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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the week ending on Dec 30, 2002
(Previous week's notes) (Next week's notes) (Daily Notes Index 1997 thru 2001)

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Dec 30 Note-1

Could this be our old Leander on his way back? .. Could it be? .. Oh, please Lord, let it be .. A loss for LP but he played a fantastic match there at Chennai .. His slice bakhand was at its finest and even his topspin backhand (out in cold storage for a long time, I believe) was out in display .. LP looked trimmer and ready to play tennis, after some Florida training and practice .. (wc) L.Paes l. #4 J.I.Chela (ARG,23), 67(5) 57 .. The official website this time has NO score updates, and as usual I cannot get our friends from India to come to the chatroom and give us some score updates (or email me with some updates - please, folks, we need help this time!) .. Luckily we had the on-tv-fanclub-reporter from Singapore, Prasenjit .. Here is the match report, based on Prasenjit's ball-by-ball commentary -

LP was broken early in the 6th game of the first set .. after 4 consecutive breaks, it was 4-5 LP serving  .. He was down 15-40 .. A wonderful drop shot on the second BP, and then an ace brought up deuce.  A magnificent stretch volley, followed by a great pick-up volley, and it was tied 5-5 ..  LP won the 12th game at love to send it to a tiebreaker .. A bad line call prevented him from going up a minibreak rightaway .. A glorious drop volley took him ahead at 4-3 (on serve) in the tiebreaker .. A double fault at 4-5 pulled the curtains down for LP in this set though .. He saved one set point on his serve to pull to 5-6, but fell at the next point on Chela's serve ..

In the second set, LP faced a break point in the first game, but he played tough to hold .. Then he took Chela to a deuce .. Helped by a double fault from Chela at AD in, LP won the next two points to go up 2-0 .. LP was down 15-30, but had a service winner and a nice low volley to hold serve for a 3-0 lead .. LP had two break chances at 15-40 in the 4th game as well, but this time Chela started attacking LP's forehand (surprisingly it was his forehand returns that seemed suspect at this point - but only on the serves that Chela sent close to his body; the backhand returns had been wonderfully effective!) .. After some eight deuces, Chela held on for dear life .. At 40-15 in the next game, a few loose shots from LP caused him to lose the advantage and give the break back.  Suddenly there was some spring back in his Chela's legs .. At 4-3, two great "LP-like" gets left Chela shocked and facing a break point .. Leander was showing superb mobility on court, but an impossible shot went three inches too wide and Chela held serve again ..  Now, LP was down 0-30, but the heat was on and both players were playing some fantatstic tennis! .. LP held serve to even it at 4-4 ..  At 5-5, LP finally faultered with a double fault to face triple break points .. He fell at the second to fall 5-6 .. Chela would make no mistakes in holding serve, though LP saved a match point.

Earlier, Prakash Amritraj went down 26 26 to Jiri Vanek .. Prakash was apparently making too many mistakes, going for broke and not playing much percentage tennis.

Rohan Bopanna is playing right now.

Dec 29 Notes

Just got back from my 2-day vacation .. No great news to report .. Harsh Mankad was the only one who I really thought had even an outside chance of making it through qualies at Chennai .. It turned out to be that way as only Harsh and Manoj mahadevan played any match worth noticing .. HM played a 36 75 46 match to the 3rd seed Brian Phau (GER,148) .. That is actually not bad at all in my mind .. Harsh has not had any top350 wins yet and this one is a pretty decent show from him, and perhaps an indication that he is ready for the top-300 fights this year .. But that was it, as the rest of Indians are probably way too behind to take the fight to the top-300 types you have to beat to get to the main draw ..

As for the main draw, LP gets a tough one against #23 Chela .. No idea where LP's singles form is, so we can't say anything about that match .. Prakash gets the best possible match, against a below-200 ranked Vanek, who is in the draw only because of the injury protected ranking .. Don't be surprised if Prakash does something at Chennai .. Not that I think he is yet ready to play at this levels, and I did think that this wild card is perhaps a year (or two) too early - I would have preferred it to go to Harsh who has never got any WC of any kind out there, singles or doubles, despite being the one who has perhaps played some of the best qualifying matches among all Indians over the years out there [But I was screaming too much about the Rohan WC business that I did not get times to bring up Harsh also, this time :-)] .. But anyway, back to Prakash, I do have this feeling that Prakash is one who comes up big on the big stage too .. Hey, may be he will give us a  very pleasant surprise! .. I hope he does .. Go Prakash .. Rohan does have one of the lower ranked players out there - Zelko Krajan .. But top-100 caliber players are still tough and it is tough to hope for a big upset for RB, though he may have it in him if all goes well .. Check out the Chennai Open page .. I have added the doubles draw also .. LP, MB etc won't be playing doubles till Tuesday-wednesday.

ALL three Indians play Monday evening starting about 7 pm on center court .. PA, LP, RB in that order .. We will be meeting in our chatroom, for score updates, but I have no idea if the official website will have score updates  .. Hopefully one of you fans watching it on TV would update us from India .. (the official web site has not even posted the draw yet and doesn't even have a link placed for that - and it does not look promising at all this time - so we may REALLY need help!)

Dec 27 Notes

I will be taking off on a two-day vacation trip, and so the next update on the Chennai Open, etc, will be sometime late on Sunday (US time) .. Meanwhile, check out the official website,  Steve Gocha's page, ATP site's page, and The Hindu newspaper for all Chennai qualies news! ..

The qualies draw has just come out at the Chennai Open .. Terrible draw in my view .. The four players withe the best chance to qualify in, all got seeds right away to face .. Harsh gets the 3rd seed, Vinod gets the 4th seed, Ajay gets the 6th seed, and Vijay gets the 7th seed .. Couldn't be worse, frankly .. But then again, it is better to pull the upset right away! .. Surprised to see Mahesh Bhupathi asking for a wildcard and playing the singles qualies - is he having some singles plans again now? .. He played the qualies last year too - but he had not said he was stopping singles at that time .. Actually MB has a decent draw, if he is any form to play singles .. Would be thrilling to see him do something! .. Stephen Amritraj was a direct entry to the qualies .. Vikram Amritraj, Prakash's younger brother who has not played the u18s much yet to create news in the US, is also there as a wildcard .. Seeing how the top seed gets a bye, it seems any player could have walked in and played the qualies .. If no top player who went to Chennai ended up without a spot, I have no problem in Vikram getting a wildcard - actually it's good to see him also in the mix, and I am curious about how the boy would do - he is quite young .. Check out our Chennai Open page.

Dec 26 Notes

Harsh Mankad seems to be in pretty good form, and ready for the new year after a few weeks of break and training .. He beat Ajay Ramaswami 62 64 today in the final of the Rs 162K "Indian Oil Servo" Men's Invitational at the Krishnan Tennis Center in Chennai .. See the details about the final (and also the earlier matches) from KTC, in the the match reports page ..  As Ramesh Krishnan says in the comments from KTC, this has been a good tournament for Harsh and Ajay who go into the saturday qualifying rounds at the Tata Open knowing that they are in good form, "which is the point behind the tournament anyway" .. Plus the Rs 50K and 30K for the winner and runner-up is good money for their travel expenses and everything too .. The KTC tournament has traditionally had a wildcard on offer for the Chennai Open qualies for the winner, though normally the winner is ranked high enough not to need a WC .. This time also, Harsh will quite easily make the qualifying draw at the Tata Open on the basis of his ranking - and probably Ajay will too.

Tara and Tarakka Bertrand won the first round at the grade-A Yucatan Cup doubles 61 60 over the Mexican pair, Claudina Covarrubias and Andrea Espinosa, before falling to the 3rd seeds, Ana Ivanovic (YUG) and Julia Cohen (USA), 26 16 ..

Dec 25 Notes

Merry Christmas!! .. Merry Christmas!!

Harsh Mankad did not have it all that easy today in the semifinals against Vinod Sridhar at the "Indian Oil Servo" Men's invitational at KTC, Chennai .. HM managed to pull the shutters down in the end though, winning the final three games after it was tied at 3-3 in the 3rd .. Vinod is playing his best tennis these days, according to RK's new release on the matches, from KTC .. In the final tomorrow, Harsh faces his room-mate out there, one-time doubles partner and good friend from Mumbai, Ajay Ramaswami .. Ajay knew all about all the tricks fellow-Maharashtrian Nitin Kirtane has, and played the right kind of game to counter it, in a straight sets win over Nitin .. Ajay and Harsh are 1-1 in the last two matches they have played and tomorrow's match promises to be of high quality .. Harsh will need to properly mix up his all-court game against Ajay, who can be a very tough guy to beat when he is playing his brand of solid backcourt tennis .. They both have made Rs 30K each and can make another Rs 20K more tomorrow with a title .. See the scores at the IOS/KTC tournament page, and also the match reports from KTC.

There were reports yesterday about Leander confirming his participation for the Chennai Tata Open next week .. There was not a whole lot of doubt about it, but he had not officially announced it so far .. The doubts may also have been because LP had said a few weeks back that his doubles partner David Rikl was originally interested in going to Dubai, where he was runners-up with Novak last year .. So, it looks like things are all set now .. With Mahesh and Tood Woodbridge also confirmed for doubles at Chennai, there will be some good action in doubles out there .. Not as much fun as when the Express were running over people there, but this has turned out OK considering everything.

By the way, with Todd Woodbridge (74 doubles titles), David Rikl (26 titles), Mahesh (26) and Leander (24), there will be two teams out there with 100 titles and 50 titles combined! .. That's a whole lot of shelf space that these four guys use up on trophies!

Here is an article in this week's Sports Star that interviews Harsh Mankad, for your holiday reading ..

Tara Iyer lost in the first round of the Yucatan grade-A tournament to Laura Thorpe (FRA, 196) 76 62 .. Tara is playing with Tarakaa Bertrand (USA) in doubles .. That is a whole lot of "star" power in a team with all the "tara"s  :-) .. They face Claudina Covarrubias and Andrea Espinosa of Mexico first.

Dec 24 Notes

At the "Indian Oil Servo" Men's invitational at the Krishnan Tennis Center, three of the seeds advanced to the semifinals today .. Harsh Mankad had no trouble at all against Manoj Mahadevan .. He broke Manoj in the first game itself, and did not drop serve from there on, cruising to a win .. Somdev ran up against Nitin Kirtane, and as RK says in the match reports from KTC, playing Nitin's variation is a must for junior players to learn .. Not that there are people in the tour anymore who slice the backhand to death like Nitin does, but handling the lack of pace and the variation with the topspin forehand teaches the players how to think on court, I guess .. Vijay came back against Ajay with a tiebreaker second set, but then conceded midway through the 3rd .. It seems Vijay is not well, according to the report - and I am not sure if this is some problem he had last week also, at the National Games where he was a bit off-color .. Vinod Sridhar had a routine sort of win against Vishal, who was out of gas (shouldn't it be "out of petrol" in India? :-)) .. See the scores at the IOS/KTC tournament page ..

Tara Iyer is the 10th seed at the Grade-A Yucatan Cup ITF in Merida, Mexico .. One of only nine grade-A events in the ITf calendar, but not a whole lot of top -75 participation there .. On the other hand, I saw some *really talented* under-16 players there who are just coming up in the rankings .. Tara has a very tough draw though - drawn right next to the most talented under-14 player in the world, Michaela Krajicek (NED) - she is unseeded at Yucatan on last week's ranking, though she is one of the top-ranks out there this week, after her title at the grade-1 Casblanca Cup last week (can you believe that a 13 year old can win a grade-1 event? - remember the name Micahela, folks!) ..

Dec 23 Notes

I have added all the "Indian Oil Servo" (Chennai) tournament results from today at the IOS/KTC tournament page .. Ajay Ramaswamy, Manoj Mahadevan, and Punna Vishal advanced today, along with the 17 yr old youngster Somdev Dev Varman .. Somdev's win over a more-seasoned Kamala Kannan is quite noteworthy .. I have also added all the detailed match reports I had received from KTC at the match reports page .. All the seeded players will be in action tomorrow - Harsh, Nitin, Vijay and Vinod.

There is also an under-16 event at Kochi this week .. Later, on that one - always good to see anything related to tennis happening in my home state (tennis "wasteland", shall I say? :-))

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Dec 23 ..

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.