about his decision .. Let us wish him well .. He was a cheerful "mate" in the Davis Cup team and was liked by all who played with him and dealt with him .. Except, that is, for a few newspaper guys who seemed to go overboard with criticism everytime time the guy lost a match - mostly like they all felt he should be doing better .. It is true that Fazal did let some of the criticisms get to him, too .. It would be sad to see Fazal stop playing tennis altogether .. Thanks for everything, Faz! .. We will miss ya.

The DSCL u14 and u16 National hardcourts championships in Delhi has been interesting this week (See the results at the DSCL juniors page) .. I always look forward to this event to see the new names emerging, especially in the u14 level .. And there have been a few this week .. The results from the smaller domestic zonal events and the rankings do not always indicate a kid's ability to come good on the bigger stage; the DSCL event, the most prestigious of the domestic events, sometimes does throw up some names to watch out for .. One name that was really not on my radar screen is Sumit Prakash Gupta of Uttar Pradesh .. In the u14 event, he has reached the final, beating Nischendran of SriLanka who had looked good and had upset the top seed M.Jeevan earlier .. Of course, the other one I talked highly about earlier, Vishnu Vardhan of AP, will be a tough one for Sumit to beat in the final .. Vishnu beat the other Sri Lankan, Franklyn Emmanuel, who had upset the 2nd seed Sanam Singh earlier .. Vishnu, who had upset three seeds (4th, 6th and 11th) on the way to the semis of the u16 draw, went down to the 10th seed Nihal Advani in the semi (Nihal of Maharashtra had beaten #2 Rupesh Roy and #7 Anshuman Dutta of Assam, the two highest nationally ranked u16 players from the east, earlier) .. In the u16 final, Nihal will face the one to beat in the u16 level, who is of course Tushar Liberhan, the national #1, who has emerged as a solid prospect for the future - adding one more to the recent flood of prospects from Chandigarh ..

No big surprises or new names have emerged on the girls's side, where 15 yr old Ankita Bhambri and 13 yr old sister Sanaa Bhambri are the torch-bearers  .. Actually Ankita has not done all that well compared to those in her age range, like Sania Mirza and Isha Lakhani, who are not playing this event .. Sanaa is another story altogether .. Sanaa Bhambri, fresh from a semifinal show in the ITF Asian Open recently, looks to have made some big strides lately - in fact, though she has beaten a lot of others, she has always had a bit of trouble against the elder sister Ankita .. Today she beat Ankita in the u16 semis, once again showing that she is getting ready for the bigger events .. In fact the newspaper reports in The Hindu and the Hindustan Times have talked highly of how hard she serves and hits the ball (the HT correspondent mentioned how her serve, with even the second serve delivered hard and flat, stood out as a nice change in the middle of all the "moonballs and lollypops" that prompted the correspondent to pointedly remark that there is a dire need for some serious coaching of serving to the girls!) .. All the good comments on Sanaa are also normally followed by a note on how short she is, too, though - let's hope she puts on some inches fast .. The other name to remember at this DSCL juniors, though not a surprise, is Kartiki Bhat of Maharashtra who is 14 and is an year older than Sanaa .. Sanaa had beaten Kartiki in the u16 draw on the way to the final, but went down to kartiki in the u14 semi today - I guess she did not have a whole lot to prove there! :-) .. On the other hand, Kartiki seems to be one of the few players who always plays Sanaa well .. By the way, Sanaa is now the 3rd highest ranked 13 year old in the world, partly helped by a relatively easier draw at the Asian Juniors - she has to play a few more international events before we can say more about her ..  As of now, if she developes like we hope, she and Sania would be India's one-two punch in the future - let's hope for the best.

Dec 20 Note-2

Florian asked in the fanclub mailing list about the Taiwan-Lebanon Davis Cup tie, the winner of which was to be promoted to the Asian region group-1 to face India in February .. This seems to have gone unreported by everybody, but it turns out that Taiwan simply decided not to go to Lebanon to play (the tie was to be in the same weekend as the IND-USA tie on Sep 21-23, but was postponed to Nov 2-4 due to the Sep-11 events .. Then on Oct 26th Taiwan informed Lebanon that they were pulling out, "considering the security situation") .. So Lebanon advances by default to group-1 and the super-talented young kids from Taiwan will wait another year to try to move to group-1 where they are eminently capable of creating trouble for everybody .. Anyway, what that means is that India will be traveling to Lebanon (Feb 8-10) .. Now, there is a Davis Cup tie which might need some serious security cover! .. But I hope we will show the courage to go, and more importantly that Lebanon will come through with the kind of security needed .. This will be the 5th Davis Cup tie in a row that India will be playing abroad.

It seems Vishnu Vardhan has reached the semifinals of both u14 and u16 events at the DSCL juniors in Delhi .. More later.

Dec 20 Note-1

Finally completed a very delayed update of all the main draw results from the big ITF junior event from two weeks back, at the Asian Juniors page ..

Here is an interview of Leander that appeared in Khel.com a couple of days back, FYI ..

Dec 19 Note-2

Slowly catching up .. I have compiled all the results so far from the DSCL u14 and u16 National Championships ongoing this week at Delhi .. See the DSCL juniors page .. The story so far is the great show by J Vishnu Vardhan of Andhra Pradesh who is in the QFs of both the u14 and u16 draws - he was unseeded in both draws .. He has only played a couple of national events and has low rankings in both lists, but those who have followed the South India zonal events where he has been nearly unbeatable, know that this kid is for real .. I was a bit sad to see Karan Rastogi still being injured and missing these events as well, but Vishnu Vardhan's show has so far compensated for that a bit .. The really young (only 12 yrs old if I am not mistaken) Rupesh Roy of West Bengal, who is already #2 in the AITA u-16 rankings, is playing only the u16 event - he is in the QF .. Tushar Liberhan is the top seed .. The Bhambri sisters are doing well in the girls events, as usual.

I still have a lot of things to update at the website, such as the latest calendar and the rank lists - which have not been updated from about April onwards .. Will do those things during the holiday time.

Dec 19 Note-1

I have added all the main draw results from last week's DSCL (Shreeram) National Hardcourts at the DSCL page .. Take a look, if you want to see the results in one place ..

Dec 17 Notes

Just got back from somewhere .. Vijay Kannan beat Rohan Bopanna and Rushmi Chakravarti beat Sheetal Gautam in the finals at the DSCL national championships .. I will add some comments later .. The DSCL subjunior events are ongoing this week at Delhi .. Also, the website for the Chennai Tata Open ATP in two weeks, has been up for a few days .. take a look at tataopen.com ..

Dec 13 Notes

Continuing the irregular updates during the vacation period.  It may be Sunday or next week before I get around to updating all the scores from last week's and this week's events in Delhi  :-(

News from the DSCL National championships - Rohan Bopanna showed how far he has come, by taking out Sunil Kumar (champion 2 years back and runner-up last year) yesterday in the second round .. Vijay Kannan beat Ajay Ramaswamy, who seems to have really lost a lot of momentum from how well he was playing earlier in the year in the US (a relatively long break after that in India seems not to have helped) .. On the other hand, Vijay has always had a lot of talent, though he just does not seem to put it together well-enough to take the next step .. Nitin Kirtane, Rohan, Vijay and Vinod Sridhar in the SFs .. Rushmi, Shruti, Sheetal and Sonal in the SFs on the women's side .. Sai was upset earlier by SK Tara .. Shruti upset Radhika Tulpule today and Sheetal beat young Isha Lakhani .. Sania Mirza gave Rushmi a run for the money before4 bowing out in three sets - not bad.

Dec 11 Notes

Sorry to just take off with only a brief announcement below, for 5 days .. I'm still on semi-vacation, actually ..

A couple of quick updates .. Sunil Kumar won the Asian Juniors title a couple of days back .. Great work by him in the final, in coming back from facing a matchpoint in the second set to turn it around and win the title .. Sunil, who clearly did not play up to potential in quite a lot of junior events he played, has once again showed that "Leander-esq" ability to come up big when the stage is big .. That is the big hall-mark of this boy who has finished his junior career with his biggest title to raise his junior world ranking by about 30 spots to #30 this week, the highest ranking in nearly a decade by any Indian boy (only year-end rankings count - the rankings are sometimes deceptively high at the beginning of the year when the 18 yr olds leave the list) .. I was very sad to see the #1 seed Sania Mirza unexpectedly go down 36 36 in the second round to a realtively unknown Chin-Wei Chan of Taiwan .. I feel much better now, after seeing that the Taiwanese went on to win the title, also beating the #2 seed Da-Jung Hong in the final by a 63 64 score .. She had hardly dropped a set in her other games (by the way, what exactly is going on in Taiwan for them to suddenly start producing these players by the truckloads? .. Not making accusations here, but I am truly a bit curious) .. The other notable match in the draw was actually by #105 Megha Vakharia who lost to Da-Jung Hong (now #31) in a very close match, 67 67 .. 13 yr old Sanaa Bhambri's semifinal showing was no mean achievement, as she shoots up by about 250 spots to #233  .. She may be the highest ranked 13 yr old in the world top-250 now, actually .. Sanaa does seem to have made some big strides lately .. 16 yr old Isha lakhani is now the Indian #3 behind Sania and Megha - she was in the QF to pick up 40 points for 120 total from just three events this year (she won the two other grade-4 events she played in India .. By the way, financial difficulty seems to be causing her to miss a lot of events, from what I hear, sadly) .. I will add all the scores in the Delhi juniors page soon.

The postponed DSCL national championships have started yesterday in Delhi ! .. I had almost forgotten about it .. All the top domestic names are there .. No surprises on the first day .. I will start a page for results and report on the event soon.

In the end-of-fall computer rankings just released in US college tennis, Harsh Mankad is ranked an unbelievable #2 !! .. He deserves it, having gone 12-1 for the season with some 9 wins over top-100 players (wins over #3, #6, #11, #12, #13, #22, #50, #60, #95) and only one loss (to the #9 player in a three tie-breaker match) .. Here is a really nice interview article in Rediff.com on Harsh - good analyses on himself, by Harsh .. He pretty much says exactly where he is and seems to understand what he needs to do (but I also feel that he is being exceedingly nice in thanking the whole world in the interview :-)) .. I am also hearing the distesssing reports that Harsh Mankad may end up not going to the Chennai Open qualies because of financial difficulties in buying a ticket for the travel .. That is truly sad, if so.

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Dec 10 ..

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.