Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Shanghai beckons but no luck for Paes at Paris

I had been away for two days and got to know the news late - Leander Paes and Martin Damm have secured berths in next month's Tennis Masters Cup.

But the duo, currently at number five in the ATP Doubles Race, will not be fancying their chances at Shanghai, bogged down as they are by a string of opening round defeats in recent matches.

The newly qualified Masters Cup pair bowed out of the BNP Paribas Masters in the first round on Monday.

Their conquerors Jeff Coetzee of South Africa and Dutchman Rogier Wassen prevailed 11-9 in the super-tiebreaker after the teams split the first two sets 6-3 and 6-7(3).

Paes, who won the Paris Masters in 1998 with Mahesh Bhupathi, and Damm frittered away matchpoints in the second set as well as in the super-tiebreaker.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Karan Rastogi back in action at Delhi Challenger

Karan Rastogi, India's number three tennis player, is all set to make a comeback at an ATP Challenger tournament in New Delhi next month.

Rastogi, sidelined with a back injury during the ATP Mumbai Open in September, told the Indian Tennis blog that his back was better and he planned to play both the hardcourt challenger events in the Indian capital at the end of 2007.

The 21-year-old Mumbai resident, currently ranked 344 in the world, had won the Morocco F5 claycourt Futures in July this year.

News of Rastogi's comeback should please fans of Indian tennis, which has seen many of its stars fall prey to injury this year.

Sania Mirza finished her season early while Prakash Amritraj, Harsh Mankad and Mahesh Bhupathi are also recovering from injuries. With Sunitha Rao withdrawing from two consecutive Challenger tournaments in the US this month, speculation about another injury scare were rife.

Rohan Bopanna and Leander Paes have also not played since the Stockholm Open and the Madrid Masters earlier this month.

With the country's top players taking a break from tennis courts, the India F10 Futures in Gulbarga got more than its share of attention.

But India's second-string players, with the exception of world number 605 Sunil Kumar Sipaeya, failed to make it beyond the second round in the singles. Eighth seed Sipaeya lost to eventual champion Ivan Cerovic of Croatia in the quarter-finals.

There was better luck for India in the doubles with the second-seeded pair of Vijay Kannan and Kazakhstan's Alexey Kedryuk beating Tushar Liberhan and Rupesh Roy 6-4,3-6,10-3 in the final of the $15,000+ hardcourt tournament.

Across the border, sixth seed Ashwin Vijayragavan justified his seeding by making it to the singles quarterfinals of the Islamabad Futures. Pairing up with Korean Jeong-Han, Vijayragavan lost to home crowd favourites Aqeel Khan and Asim Shafik in a closely fought doubles semifinal 6-2,4-6,9-11.

Other Indians had little success abroad. Mustafa Ghouse lost in the singles qualifiers of the ATP Seoul Challenger before he and Israel's Dudi Sela bowed out in the opening round of the doubles event.

World number 728 Prerana Appineni also lost her opening singles and doubles encounters at the ITF tournament in Valencia, Venezuela. Down under in Traralgon (Australia), world number 359 Tara Iyer lost her singles opener and then forfeited her doubles quarterfinal match.

The action now shifts to the Pakistan F2 Futures grasscourt tournament in Lahore starting on Monday where a host of Indian players, led by Sipaeya, are in the fray.

Friday, October 26, 2007

India F10 Futures, Gulbarga - Day 3, 4 Results

As Day Four dawned, Sunil Kumar Sipaeya was the only Indian survivor in the singles draw of the India F10 Futures but by dusk even that hope had been snuffed out with Sipaeya losing a hard-fought three setter to Croatia's Ivan Cerovic.

The previous day, Bellary semifinalist Ashutosh Singh bowed out in the second round to Israel's Dekel Valtzer.

But there was some consolation with the doubles title certain to go India's way like at Bellary last week. Three of the four players in the title clash are Indian.

(Indian players in bold)
Singles Quarterfinal
(8)Sunil Kumar Sipaeya lost to (3)Ivan Cerovic(CRO) 5-7,6-4,2-6

Singles Round 2
Aditya Madkekar lost to (1)Pavol Cervenak(SVK) 4-6,2-6
Purav Raja lost to Philipp Oswald(AUT) 3-6,3-6
Ashutosh Singh lost to (4)Dekel Valtzer(ISR) 3-6,6-3,6-7(1)
Vivek Shokeen lost to (7)Marek Semjan(SVK) 6-3,4-6,4-6
(8)Sunil Kumar Sipaeya beat Vijay Kannan 6-1,6-3
Tushar Liberhan lost to (3)Ivan Cerovic(CRO) 1-6,2-6
(Q)Ajai Selvaraj lost to (6)Alexey Kedryuk(KAZ) 0-6,1-6

Singles Round 1
(WC) Rupesh Roy lost to (1)Pavol Cervenak(SVK) 6-7(7),7-6(9),1-6
Purav Raja beat Divij Sharan 7-5,6-3
(8)Sunil Kumar Sipaeya beat Vijay Sundar Prashanth 6-3,6-2
Vijay Kannan beat (LL)Varun Walia 6-3,6-2
(Q)Rohan Gide lost to (2)Rainer Eitzinger(AUT) 2-6,2-6

Doubles Semifinal

Tushar Liberhan/Rupesh Roy beat (4)Ivan Cerovic(CRO)/Dekel Valtzer(ISR) 6-4,6-4
(2)Vijay Kannan/Alexey Kedryuk(KAZ) beat Ivan Anikanov(UKR)/Shivang Mishra 7-6(2),6-3

Doubles Quarterfinal
Tushar Liberhan/Rupesh Roy beat Rohan Gajjar/Vishnu Vardhan 6-3,6-4
Ivan Anikanov(UKR)/Shivang Mishra beat Pavol Cervenak(SVK)/Marek Semjan(SVK) 6-3,7-6(6)
(2)Vijay Kannan/Alexey Kedryuk(KAZ) beat Rohan Gide/Rahil Makharia 6-2,6-1

Day 2 results

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

India F10 Futures, Gulbarga - Day 2 Results

Croatia's Ivan Cerovic, runner-up at the India F9 Futures (Bellary) last week, had trouble getting past Indian prodigy Yuki Bhambri in the first round at Gulbarga.

The 15-year-old Bhambri made sure the third-seeded Croatian sweated it out for a 7-6(8),4-6,7-6(6) win and that too after the teenager had missed a couple of matchpoints.

Bhambri's gritty performance against a player ranked one thousand places above him on the ATP list marks him out as a future hope for India.

There were no major surprises on Day 2 of the India F10 Futures though some matches were abandoned after a sudden spell of rain.

(Indian players in bold)
Singles Round 1
(4)Dekel Valtzer(ISR) beat Navdeep Singh7-5,6-3
Vivek Shokeen beat (Q)Vignesh Peranamallur Chandrasekhar 6-3,7-6(3)
(7)Marek Semjan(SVK) beat (Q)Rohan Gajjar 3-6,6-3,6-4
(3)Ivan Cerovic (CRO) beat (Q)Bhambri, Yuki 7-6(8),4-6,7-6(6)
(Q)Ajai Selvaraj beat (WC)Vijayant Malik 2-6,6-3,7-5

Rain-delayed matches
(1)Pavol Cervenak(SVK) leads (WC)Rupesh Roy 7-6(4),3-3
(2)Rainer Eitzinger(AUT) leads Rohan Gide 6-2,5-1
Vijay Kannan leads (LL)Varun Walia 4-2

Day 1 results

Monday, October 22, 2007

India F10 Futures, Gulbarga - Day 1 Results

Vivek Shokeen and Ashutosh Singh, winners at the India F9 Futures (Bellary) last week, were routed in the first round of the Gulbarga event on Monday. Top seeded Austrians Rainer Eitzinger and Philipp Oswald, who lost in the Bellary final, were also ousted.

Third seeds Purav Raja and Sunil Kumar Sipaeya were upstaged by a pair of Slovakians. In the singles event, Tushar Liberhan impressed with a 6-2,6-2 win over Ukrainian Ivan Anikanov, a player ranked 22 places above Liberhan on the ATP list.

(Indian players in bold)
Singles Round 1
Aditya Madkekar beat (WC) Arjun Goutham 6-2,6-4
Ashutosh Singh beat (Q) Yannick Nelord 6-2,6-4
Tushar Liberhan beat Ivan Anikanov(UKR) 6-2,6-2
(6)Alexey Kedryuk(KAZ) beat Vishnu Vardhan 6-4,6-1
(Q)Robert Belak(SRB) beat (WC)Kaushik Raju 6-0,6-0

Doubles Round 1
Rohan Gajjar/Vishnu Vardhan beat (1)Rainer Eitzinger(AUT)/Philipp Oswald(AUT) 6-3,7-6(4)
Tushar Liberhan/Rupesh Roy beat Vivek Shokeen/Ashutosh Singh 6-2,6-4
(4)Ivan Cerovic(CRO)/Dekel Valtzer(ISR) beat Divij Sharan/Navdeep Singh 4-6,6-4,10-5
Robert Belak(SRB)/Darko Madjarovski (SRB) beat Arjun Gautam/Aditya Madkekar 6-3,6-4
Ivan Anikanov(UKR)/Shivang Mishra beat Jagadeesan Kumar/Veera Vasanth Venkatesh Sriramareddy 6-3,6-2
Pavol Cervenak(SVK)/Marek Semjan(SVK) beat (3)Purav Raja/Sunil Kumar Sipaeya 6-3,7-6(5)
Rohan Gide/Rahil Makharia beat Vignesh Peranamallur Chandrasekhar/Ajay Selvaraj 7-6,4-6,10-8
(2)Vijay Kannan/Alexey Kedriouk(KAZ) beat Vijay Sundar Prashanth/Kaushik Raju 6-1,6-4

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Injury-hit Sania Mirza cuts short 2007 season

Sania Mirza has returned to India after a string of first round defeats at European tournaments compounded by a strained abductor muscle.

India's number one singles player pulled out of the WTA Generali Ladies Linz tournament starting next week and said she will not be playing any more in 2007.

"It has been a long and hard year for me, where I had to make repeated comebacks from two serious injuries and a surgery," Mirza was quoted as saying by The Times of India.

"I am mentally tired and my body is crying out for a break. I'm looking forward to a rest and then a great season next year."

Mirza, currently ranked 30 on the WTA list, had lost to lesser-ranked players in the opening rounds of the Kremlin Cup and the Zurich Open this month.

The 20-year-old ends the year with a 30-19 win-loss record on the WTA Tour having recently touched career best rankings in singles (27) and doubles (18).

Mirza reached the final of WTA Stanford in July and can boast of wins over the likes of Martina Hingis, Dinara Safina and Patty Schnyder in an injury-riddled season. A knee injury had kept her out of action in the first half of 2007 while a wrist injury forced Mirza to withdraw from Kolkata's Sunfeast Open in September.

Her best Grand Slam result for the year was a third round spot at the US Open in August - eventually losing to good friend and nemesis Anna Chakvetadze.

Four doubles titles came her way this season with victories at Morocco (with Vania King), Cincinnati (with Bethanie Mattek), Stanford (with Shahar Peer) and New Haven (with Mara Santangelo). Mirza ended the year with a 32-11 record in doubles.

India's performance at this year's Hopman Cup mixed team challenge had earned Mirza and Rohan Bopanna direct entry into the 2008 edition in January but it remains unclear whether Mirza can recover in time for the event in Australia.
A break will help Sania perform better in 2008
Yes - no good can come of playing while injured
No - she should have stuck around till the end
Can't say
pollcode.com free polls

Stephen Amritraj, Ashutosh Singh shine this week

The big names of Indian tennis couldn't weave much magic in tournaments this week, leaving little known players Stephen Amritraj and Ashutosh Singh to impress with breakthrough performances.

Amritraj, who grew up in the Californian city of Calabasas, partnered American Adam Davidson to reach the doubles semifinal at the ATP Calabasas Challenger.

The duo, who gained entry as lucky losers because of an injury default to Jan-Michael Gambill, stunned top seeds Bobby Reynolds and Rajeev Ram 6-3,6-4 in the opening round.

Amritraj, 23, and Davidson eventually lost 5-7,2-6 to fourth seeds Robert Kendrick(US) and Cecil Mamiit(PHI) in the semifinal.

Stephen, son of former tennis player Anand Amritraj, had partnered cousin Prakash to reach the semifinals of the Fergana Challenger earlier this year.

Back home in India, newly crowned National hard court champion Ashutosh Singh spearheaded the country's challenge at the India F9 Futures in Bellary, Karnataka.

Singh's splendid run in the singles event, which began with ousting top seed Pavol Cervenak of Slovakia 6-3,6-4 in the opening round, came to an end in the semifinals.

Singh, ranked 659 on the ATP list, lost to third seeded Austrian Rainer Eitzinger 4-6,3-6.

But he gained revenge by partnering Vivek Shokeen (in pic) to beat Eitzinger and Philipp Oswald 7-6(4),3-6,10-5 in the doubles final.

Wildcard Rupesh Roy, who lost in the quarterfinals to Singh, also impressed with a second round win over Romania's Adrian Gavrila.

Elsewhere in Europe, Sania Mirza lost in her Zurich Open opener before retiring for the season while Leander Paes and Martin Damm lost in the second round of the Madrid Masters doubles.

Sunitha Rao, who reached the finals at the ITF San Francisco Tennis Classic last week, withdrew from the ITF Lawrenceville Challenger at the last minute.

Down under in Gympie(Australia), Tara Iyer couldn't do much against fourth seeded home favourite Monique Adamczak and lost 1-6,6-7(5) in the first round.

Partnering Nungnudda Wannasuk of Thailand, Iyer also lost to Adamczak and Briton Jade Curtis 7-6(2),6-7(3),5-10 in the doubles quarterfinal.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Quick exit for Sania Mirza from Zurich Open

Sania Mirza capped a miserable October with a first round loss at the Zurich Open to Michaella Krajicek - her third straight career defeat to the Dutch player.

Wildcard Krajicek, ranked three places below the Indian at 33, breezed through the match 6-1, 6-4 in an hour and 16 minutes to ensure Mirza's quick exit from picturesque Switzerland.

The result was Mirza's 19th defeat as opposed to 30 wins on the WTA Tour this year and her ranking is likely to slide further.

It was also Mirza's second opening round ouster in as many weeks - having also lost to Argentine Gisela Dulko at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow last week.

Krajicek, the half-sister of 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek, had started off well - winning the opening game and then swiftly breaking Mirza's serve. Mirza broke back in a game riddled with deuces but the 18-year-old from the Netherlands quickly recovered from that setback.

Krajicek, who has struggled with her form of late, unleashed her attacking game and a stronger serve to take the next nine games.

A spirited Mirza comeback in the second set saw her break Krajicek's serve twice but the Dutch girl was in no mood to take the match into the decider. She broke Mirza's serve for the sixth time to advance to the second round.

By the end of the match, Krajicek had blazed 6 aces as opposed to zero for Mirza although the Indian had a better first serve percentage (65 as opposed to 60).

In the doubles, the wildcard pair of Sania Mirza and home crowd favourite Patty Schnyder is pitted against China's Shuai Peng and American Meilen Tu.

Update: Mirza/Schnyder lost 3-6,1-6

Mirza returns to the Tour next week at the WTA Generali Ladies Linz tournament at Linz, Austria.

Update: Mirza cuts short 2007 season

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sunitha Rao falls at final hurdle in San Francisco

A brilliant run in the $50,000 ITF San Francisco Tennis Classic ended with defeat in the final for India's Sunitha Rao. The eighth seed couldn't keep the magic going against top seeded American Ashley Harkleroad and went down tamely 6-1, 6-2.

The loss was a disappointing one for Rao but it was still her best result for 2007 - gaining her $3,990 in prizemoney and 25 valuable WTA points. Her latest ranking shot ten places up to 175 and Rao is now within striking distance of her career-best ranking of 152 (achieved in July 2003).

The Florida-based player had started the year ranked 232 and had dipped as low as 278 in June before jumping 100 places in just four months. Rao had also been the losing finalist in a $25,000 ITF event at Tampa in July.

The San Francisco result had not been an unexpected one. Harkleroad, although now ranked just 92, is a former Top 40 player and not one to be taken lightly. Interestingly, Rao had won their previous encounter in the 2003 Australian Open qualifiers, albeit in three sets.

Rao, who will celebrate her 22nd birthday on October 27, also had luck on her side - she didn't face anybody ranked higher than her in the four matches till the final.

In the latest WTA rankings (October 15), Rao led an army of Indian women moving up the list. Tara Iyer moved one place up to 358, Rushmi Chakravarthi gained two places to be ranked 368 and Isha Lakhani moved up three spots to 432.

But Indian number one Sania Mirza dropped one spot to 30, thanks to a first round exit at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow.

In the doubles, Mirza moved up one spot to 19, while Rao lost three places to be placed 141. The biggest loser of the week was Shikha Uberoi - who slid 43 places to 209.

Rohan Bopanna, the best Indian player in the men's singles, was down nine places (260) while Prakash Amritraj slid two spots (270). The big gainer - no. 343 Karan Rastogi who moved up four places.

In the doubles rankings, Bopanna's semifinal run at ATP Stockholm saw him jump seven places to 79 while Leander Paes(17) and Mahesh Bhupathi(21) retained their spots on the list.

Middle-level Indian players have a chance to earn valuable points at the men's $15,000 India F9 Futures event at Bellary, Karnataka which kicked off on Monday.
Can Sunitha Rao ever match Sania Mirza's achievements?
Yes - the way she's playing, anything is possible
No - Rao doesn't have what it takes
Can't say - we'll have to watch her in 2008
pollcode.com free polls

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Paes, Bopanna and Sunitha Rao impress this week

It's been a reasonably good week for Indian tennis but not for Sania Mirza. India's number one singles player floundered in the opening round of the Kremlin Cup - falling to nemesis Gisela Dulko in her third straight carrer defeat to the Argentine.

Her luck in the doubles was only marginally better. Partnering Switzerland's Patty Schnyder, Mirza was ousted by the world's best doubles pair - Cara Black and Liezel Huber - in the quarterfinals.

Be that as it may, ATP Tour veteran Justin Gimelstob had this to say about the 20-year-old in his SI.com column this week.

"Mirza has ignited a continent with her success. She is a cult figure in her native India, and can't walk down the street without a full security detail. She possesses one of the biggest forehands in the game, and is attractive and charming. She's also integral to growing the game in the Far East."
As such the flag for Indian tennis was held high by Leander Paes. Just weeks before he ends his partnership with Martin Damm, the dynamic duo reached the semifinals of the BA-CA Tennis Trophy tournament in Vienna.

Paes and Damm even had two matchpoints before the fourth seeded Polish pair of Marciusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski advanced to the final with a 2-6, 7-5, 12-10 win.

Paes would be partnering Paul Hanley of Australia in 2008 and his reasons for splitting with Damm are purely professional.

"We have different goals next year...Martin wants to cut down on his tennis, while I want to play a full year, so we decided to get new partners," Paes told The Telegraph from Vienna.

Also impressive this week was Rohan Bopanna whose semifinal appearance with Belgium's Olivier Rochus at the ATP Stockholm Open is further proof he's going to make it big in doubles. His stint as lucky loser in the singles draw had ended after he squandered a 4-1 lead to lose in straight sets to Spain's Albert Montanes in the first round. But Bopanna made good in the doubles with a win over South Africa's Jeff Coetzee and Dutchman Rogier Wassen.

It was only in the semis that second seeds Jonas Bjorkman and Max Mirnyi got the better of the Indo-Belgian pair in straight sets - 6-3, 7-5.

On the ITF circuit, Sunitha Rao has made the quarterfinals of the $50,000 San Francisco event. Her match against Indonesia's Romana Tedjakusuma wasn't over when this report was filed but there's a good chance the eighth seed will get through easily to the semis. Rao had routed Tedjakusuma in straight sets at a $25,000 tournament in Tampa, USA earlier this year.

Top seeds Rao and American Julie Ditty stumbled in their doubles opener - falling to an unseeded pair from South Africa.

Down Under in Rockhamption, eighth seed Tara Iyer made it to the second round before qualifier Robin Stephenson proved too strong for the Indian on the Australian hardcourts.

In domestic action, Bellary in Karnataka will play host to the $15,000 India F9 Futures event next week with most of India's top singles players in attendance.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Leander Paes makes winning return to ATP Tour

Doubles specialist Leander Paes teamed up with regular partner Martin Damm of the Czech Republic to beat Agustin Calleri of Argentina and Andreas Seppi of Italy in the first round of the BA-CA Tennis Trophy in Vienna.

Playing their first match since the defending champions were ousted in their US Open opener in August, second seeds Paes and Damm took nearly an hour-and-a-half to subdue their opponents 4-6, 6-2, 10-7.

Awaiting them in the quarterfinals is the American duo of Mardy Fish and Robby Ginepri.

Paes has been absent from the tennis scene for more than a month. He skipped the Kingfisher Airlines Open in Mumbai, ostensibly to play in Bangkok with Jamie Murray but the duo never showed up in Thailand. The two were also to play doubles as a pair in Tokyo last week but that didn't happen either.

Arguably the best Indian doubles player ever, Paes has been at loggerheads with former partner Mahesh Bhupathi (probably the real reason for bypassing ATP Mumbai - a tournament promoted by Bhupathi's company).

Paes, 34 will quit playing with Damm at the end of this season and is slated to team up with Australian Paul Hanley in 2008.

A good performance at Vienna should help Paes and Damm garner enough points to qualify for the season-ending Masters Cup in Shanghai. The duo are currently in fourth place in the ATP Doubles Race.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Mixed fortunes for Sania Mirza at Kremlin Cup

The Gisela Dulko syndrome continued to haunt Sania Mirza as the Indian number one fell to her Argentinian nemesis in the first round of the Kremlin Cup on Tuesday.

The 6-3, 6-4 defeat at Moscow's Olympic Stadium was Mirza's third straight loss to Dulko in WTA tour meetings. And she hasn't been able to take a set off the 41st-ranked player yet.

Though Mirza had a better first serve percentage than Dulko at Moscow (63 to 58), she also committed nine doublefaults, which ultimately proved too costly in the 85-minute match.

The loss was Mirza's 18th out of a total of 48 matches on the WTA Tour this year.

Mirza had lost to Italy's Flavia Pennetta in the quarterfinals of the Japan Open last week in only her third match since the US Open.

But the 20-year-old had better luck in the evening at the Moscow doubles event, where she partnered Switzerland's Patty Schnyder to easily beat Vera Dushevina of Russia and Tatiana Perebiynis of Ukraine 6-1, 6-3 in less than an hour.

In the quarterfinals, Mirza and Schnyder will be pitted against top seeds Cara Black of Zimbabwe and Liezel Huber of the US.

There is hope yet as Mirza, ranked 20th in doubles, had beaten the world's best pair in the New Haven final in August - in partnership with Italy's Mara Santangelo.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Even luck deserts Bopanna at ATP Stockholm

Spain's Albert Montanes put paid to the hopes of India's Rohan Bopanna with a 7-6(5), 6-1 win in the first round of the ATP Stockholm Open.

Bopanna, who had entered the main draw as a lucky loser, squandered an impressive 4-1 lead in the first set to lose to the Spaniard in little more than an hour.

Montanes, a claycourter ranked 48th in the world, was expected to be a tough opponent so it was a surprise when the 252-ranked Bopanna broke him in the second game and the scoreboard soon read 4-1 in his favour.

But the Indian's lead in the first set was wiped out when Montanes held serve twice and broke back in the seventh game.

At four games apiece, Bopanna served an ace - his first of the match. Both players then held their serves to take the set into the tiebreak.

Bopanna took the first point there but soon fell behind 4-6. He managed to save one setpoint but lost the next. Interestingly, Bopanna had won more points (39) compared to Montanes (37).

When the set slipped from his grasp, Bopanna's confidence deflated, just as it had deserted him in his match against Peter Wessels in the qualifiers of the indoor tournament.

Montanes raced away to a 3-0 lead, breaking Bopanna's serve in a game which went to deuce. Two games later, the Indian number one was down 0-40 on his own serve and Montanes broke him again lead 5-1. The Spaniard served for the match in the following game and won on the first of two matchpoints.

In the doubles event, Bopanna survives in partnership with Belgium's Olivier Rochus. The duo had beaten Thomas Johansson of Sweden and Todd Perry of Australia 6-2,6-7(4),10-8 in a thrilling first round encounter on Sunday that lasted for an hour and 22 minutes.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Lucky loser tag gets Bopanna into Stockholm draw

Thanks to last minute withdrawals, India's Rohan Bopanna has managed to get a main draw spot at the ATP Stockholm Open despite losing in the qualifying rounds.

Bopanna and Max Mirnyi of Belarus have entered the singles draw as Lucky Losers after Tommy Robredo and Tomas Berdych pulled out of the indoor hardcourt tournament.

India's number one singles player, currently ranked 252 on the ATP list, is slated to play Spain's Albert Montanes in the first round on Monday. Bopanna would be playing the 48-ranked Montanes for the very first time on the ATP Tour.

The winner of that match will play either fourth seed Tommy Haas of Germany or Olivier Rochus of Belgium in the second round.

Earlier on Sunday, Peter Wessels of the Netherlands had beaten Bopanna 7-5, 6-2 in the second round of qualifying.

In the doubles event, Bopanna paired up with Rochus to beat Thomas Johansson of Sweden and Todd Perry of Australia 6-2,6-7(4),10-8 in a thrilling first round encounter that lasted for an hour and 22 minutes.

Bopanna fails to make the grade at ATP Stockholm

Rohan Bopanna, India's top-ranked singles player, was denied a place in the main draw of the ATP Stockholm Open by Dutchman Peter Wessels.

In the second round of qualifying on Sunday, Wessels ousted 'Bofors' Bopanna 7-5, 6-2 on Court number 1 of the indoor tournament in the Swedish capital.

Bopanna, ranked 252 in the world, had started well - blazing five aces as the two players picked up three games apiece. One breakpoint had come Bopanna's way early in the match but he failed to capitalise on it - something he was to rue later.

At five games all, Wessels seized his chance when Bopanna gifted him two breakpoints while serving at 15-40. The Indian saved the first but the Dutchman grabbed the next to break serve and lead 6-5.

The 197-ranked Wessels then held his nerve to serve out the next game and take the first set in 33 minutes.

Interestingly, at this stage Bopanna was the better player - with a higher first serve percentage (58%), more aces(7) and fewer doublefaults(1). But the crucial points had all gone to Wessels.

The loss of the first set seemed to affect Bopanna's play and Wessels broke him again in the third game of the second set. The Indian wilted under pressure and Wessels was soon 5-1 up.

Indian hopes were resurrected when Bopanna held serve in the seventh game and then went up 30-15 up on Wessel's serve. But the tall Dutchman sent down his seventh and eighth aces to clinch the set and the match in just 58 minutes.

UPDATE: Thanks to last minute withdrawals, Bopanna has managed to get a main draw spot as a lucky loser at the ATP Stockholm Open despite losing in the qualifying rounds. Click here for story.

Mustafa Ghouse loses in semis of Ethias Trophy Challenger

The dream run of doubles specialist Mustafa Ghouse at the Ethias Trophy Challenger in Mons, Belgium ended with a semifinal defeat to an unheralded European duo.

Ghouse and his Australian partner Alun Jones went down fighting 6-7(7),6-2,10-6 to Poland's Tomasz Bednarek and Slovakia's Filip Polasek at the indoor event.

Ghouse, currently ranked 218 in the ATP doubles rankings and fourth in India, had achieved his highest career ranking of 131 in August this year and his performance at the Mons tournament is likely to see him back in the top 200.

Ghouse and Jones had beaten top seeds Yves Allegro of Switzerland and Kristof Vliegen of Belgium in the quarterfinals - by an impressive 6-3, 6-3 scoreline.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Ashutosh wins title, no such luck for Sunitha Rao

Newly crowned DSCL Open National Champion Ashutosh Singh and runner-up Prajnesh Gunneswaran have been granted wildcards for the main draw of Challenger tournaments to be held in Delhi from next month.

Second seed Singh had beaten the 17-year-old Gunneswaran 6-4, 7-6(4) in the Nationals final in New Delhi on Friday.

Gunneswaran didn't go home empty-handed though. The giant-killer beat Vijayant Malik 6-3, 6-2 in the boys singles final.

In the women's event, title favourite Isha Lakhani swept past second seed Rushmi Chakravarthi 6-4, 6-1 to win her third straight Nationals.



(2) Ashutosh Singh beat Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-4,7-6(4)


(1) Isha Lakhani beat (2) Rushmi Chakravarthi 6-3,6-1


(2) Prajnesh Gunneswaran beat (1) Vijayant Malik 6-3,6-2

Meanwhile, there was bad news in store for fans of Sunitha Rao. The Florida-based player was ousted in the second round of the USTA Tennis Classic at Troy, Alabama by her 296-ranked nemesis Alexa Glatch.

The 18-year-old American carved out a hardfought 7-6(4),7-6(3) victory over seventh-seeded Rao. It was Glatch's third straight win over Rao, having also beaten her in 2004 and in the final of the $25,000 Southlake, Texas tournament in July this year.

In the doubles quarterfinals, Rao and her Australian partner Christina Wheeler(AUS) lost 6-4,6-7(4),8-10 to the American pair of Angela Haynes and Mashona Washington.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Yuki Bhambri hits dead end at DSCL Nationals

Teenager Yuki Bhambri's giant killing run at the DSCL Open National Tennis Championship came to an end in the semifinals on Thursday - he hit a dead end named Ashutosh Singh.

Singh, seeded second in New Delhi, ousted the prodigy in straight sets 6-2, 6-3. Bhambri could show none of the promise he displayed while dispatching fourth seed Vivek Shokeen and sixth seed Tushar Liberhan in previous rounds.

The focus now shifts to another teenager Prajnesh Gunneswaran, who at 17 is two years elder to Yuki. The unseeded Gunneswaran prevailed in a hard-fought 6-3,4-6,6-4 victory over eighth seed Navdeep Singh in the other semifinal.

Gunneswaran kept himself in contention for a double crown by also reaching the boys' singles final, while Kelsey Sundaram was crowned the girls singles champion.

In the women's singles, the top two seeds will fight it out in the final - romping home in straight sets in the semifinals. Yuki's sibling Sanaa Bhambri was crushed by Isha Lakhani while Rushmi Chakravarthi accounted for Sonal Phadke.

Lakhani and Chakravarthi also teamed up to win the doubles title, beating - surprise, surprise - Bhambri and Phadke.



Prajnesh Gunneswaran beat (8) Navdeep Singh 6-3, 4-6,6-4
(2) Ashutosh Singh beat Yuki Bhambri 6-2,6-3


(1) Isha Lakhani beat (3) Sanaa Bhambri 6-2,6-2
(2) Rushmi Chakravarthi beat (4) Sonal Phadke 6-4,6-1


(1) Vijayant Malik beat (6) Ronak Manuja 6-0,6-3
(2) Prajnesh Gunneswaran beat (3) Abhijeet Tiwari 6-3,6-2


(9) Kelsey Sundaram beat (8) Tanvi Shah 6-4,3-6,6-3


(3) Vinod Sridhar/Vishnu Vardhan beat (1) Vivek Shokeen/Ashutosh Singh 6-4,3-6,11-9


(1) Isha Lakhani/Rushmi Chakravarthi beat (3) Sanaa Bhambri/Sonal Phadke 7-5,6-1

Sania Mirza crashes out of Japan Open

Sania Mirza crashed out of the AIG Japan Open on Thursday, losing 4-6, 4-6 to good friend Flavia Pennetta of Italy in the quarterfinals.

Mirza, seeded second at the WTA Tier III event in Tokyo, couldn't find her rhythm against the eighth-seeded Pennetta - whom she had beaten in straight sets in their only previous meeting at the Open Gaz de France, Paris in February 2006.

Mirza actually led 2-0 in the first set before Pennetta broke back and the momentum swung her way, enabling the Italian to serve for the set at 5-4.

A crucial double-fault by Mirza, which gave Pennetta the break and a 4-3 lead in the second set sealed the match in the Italian's favour.

It was Mirza's 17th loss on the WTA Tour this year as opposed to 30 wins. Her run to the singles quarterfinals earned the 20-year-old Hyderabadi $7105 and 65 WTA points.

Mirza's doubles campaign at the tournament with American partner Christina Fusano also came to an end after the duo withdrew citing an abdominal strain before their quarterfinal match against second seeds Sun TianTian and Zi Yan of China.

Round 1 - Mirza beat Ayumi Morita
Round 2 - Mirza beat Casey Dellacqua

Sunitha Rao back to business at Troy

Back on US soil after an unsuccessful stint at Kolkata's Sunfeast Open, Sunitha Rao easily advanced to the second round of the USTA Tennis Classic at Troy, Alabama beating 215-ranked German Carmen Klaschka 6-0, 7-6(1).

After blazing through the first set, the 195-ranked Rao faced tough resistance from the 20-year-old Klaschka in the second.

But it was Rao, India's number two tennis player after Sania Mirza, who prevailed in the tiebreaker.

The Florida-based player, seeded seventh here, will now face American Alexa Glatch for a place in the quarterfinals of the $50,000 ITF event.

Although ranked only 296, the 18-year-old Glatch leads Rao 2-0 in career meetings, having beaten her in 2004 and in the final of the $25,000 Southlake, Texas tournament in July this year.

Rao had bowed out of last month's Sunfeast Open in the second round with a 3-6, 2-6 loss to Britain's Anne Keothavong.

INTERVIEW - Somdev Dev Varman

When Somdev Dev Varman won the NCAA championship in May this year, it caught the Indian media by surprise. The 22-year-old had become the first Indian winner of the premier American collegiate event, emulating the likes of John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Arthur Ashe.

Surely, it was time for Dev Varman to say goodbye to the University of Virginia and turn professional. After all, the man he beat in the NCAA final - American John Isner - is already making waves on the ATP Tour. And doesn't India desperately need a male Sania Mirza?

For the moment, Dev Varman is content playing the occasional ATP tournament - he was last seen in action as a wildcard at the Kingfisher Airlines Open, Mumbai.

In this exclusive interview, Dev Varman told The Indian Tennis Blog he isn't ready to put away his books till May next year.

Several people are astonished that you seem to be putting your college degree over tennis. When are you going to turn professional?
I'm planning on turning pro after I graduate and finish up the NCAA team and individual tournament in May 2008. I feel graduating and getting a degree from the University of Virginia is a special thing and I've enjoyed my time there so far. I have no regrets of returning to school and hope to help my team be the frontrunners for a national championship this year.
Do you think staying back in India would have hindered your career?
No, I don't think it would have at all. Going to college was just another option for my life and my tennis. Indian tennis is growing and we're developing many juniors thanks to the efforts of the organisations in control.
Which tennis player is your idol and which is your favourite surface?
It's hard not to like Federer. He's a great player and represents the sport in the best way possible. I like playing on hard and clay.
John Isner, the player you beat in the NCAA final, is now the talk of the ATP tour for his meteoric rise up the rankings. Any comments?
John is a great player and a good friend. I'm a bit surprised that he has made his move this quickly but I thought it was going to happen sooner or later for sure. His serve is absolutely enormous and he's very mentally tough and focused. I'm happy for him and hopefully I'll be able to join him there soon after I graduate.
Can we see you playing more events in India in the future?
I would love to play some events in India if I'm given the opportunity.
What apart from playing tennis gives you a high?
Apart from playing tennis, I enjoy playing pretty much any sport. I love hanging out with friends and having a good time. I also love listening to music and watching movies in my free time.
Should Somdev Dev Varman turn professional?
Yes - he's wasting his best formative years
No - he will peak gradually this way
Can't say
pollcode.com free polls

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Yuki Bhambri impresses at DSCL Open Nationals

Yuki Bhambri, all of 15, is creating waves at the DSCL Open National Tennis Championship at New Delhi. The prodigy, considered by many to be India's next tennis great, upset fourth seed Vivek Shokeen in the men's singles quarterfinals.

Shokeen, ranked 757 on the ATP list, could find no answer to the youngster's wily play. Bhambri had also accounted for sixth seed Tushar Liberhan the previous day.

In other matches, Navdeep Singh upset top seed Aditya Madkekar in straight sets but the result was not unexpected considering Singh's form. Navdeep reached the main draw of the Kingfisher Airlines Open at Mumbai in September, shot up 86 places on the ATP list and is now ranked 731.

Meanwhile, 17-year-old Prajnesh Gunneswaran survives in both the men's and boy's singles.

There were no surprises in store in the women's singles with the top four seeds progressing safely to the semifinals and number four Sonal Phadke finally accounting for lucky loser Rashmi Teltumbde.



(8) Navdeep Singh beat (1) Aditya Madkekar 6-4,6-0
Prajnesh Gunneswaran beat (7) Vinod Sridhar 7-5,6-1
Yuki Bhambri beat (4) Vivek Shokeen 7-5,6-3
(2) Ashutosh Singh w/o (5) Vijay Kannan 5-3 retired


(1) Isha Lakhani beat Aishvarya Srivastava 6-4,6-3
(2) Rushmi Chakravarthi beat (8) Parul Goswami 6-0,7-5
(3) Sanaa Bhambri beat (6) Asha Nandakumar 6-0,6-2
(4) Sonal Phadke beat (LL) Rashmi Teltumbde 5-7,6-3,6-2


(1) Vijayant Malik beat Shantanu Rajput 6-0,6-1
(6) Ronak Manuja beat (4) Sitaram Sudanwa 4-6,6-1,6-4
(3) Abhijeet Tiwari beat (7) Christopher Marquis 6-3,7-6(2)
(2) Prajnesh Gunneswaran w/o (5) B Vikram Reddy 6-0,3-0 retired


(6) Aishvarya Srivastava beat (1) Kyra Shroff 6-7(6),6-1,7-5
(9) Kelsey Sundaram beat Sharmada Balu 6-2,6-3
Rashmi Teltumbde beat (4) Vishaka Sheoran 7-5,6-2
(8) Tanvi Shah beat (2) Sweta Solanki 6-4,7-5

Minor hiccup for Sania Mirza in Japan Open second round

Sania Mirza's campaign at the AIG Japan Open suffered a minor hiccup against a left-handed Australian named Casey Dellacqua but the Indian number one advanced to the quarterfinals with a hard-fought 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 win.

The 84-ranked Dellacqua, whom Mirza has never played before, broke her serve in the first and fifth games of the deciding set. But experience in the higher echelons of the game helped Mirza, ranked 29 in the world, to claw her way back to win the match.

It was Mirza's 30th win on the WTA Tour this year as opposed to 16 losses.

Up next for the 20-year-old from Hyderabad is eighth seeded Italian Flavia Pennetta. Mirza had beaten her in straight sets in their only career meeting at the Open Gaz de France, Paris in February 2006.

The $175,000 Tier III event at Tokyo has been happy hunting ground for Mirza, who upset top-seeded Russian Vera Zvonareva to reach the semifinal in her only previous appearance here in 2005.

This time around, Mirza is seeded second and one of the favourites to lay hands on the $25,840 winner's purse and 140 valuable WTA points.

If she gets past Pennetta, Mirza's toughest test would lie in the semifinals where she is expected to play Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano (5).

Razzano beat Mirza in straight sets in Los Angeles this year and is coming off a win at the Jinjiannan Guangzhou International Women's Open. Should Mirza survive, awaiting her in the final would be world no 8 Venus Williams, herself on a roll after a victory at Seoul last week.

In the first round at Tokyo on Monday, Mirza had beaten local hope Ayumi Morita 6-0, 6-4. The next day, she teamed up with American Christina Fusano to beat Urszula Radwanska of Poland and Agnes Szatmari of Romania 6-3, 6-2 in the doubles.

The Indo-US pair will now battle second seeds Sun TianTian and Zi Yan of China for a place in the doubles quarterfinals.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Easy win for Sania Mirza in first round of Japan Open

Sania Mirza made a winning return to the WTA Tour with a 6-0, 6-4 win over local hope Ayumi Morita in the opening round of the AIG Japan Open in Tokyo.

Mirza, sidelined by a wrist injury following her third round loss at the US Open last month, showed no sign of rustiness - blazing through the first set without dropping a game.

The Indian then seemed to let down her guard, with the 17-year-old Morita breaking Mirza's serve in the very first game of the second set. A game later, the Japanese player was two points away from leading 3-0.

But Mirza, ranked 29 in the world, came back strongly to take the next three games and then broke Morita in the eighth game to lead 5-3.

Serving for the match, Mirza was broken again but recovered to break back and vanquish the 139-ranked Morita in little more than an hour.

It had been Mirza's 29th win on the WTA Tour this year as opposed to 16 losses.

Up next for the 20-year-old from Hyderabad is 84-ranked Australian Casey Dellacqua, whom she has never played before.


Thanks to her unplanned break from tennis, Mirza's singles ranking slipped to 29 on Monday - two places down from her career-best 27 in late August. Her doubles ranking has also taken a beating with Mirza now down to 20th in the world. A good result at the Japan Open should reverse the ebb in rankings.


The $175,000 Tier III event at Tokyo has been happy hunting ground for Mirza, who upset top-seeded Russian Vera Zvonareva to reach the semifinal in her only previous appearance here in 2005.

This time around, Mirza is seeded second and one of the favourites to lay hands on the $25,840 winner's purse and 140 valuable WTA points.

In the quarterfinals, Mirza could run into eighth seeded Italian Flavia Pennetta whom she had beaten in their only career meeting in Paris last year.

But Mirza's toughest test would lie in the semifinals where she's seeded to play Maria Kirilenko (3) of Russia or Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano (5).

Razzano beat Mirza in straight sets in Los Angeles this year and is coming off a win at the Jinjiannan Guangzhou International Women's Open. Also on a winning streak is Kirilenko, champion at Kolkata's Sunfeast Open - a tournament doomed by Mirza's absence and Twenty20 cricket.

Mirza leads 2-0 in career meetings against Kirilenko but the Russian is playing her best tennis - her fine run at last week's Hansol Korea Open broken only by Venus Williams in the final.

Kirilenko's spectacular results in September have also helped her overtake Mirza in the latest rankings.

Should Mirza survive, awaiting her in the final would be world no 8 Venus Williams, herself on a roll after the Seoul victory.

In the doubles event, Mirza is partnering little known American Christina Fusano and hopes to emulate her semifinal appearance here in 2005 when she partnered Israel's Shahar Peer.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Bopanna falters in Mumbai doubles final

For the second year in a row, Rohan Bopanna was at the losing end of the Kingfisher Airlines Open doubles final.

He and Pakistan's Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi went down fighting 6-7 (3), 6-7(5) to third seeds Robert Lindstedt of Sweden and Jarkko Nieminen of Finland in Mumbai on Sunday night.

In the end, the Scandinavian duo proved just too good in the tie-breakers.

For the Indo-Pak pair, this was their first ATP tournament together. The loss shouldn't bog them down too much - after all they won four Challenger titles on the trot in July and August.

Bopanna, 27, had also made the final at Mumbai last year with Mustafa Ghouse only to lose to doubles specialist Mahesh Bhupathi and Croatia's Mario Ancic.

While Bhupathi withdrew with a bad back this year, there was no news of India's number 1 doubles player Leander Paes.
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For posts on Mahesh Bhupathi, click here
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With Somdev Devvarman (January 13, 2009 and October 4, 2007)

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