Notes for the week ending on Dec 31, 2001
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Dec 31 Note-1
LP's first round match at Chennai ended really fast today .. Andrei Stoliarov (RUS,84) d. Leander Paes (IND,299), 36 16 .. Shoot.
One more match involving an Indian to be played today .. Bopanna-Cuadrado play doubles late in the evening.
Dec 30 Note-2
Leander's first round match at the Tata Open against Stoliarov on Monday is scheduled for 7 pm .. That is 8.30 am New York, 1.30 pm London .. May start slightly later, probably .. We have not had a chat session for a long time .. Let us all meet at our chatroom and follow the match .. There will be game-by-game score updates at the official website, but as usual I repeat my request for somebody from India to bring some ball-by-ball updates and commentary, as it will be shown live on Doordarshan (however, folks from India have rarely obliged with such consideration for us foreign people -- hope we get a better response this time .. If you are a couch potato sitting in front of DD and have internet connection nearby, log on and talk to us, please!) .. More later!
Dec 30 Note-1
The draws have come out for Chennai (see our Tata Open page) .. Leander gets a very tough first round match, against the runner-up from last year, Andrei Stoliarov (RUS,84) .. Stoliarov upset the 6th seed Vinciguerra on the way to the final then, and must be one who likes the Chennai courts .. On the other hand, Mahesh had him on the ropes in the first round last year, winning the first set and then taking all the way to a 3rd set tiebreaker .. It will depend on how much of a match shape Leander is in .. As he has hardly played much in months and didn't look too good in the one challenger match loss last month, I have no idea what Leander we will see tomorrow .. Go Lee! - time to make a move in singles again! ..
Mahesh gets Jiri Vanek (CZE,102) in the first round .. Vanek was a lucky loser two years back at Chennai, when he advanced to the second round .. He was the 8th seed last year, but was upset in R1 by Edwin Kempes .. Go Hesh!
My darkhorse pick in the draw to do well? --- Kristian Pless of Denmark (though he is a potential second round oppoenent for Mahesh - if MB gets to play him, I will be happy to see my pick do badly :-)) .. Keep an eye on this youngster ..
In doubles, LP-MB are of course the top seeds and play Tomas Johansson and Andrei Pavel, two good doubles players, in the first round .. Srinath and Ajay Ramaswamy got a wildcard and got a good draw as well, facing another wildcard team - Prakash Amritraj and Mustafa Ghouse .. Also getting a wildcard was Rohan Bopanna, playing with Carlos Cuadrado of Spain .. Srinath-Ramaswamy is a pretty good doubles team with some chance to pull some surprises.
Byron Black, Ivo Karlovic, Tomas Dupre and Stefano Galvani qualified into the main draw today.
Dec 29 Notes
Terrible day for Indians at the Tata Open qualies first round today, as all six of them (Srinath, Bopanna and Mustafa as direct entries and Kannan, Ajay and Sunil Kumar as wildcards) went down in a heap, and the Indian-American Prakash Amritraj added to the list .. All the losses were against top-150 to top-350 caliber players, if that is any consolation .. I guess it was going to take some big miracles for someone to advance in this qualifying field which turned out to be much much tougher than I imagined .. Actually only one player took even a set off an opponent, and that was the yougest of the lot, Sunil Sipaeya, against #255 Amir Hadad .. No Indian has ever qualified into the Chennai Open in its 6-year existence, and only Harsh Mankad in 1998 has made it to even the 3rd and final round of qualies there .. Last year, Vishal Uppal reached the second round beating Vijay Kannan but all other Indians had lost - so things were par for the course this time too .. We have LP and MB as wildcards into the main draw to look forward to now .. See the scores in our new Tata Open page.
Sergei bruguera withdrew due to fever, and Vladimir Voltchkov withdrew due to an Ankle injury, putting Dennis Van Scheppingen and Paradorn Sichaphan into the main draw ..
Dec 28 Note-3
Sunil Kumar won the final today at the Tata junior futures and got himself a wildcard into the Tata Open qualies this weekend .. He beat Vishal Punna, 46 64 64 .. Tough comeback in a match reportedly filled with errors from both players - Vishal was up 64 42 and let the pressure get to him after that, with Sunil doing whatever was needed to come through in the end .. Once again, Sunil shows that ability to hang tough when something is really on the line in a match - we have often seen that quality from him .. On the other hand, it is not clear that he is ready for prime time in the pro events .. Anyway, today's was the last junior match of his career. He did well by winning the last two junior events he played, the prestigious Asian Juniors followed by this. Good job. The doubles title went to the BAT pair, Jaco Matthew and Somedev dev Varman - I am not sure if they are also getting a doubles wildcard to the tata open qualies - probably not, as there aren't too many wildcards to use in a 4 or 8 team doubles qualies normally played at ATP events.
Dec 28 Note-2
Now some fans want me to post Mahima's pictures with Leander too, like Shvetha's below .. Hold on a bit .. This is still a tennis website, not a "fabulous Indian women pictures gallery", you know ? ... Rest assured that, if and when any official word on a wedding comes from the Paes' or Chaudhuries, I will post some of her pictures too :-)
The Tata Open people are doing a fine job of staying in the news, with press releases everyday .. Today they announced the 3rd main draw wildcard and a qualifier wildcard .. The main draw WC went to Oliver Marach of Austria and one qualifying WC was annouced for Prakash Amritraj ..
We have got used to a foreigner getting a wildcard at Chennai, and everyone knows about the last few years when I invariably registered my protests against that .. I however like the guy they picked for this year's "foreigner" wildcard, though .. The youngster Oliver Marach is 21 year old (6 ft 1 in tall) and I like him simply for the fact that he at least had come to India and paid his dues earlier - that too in style, winning the March satellite circuit which was clearly the circuit with the strongest field in a few years in India .. He even had a 17 match winning streak in that circuit, going 6-1 against top-500 competition .. It is good to see that somebody who did well in a lower circuit in India got a reward, though I am not sure if this had anything to do with the Tata Open organizers' decision to grant him a WC .. This is the second wildcard to an ATP event that Marach has got this year - the other one being at the Ktzbuhel ATP in Austria, following his runner-up finish in the $50K Oberstaussen challenger in Germany two weeks earlier .. He had also won a bunch of futures the previous year and had finished #3 at the Central America satellites in January, winning the masters leg .. His big splash came with the wildcard in late July to the Kitzbuhel ATP, where he upset #124 Jens Knippschild 26 76 62 and then scared #6 Kafelnikov in a three-setter, 67 75 46 .. That raised his ranking to his career-high at ATP entry #175, after starting the year at near #350 .. He also had a challenger win in August against Michael Llodra, now ranked #89, and a few top-200 wins this year .. He has only played challenger events since July, but after 11 of them, his results have been rather disappointing, as he lost in the first round 6 times, reached second round 4 times and an SF once .. Some of it may be due to the mental adjustments needed while graduating to the challenger level, and it seems like he still should be considered an up-and-coming player at his age .. He has as much or better chance to go into the top-100 in the coming year or two as perhaps anybody else in the top-200 - so the Tata Open folks have done justice to their stated policy of picking an up-and-comer who might return the favor with a visit in the future as a top player .. In any event, for the mere fact that he was the champion in the Indian satellites, I like him being selected for a wildcard (though I didn't see anything mentioned in the press releases from IMG about his Indian satellite exploits!) .. Anyway, the tournament director Sheila Maniam definitely doesn't seem to do the kind of questionable things that her predecessor Australian dude used to do - that's for sure .. Here's a picture of Marach at the Deccan-Gymkhana website, after he picked up the 3rd leg satellite title with his 15th win in a row, at Pune in March.
Prakash Amritraj, now in the college team at the Univ of Southern California is a talented prospect, but one who needs a few more years before his game can get polished enough for the upper levels of ATP .. He did not have a great start to his college career (he was a #97 in the preseason september college rankings but did not make the top-100 in the new rankings from this month) - bothered a bit at first with some injuries and starting 1-3 .. He then won a couple of good matches and finished the fall season at 3-3 .. People are expecting bigger results from him in the future, once he learns the kind of patience and toughness needed to win in college .. It's good to see an Amritraj getting a wildcard to the qualies.
Dec 28 Note-1
Due to popular demand, I have to place a couple of non-tennis pictures -- here is a small picture of Shvetha Jaishankar:
Here's a rare picture you won't find in the fashion gallery websites (and I bet Shvetha doesn't remember where it was taken - unless she looks carefully at her hairstyle):
Here is a link to a great picture with Mahesh, Shvetha, model Sheetal Malhar and her husband Mose Navarra, the Italian tennis player (aptly titled "mixed doubles"), at the Times of India gallery page - this picture was shot just 4 days back. I occasionally lift agency pictures from the newspaper articles and post them here, but this one was exclusive from the Times Bombay and hence I will only leave a link for it here .. You will need to go through a Times signup and get a password to see that picture.
Dec 27 Notes
I have been told that it is "Shvetha", the proper spelling of the 23 yr old who broke a lot of Indian girls' hearts and hooked the big hesh-fish for good .. Actually I guess it is Hesh who broke a lot of guys' hearts wrapping up the beautiful model :-) ..
If you happen not to know about Shvetha Jaishankar - she was a pretty good tennis player first, state-level in TN and was also at the Bolletieri Academy in the US for a short stint .. Commerce graduate from Ethiraj college in Chennai, the only daughter to her mother who is a doctor and her father who runs a pharmaceutical company .. I believe she was not one who expected to be a model but was spotted and became one by accident .. As the Miss India, she was the 2nd runner-up in the Miss International competition in Japan in 1998 .. She is tall at 5 ft 10.
Ajay Ramaswamy won the KTC invitational at Chennai today, beating DSCL national champion Vijay Kannan in a relatively easy final - 64 62 ..
Sunil Kumar will meet Vishal Punna in the final of the Tata junior futures for qualifying wildcard into ATP Chennai .. Vinod Sewa troubled Sunil a bit, that's all .. 63 26 63 .. Vishal beat Chatwinder Singh easily, 61 61 in the other semi.
Dec 26 Notes
Well, we have official confirmation now, on Mahesh Bhupathi's new partner - for life, that is .. Newspaper reports today show Krishna Bhupathi talking about dates in Nov-Dec next for Mahesh to get married to model Shweta Jaishankar .. The engagement happened in Goa two weeks back but as usual I waited for more official-sounding news to hit the newswaves (I had not heard from Mahesh himself for quite a while - and I figured he was busy with some non-tennis matters .. :-))
Here are the Tuesday results from the 8-player KTC invitational at Chennai .. (#1) Ajay Ramaswamy d. (Q) Amanjot Singh 62 64 .. Kamala Kannan d. (#4) Sunil Kumar, 75 64 .. (#3) Vinod Sridhar d. Somdev K. Dev Varman, 60 60 .. (#2) Vijay Kannan d. R. Arun Prakash, 62 61 .. Kamala Kannan is talented but his win over Sunil Kumar is a bit of a surprise.
Sunil is also playing the Tata juniors futures with the 8 regional finalists for a qualifier spot in the Chennai ATP ..(#1) Sunil Kumar d. Ananth Sitaram, 61 64 .. Vinod K Sewa d. Saurabh Kohli 64 63 .. Vishal Punna d. Amanjot Singh 36 62 61 .. Chatwinder Singh d. Parantap Chaturvedi, walkover (injury) .. The semifinal between Sunil and Vinod Sewa should be interesting.
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.
.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Dec 24 ..
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.