Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tennis Briefs - Security tight for Chennai Open

Reuters, NEW DELHI: Security will be tightened ahead of next week's Chennai Open ATP tennis tournament following the militant attacks in Mumbai, a tournament official said on Monday. For more, click here

The Hindu, HYDERABAD: Ace tennis player Sania Mirza conducted a coaching camp organised by corporate giant GVK Group here on Saturday. For more, click here

The Telegraph, KOLKATA: Indian tennis ace Leander Paes hopes that the next year will be a great one for him in the doubles circuit saying that the indications were already there. For more, click here

The Press Trust of India, NEW DELHI: Sports Ministry's decision to bar athletes with foreign passports from representing the country in international events contradicts the government policy on People of Indian Origin and hence should be reconsidered, Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Shukla said here today. For more, click here

ATP RANKINGS (29 December 2008)
(in brackets - positions lost/gained since last week)
204 (0) Devvarman, Somdev
210 (0) Amritraj, Prakash
333 (0) Bopanna, Rohan

6 (0) Bhupathi, Mahesh
10 (0) Paes, Leander
78 (0) Bopanna, Rohan

WTA RANKINGS (29 December 2008)
(in brackets - positions lost/gained since last week)
101 (0) Mirza, Sania
197 (0) Rao, Sunitha
365 (-3) Lakhani, Isha

61 (0) Mirza, Sania
221 (0) Rao, Sunitha
312 (+26) Uberoi, Shikha

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tennis Briefs - Somdev Devvarman training with Andy Roddick

The Press Trust of India, NEW DELHI: Indian Davis Cupper Somdev Devvarman is capping an eventful year with a 10-day training stint with American world number eight Andy Roddick. For more, click here

The Hindu, BANGALORE: Mahesh Bhupathi is hungry for more, now that he has clicked in a big way with his new partner, Mark Knowles of Bahamas in the 2008 season. For more, click here

The Times of India, BANGALORE: Sania Mirza, who until three months ago was struggling to grip a glass of water in her right hand, is back to striking her dreaded forehand with military firepower. For more, click here

The Press Trust of India, KOLKATA: Indian tennis ace Leander Paes has been elected as one of the seven vice-presidents of Bengal Tennis Association (BTA). For more, click here

ATP RANKINGS (8 December 2008)
(in brackets - positions lost/gained since last week)
204 (+1) Devvarman, Somdev
211 (0) Amritraj, Prakash
332 (-13) Bopanna, Rohan

6 (0) Bhupathi, Mahesh
10 (0) Paes, Leander
78 (0) Bopanna, Rohan

WTA RANKINGS (8 December 2008)
(in brackets - positions lost/gained since last week)
101 (0) Mirza, Sania
199 (+1) Rao, Sunitha
341 (+1) Lakhani, Isha

61 (0) Mirza, Sania
219 (+1) Rao, Sunitha

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tennis Briefs - Somdev Devvarman, Prakash Amritraj get wildcards for Chennai Open

The Times of India, MUMBAI: These are good times for Somdev Devvarman. Following his success of becoming the highest ranked Indian (201) on the ATP Tour, the 23-year-old has been given a wildcard for the singles main draw of the $450,000 Chennai Open. For more, click here

The Hindu, CHENNAI: IOCL's Rohan Bopanna served his way to the PSPB inter-unit tennis title, defeating defending champion Sunil Kumar Sipaya (IOCL) 6-4, 6-4 in the final at the SDAT Nungambakkam Stadium on Friday. For more, click here

The Press Trust of India, NEW DELHI: Indian junior tennis team remained unconquered to win gold medal at the inaugural Junior South Asian Tennis Championship, which concluded in Dhaka, Bangladesh recently. For more, click here

ATP RANKINGS (17 November 2008)
(in brackets - positions lost/gained since last week)
204 (-3) Devvarman, Somdev
210 (+4) Amritraj, Prakash
314 (+6) Bopanna, Rohan

6 (0) Bhupathi, Mahesh
10 (0) Paes, Leander
67 (-6) Bopanna, Rohan

WTA RANKINGS (17 November 2008)
(in brackets - positions lost/gained since last week)
99 (0) Mirza, Sania
205 (+1) Rao, Sunitha
298 (-6) Lakhani, Isha

61 (0) Mirza, Sania
227 (+2) Rao, Sunitha

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tennis Briefs - Somdev Devvarman loses in Nashville final

Indo-Asian News Service, NEW DELHI: India's Somdev Devvarman fought hard but could not stop local favourite Robert Kendrick from winning the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Nashville, US. For more, click here

The Press Trust of India, PUNE: Somdev Devvarman, country's newly-crowned number one singles player, will spearhead the Indian challenge at USD 1,00,000 Asia Cup -- a team event restricted only for Asian players -- to be held here from December 27. For more, click here

ATP RANKINGS (10 November 2008)
(in brackets - positions lost/gained since last week)
201 (+40) Devvarman, Somdev
214 (-1) Amritraj, Prakash
320 (0) Bopanna, Rohan

6 (0) Bhupathi, Mahesh
10 (0) Paes, Leander
61 (+1) Bopanna, Rohan

WTA RANKINGS (10 November 2008)
(in brackets - positions lost/gained since last week)
99 (0) Mirza, Sania
206 (0) Rao, Sunitha
292 (0) Lakhani, Isha

61 (+1) Mirza, Sania
229 (-25) Rao, Sunitha

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tennis Briefs - Paes, Bhupathi to take part in 2009 Chennai Open

The Hindu, CHENNAI: Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes confirmed on Monday that they would participate -- with their partners -- in the Chennai Open next year. For more, click here

Courier-Journal, LOUISVILLE: Prakash Amritraj and Jesse Levine defeated Frank Dancevic and Dusan Vemic 6-3, 7-6 (12-10) in the doubles final at the Ford Tennis Championships. For more, click here

The Press Trust of India, NEW DELHI: Yuki Bhambri stamped his authority in the Asia/Oceania zone by wining both the singles and doubles titles in the junior closed championship, which concluded in Indonesia on Sunday. For more, click here

ATP RANKINGS (3 November 2008)
(in brackets - positions lost/gained since last week)
213 (+1) Amritraj, Prakash
241 (-1) Devvarman, Somdev
320 (+3) Bopanna, Rohan

6 (+1) Bhupathi, Mahesh
10 (-2) Paes, Leander
62 (0) Bopanna, Rohan

WTA RANKINGS (3 November 2008)
(in brackets - positions lost/gained since last week)
99 (-2) Mirza, Sania
206 (0) Rao, Sunitha
292 (+27) Lakhani, Isha

62 (0) Mirza, Sania
204 (-45) Rao, Sunitha

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Tennis Briefs - Ratnika Batra wins women's National title

The Hindu, NEW DELHI: Ratnika Batra bounced back from an indifferent start to outplay Shweta Chandra Rana 6-3, 6-0 in the final of the DSCL National women's tennis championship at the DLTA Complex here on Saturday. For more, click here.

The Press Trust of India, MUMBAI: A bunch of players aged 45 and above, including former national-ranking singles players Mayur Vasant and Chetan Desai, will be seen in action in the GVK AISTA senior National Ranking Tennis tournament to be held at the Practennis courts in Andheri next month. For more, click here

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tennis Briefs - Bhupathi/Knowles qualify for ATP Tennis Masters Cup

The Press Trust of India, NEW DELHI: Indian ace Mahesh Bhupathi and his Bahamian partner Mark Knowles's final appearance at last week's Madrid Masters has booked the duo a berth in the season-ending prestigious Tennis Masters Cup to be held in Shanghai next month. For more, click here

The Press Trust of India, NEW DELHI: Forced to stay away from courts for almost half the season, a fit again Sania Mirza is eyeing a comeback at January's Classic tennis tournament in Hong Kong and revealed that she almost sunk into depression while struggling to recover from a wrist injury. For more, click here

The Times of India, BANGALORE: Sania Mirza is back on the tennis court, cracking forehands - pain free. Only two months ago, scenes of the big-hitting 21-year-old making a premature exit from the Olympic Games in a pool of tears were flashed from Beijing. Sania was frustrated as much by the physical pain as with the hopelessness of her situation. For more, click here

The Press Trust of India, NEW DELHI: Apollo Tyres on Tuesday reiterated that it would not show the details of its spending on the 'Mission 2018' project to anyone but refuted suggestions that the company was trying to take control of tennis in India. For more, click here

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Junior Davis Cup: India beat Brazil 2-1

(Match report from aitatennis.com)

(2)INDIA beat BRAZIL 2-1
SAN LUIS POTOSI, Mexico, Sept. 25: India justified its seeding with its win over Brazil, the Indian boys creating history to reach the semifinals. India topped Group D and meets 3rd seeded USA which topped Group C.

Both Saurabh and Yuki played excellent tennis to win their matches in spite of having lost the 1st set in their matches.

In the first singles, Saurabh had 2 break points on Henrique's serve in the 5th and 9th game but could not avail the opportunities. In the 10th game, Saurabh was serving 40-15, but with a missed drop shot and a double fault Saurabh lost the first set 4-6.

In the second set, Saurabh broke Henrique in the 3rd game and again broke in the 7th game. With 2 breaks in hand Saurabh was in command to take the set 6-2.

In the 3rd set, Saurabh broke Henrique in the 3rd, 5th and 7th game to wrap the set by 6-1.

2nd singles: Yuki started with a bang by breaking the Brazilian in the 1st game but could not retain his 1st serve. Both players were playing excellent tennis, Clezar hitting very deep and solid from base line ground strokes did not allow Yuki to make any variations and he broke Yuki in the 6th game and won the 1st set by 6-3.

In the second set Yuki was confident and mixed up his game with surprise drop shots and heavy top spin on opponent's backhand and played at net and did not allow Clezar to get his rhythm and broke his serves in the 4th and 6th game to win the set by 6-1.

In the 3rd set, Clezar was depressed with his game and Yuki broke him in the 1st game, with another break in the 5th game, Yuki was in command and produced excellent strokes to win the set and match by 6-1 and this led India going to semifinals probably for the first time.

In the doubles match, India was represented by Saurabh Singh and SV Abhishek to play with Brazilians and fought very well, Indian pair was leading 5-3 in the 1st set but Saurabh could not hold his serve to take the set and the Brazilian pair recovered soon to win the set in tie breaker.

The second set was again interesting but the Indian combination was not good enough to match the consistent Brazilian pair and lost the set again in a tie-breaker.

India plays semifinals with USA which has a very balanced team with ITF ranking 112 Evan King and Denis Kudla at 138. It is going to be an interesting tie and Indian players are confident to give their best tomorrow.

Saurabh Singh beat Henrique Tsukamoto 4-6,6-2,6-1
Yuki Bhambri beat Guilherme Clezar 3-6,6-1,6-1
Saurabh Singh/Abhishek Sakleshpu Venkata lost to Henrique Tsukamoto/Tiago Fernandes 6-7(6),6-7(5)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Junior Davis Cup: India beat Great Britain 2-1

(Match report from aitatennis.com)

(2)INDIA beat (8)GREAT BRITAIN 2-1
SAN LUIS POTOSI, Mexico, Sept. 24-25: Yuki Bhambri once again played the role of a saviour as he won both his singles and doubles matches to help India beat Great Britain 2-1 in the rain-interrupted Group D league match in the Junior Davis Cup finals.

The Indian team, aiming for its first Davis Cup crown, is now one win away from booking a berth in the semifinals.

It must beat Brazil in the next league match to make the last four grade.

The Indian team of Yuki and Saurabh Singh beat Ashley Hewitt and George Morgan 6-4,7-6 to seal the tie, which was locked 1-1 after the singles matches.

The doubles match had been stopped due to heavy rains when the Indian pair was trailing 5-6 in the second set.

Yuki trounced James Marsalek 6-1, 6-0 in the second singles to bring India back in the tie after Saurabh had lost the opening singles to Ashley Hewitt 4-6,7-6(5),4-6.

Saurabh Singh lost to Ashley Hewitt 4-6,7-6(5),4-6
Yuki Bhambri beat James Marsalek 6-1,6-0
Yuki Bhambri/Saurabh Singh beat Ashley Hewitt/George Morgan 6-4,7-6(6)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Junior Davis Cup: India beat Mexico 2-1

(Match report from aitatennis.com)

(2)INDIA beat MEXICO 2-1
SAN LUIS POTOSI, Mexico, Sept. 23: In the first match, Saurabh Singh started with conviction and broke his opponent in the 2nd game, takes a lead 2-0 early.

After that he lost the momentum and nothing worked for him after that, he was not been able to hit the ball with confidence. Alexis took the advantage of his low confidence and never allowed him to equal the deficit. Which cost him the match and India was down 0-1.

In the second singles match, Yuki was broken in the first game and it seemed that he will not recover from it, but quickly the pendulum swung in India's favour as he broke back his opponent.

Yuki could not hold his serve again and went down 1-4, he was adjusting to the court conditions and produced good backhands and serves and took the set 7-5, after that it was no looking back for him and he won his match easily. Which bring back India in the race with 1-1.

Everything was depending now on the doubles match, and the supporters for India were hoping that they will win.

As expected, Indian boys dominated from the beginning and won the set 6-1, It was looking that both Yuki/Saurabh were desperate to win it and they proved it by winning eight games without a break in serve.

In the ninth game they were down 0-40, but they managed to get all the three points and managed to deuce and then won it, In the 10th game Yuki's started to serve to win for the match, but a 40-30 he missed the opportunity to finish up the things and held in deuce, but that was just the matter of time and finally he managed to win points with serving big. India won 2-1 over the Mexicans.

India will play the loser of the match between Brazil and Great Britain.

Saurabh Singh lost to Alexis Carlos 4-6,2-6
Yuki Bhambri beat Fernando Larrea 7-5,6-1
Yuki Bhambri/Saurabh Singh beat Alexis Carlos/Daniel Fernandez 6-1,6-4

(Official Photo by Sergio Llamera)

Monday, September 22, 2008

For India, so near, and yet so far

It is often said that anything is possible in Davis Cup, but in Bucharest the form guide held up to scrutiny. Host nation Romania entered its World Group Play-off against India as firm favourites, with a substantial edge in terms of rankings and clay court experience.

This would, in the end, prove enough to keep them in the World Group for another year – even if, as expected, India's ever-reliable doubles stars, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, came up with the goods in the doubles rubber for the umpteenth time.

"Of course we are happy, although we expected this," smiled Romanian captain Adrian Marcu at the completion of the tie. "I said three days ago it would be 4-1, and it was 4-1."

He added: "The Indian players have a lot of experience of playing on grass courts or hard courts, whereas our players spend at least 70% of their careers on clay. It's a bit of a different game and that was a big advantage for us."

But while the Romanians began the final day's play with a 2-1 lead, the scenario could have been quite different.

In losing the opening singles rubber on Friday to the local No. 2, Victor Crivoi, Indian No. 1 Prakash Amritraj did well to win the second set from behind – but he had also been ahead in the first set before losing it.

With a two-set lead, the 24-year-old's swashbuckling serve and volley strategy might have kept Crivoi off balance long enough to secure a momentum-changing win.

Victor Hanescu, the Romanian No. 1, would still have been too strong for Tour newcomer Somdev Devvarman, but given the closeness of the dead rubber between Devvarman and Crivoi on Sunday afternoon – Devvarman served for the match at 5-3 in the second set, only to wake up when trailing 0-5 in the third – a live Devvarman-Crivoi rubber on the first day might have cast a different light on proceedings.

Indian singles: work in progress

All of this is moot, of course, leaving captain Shiv Prakash Misra, himself a former Davis Cup player, to ponder the challenges of building up his side’s strength in singles.

Devvarman, a rookie at 23, clearly knows that although he has improved his ranking by 800 places in the last four months, it will only get harder from now on, while Amritraj, who turns 25 next month, had never before played on clay at this level.

"I think Leander and Mahesh are going to be around for quite some time," Misra said of his thirty something doubles stalwarts, who are the fourth most successful Davis Cup pairing in history (in winning Saturday’s doubles rubber, Paes actually moved to equal second place on the list of individual doubles wins, at 35-9, and third outright in overall wins, at 83-31).

"They are still fit and genuinely committed to the team. But with four singles and one doubles ties, winning the doubles is not enough."

A dignified gentleman who was coerced by his players into singing the Indian national anthem at the official dinner as a means of initiation, added: "When you’ve got a team of four with two specialist doubles players it's tough. But I think with time Prakash and Somdev are going to improve. They are going to learn how to last five sets and to close out a match at the right time, and they are going to be serving their country for a long time."

Romanian prospects

It's back to the Asia/Oceania zonal competition for India, Romania has kept its treasured place in the World Group.

The team could be forgiven for hoping their first round opponents aren't of a Gallic inclination, having fallen to France at the first hurdle in each of the past two years.

Like Misra, captain Marcu has a blend of experience to work with; 27-year-old Hanescu is undoubtedly at the core of the team, but Crivoi, whose Davis Cup record before this weekend was a drubbing at the hands of Korea’s Hyung-Taik Lee in 2006, has clearly shifted gears as well.

"I could have let one of the other players play the dead rubber but I wanted the experience," the 26-year-old said after his comeback win over Devvarman. "I feel great – it has given me a lot of confidence."

Furthermore, with Romanian legend Ilie Nastase watching on from the stands, the country's doubles team of Adrian Cruciat and Horia Tecau put on a boisterous display against Bhupathi and Paes. While they were let down by loose shots at key moments, their performance augured well for the future.

"Yes, that was a little bit unexpected, because it was their first Davis Cup match and it was against two great players," Marcu admitted. "They had their chances, were a break ahead in the first set and a break ahead in the second set, so they put a good match together. Hopefully we can develop them into a great team."

(Official report from the Davis Cup website)

(Official Photos by Robert Ghement)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Somdev Devvarman in Davis Cup spotlight

It may be the biggest test yet of his fledgling tennis career but Somdev Devvarman is oozing confidence ahead of India's crucial Davis Cup World Group playoff tie against Romania this weekend.

The 23-year-old Devvarman, India's next big tennis hope, told the Indian Tennis Blog he hoped to give the tie his best shot.

On the eve of the Davis Cup tie against Romania, how confident do you feel of India's victory?
I feel like India is very prepared for this tie. We are all playing good tennis right now and we're looking forward to some great matches this weekend.

Do you feel you are in the best form possible for this tie?
I definitely feel like I'm playing some great tennis right now. I wouldn't say my best yet but let's hope it comes out when I really need it this weekend.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Prajnesh Gunneswaran sets sights on ATP Top 100

And this Chennai lad may soon get there, given how much Prajnesh Gunneswaran has gained from stints at the Spain Tennis Academy in Barcelona under the tutelage of Jonathan Stubbs.

The 18-year-old made tennis fans happy by making it to the semifinals of the $15,000 Futures event in New Delhi last week, the only Indian to do so.

Bigger names like Sunil Kumar Sipaeya had fallen by the wayside. And Gunneswaran himself accounted for Ashutosh Singh in the opening round.

It was sweet revenge -- Singh had prevailed in the final of the DSCL National Tennis Championship last year. Giant-killing Gunneswaran had been the surprise finalist then but consoled himself with a title in the Under-18 event.

This time around, Gunneswaran overpowered Singh in three tight sets and went on to beat second seed Yuichi Sugita of Japan in the quarterfinal. He did come unstuck against Pakistan's Aqeel Khan in the semis but by then his performance had brought him in the limelight.

"The mental aspect is very important for me as I have enough standard to play at a much higher standard than my ranking suggests," Gunneswaran told the Indian Tennis Blog before flying back to Spain.

"But some things let me down like my tactical indiscipline and impatience."

They are flaws Gunneswaran is working on in his quest to crack the ATP Top 100, a goal he thinks he can achieve "within the next couple of years".

The 18-year-old is currently ranked 1303 on the ATP list but will move closer to the Top 1000 when the rankings are updated on Monday.

Gunneswaran has had an amazing run over the past two months - a Futures quarterfinal in Spain (after three qualifying round wins), a win at the Catalan Federation Men's Open (see pic and video) and the Futures semis in New Delhi.

Dreams of a hometown win at the Chennai Futures in early September were shattered with a straight-set opening round loss to second seed Alexey Kedryuk of Kazakhstan, but Gunneswaran was happy he gave it his best shot.

"It was only one break each set and I had chances to break too. Kedryuk is much more experienced than me and he showed that by winning the big points," he said.

"I was happy to bounce back from that and do well in Delhi."

Up next for Gunneswaran are three Spain Futures events in successive weeks, starting with the one in Barcelona on October 6.

VIDEO: Watch Gunneswaran in action

$15,000 INDIA F7 FUTURES, New Delhi
(September 8 - 14, 2008)

Men's Singles Semifinal
Prajnesh Gunneswaran lost to (7)Aqeel Khan(PAK) 3-6,2-6
beat (2)Yuichi Sugita(JPN) 7-6(4),6-4
Round 2
beat (WC)Ronak Manuja 6-4,6-2
Round 1
beat (5)Ashutosh Singh 7-6(5),4-6,7-6(7)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

U.S. Open Interview - Leander Paes and Cara Black

(Transcribed interview with 2008 Mixed Doubles champions Leander Paes and Cara Black from the U.S. Open website)

Congratulations to both of you. Just one after the other, tell me how you felt. Tell me how you saved a few set points in the first set.
CARA BLACK: Yeah, it was really tough today. It was tough for me coming out to play against Liezel, I think that was really tough, but, you know, Leander was so good with me, and he was just calmed me a lot, and, you know, said he's got my back at all times, and there was nothing better for him to have said. So that was great.

Leander, are you guys going to continue the collaboration? Have you thought about that?
LEANDER PAES: Yes, we actually talked about it before we even started this week, that we're going to play together all of next year.
For me, no matter what the result this week would have been, I would stick with Cara and play with her through the year.
The real joy for me to find a partner like her is to find someone who's positive, who's professional, and no matter what the score is is giving her best effort.
Today, really, I think she won the match for us. At 6‑4 in the tiebreak, she made an unbelievable reflex volley to break the guy's serve at 6‑5, and then at 6‑5 on the second serve I couldn't get to the ball, and she made another unbelievable forehand volley up the line, and Jamie took it a little easy on us. He tried to play a topspin volley instead of putting it away.
So I think at that stage, Cara really broke back and won that set for us. And to play with her is a treat, you know. I think that being our first week, we figured each other's games out. She knows she's got to do everything. I just have to sit and watch.
CARA BLACK: That's a lie.

Who came to see the other? Who made the first move to try to play?
CARA BLACK: We both have been talking about ‑‑ yeah, it was a pretty mutual, coming together. I think Leander had spoken to my husband, and, yeah, they've kind of been talking on and off.
LEANDER PAES: He played hard to get.
CARA BLACK: He's very protective.

You were talking about it a few days ago that you found a new‑found motivation, your two‑and‑a‑half year‑old daughter. In the back of your mind, you still play for her, but do you think now that you're chasing that only title that you don't have that has alluded you now, the Australian Open doubles champion in men's? Is it in the back of your mind?
LEANDER PAES: You know, today it was in the back of my mind that I hadn't won this one. I've been in two finals here. I was match point up in one of them with Lisa Raymond many years ago, and today I woke up this morning with a purpose.
I woke up this morning really fired up, and when I came out to practice, I just said to Cara, you know ‑‑ I knew she's always got my back, and that's the great thing about her. I needed to let her to know that I've got her back.
Whether it's the US Open, Australian Open, French Open, it doesn't matter. I've always got her back. I've won the Australian twice. I've won Wimbledon twice. Never won the French. I've been in the finals there. That's the only Grand Slam I haven't won yet, and I hope Cara and myself can do that next year.

The men's doubles in Australia, you've never won it?
LEANDER PAES: No, I haven't won that. No.

Should you win those titles that have alluded you, how do you call it, a Super Grand Slam?
LEANDER PAES: Call it what you want. It's just another tournament for me.
CARA BLACK: Career Slam.
LEANDER PAES: At 35, I'm just blessed to have such a great career. I'm blessed to have a team of people who we all enjoy ourselves: Cara's husband, Moose, is a great motivation. The few things he tells us when we go out to play makes a big difference, like in the quarterfinals and the semifinals, to have a partner like her, to have my team there, the guys all over just supporting our team.
This is our life. This is what we kind of live every single day. So it's just you guys that report the big tournaments but even when we play the small tournaments, it's about going there and having fun and giving our hearts out every time we play, and that's what life's about for me.

Are you going to practice in your off‑season together at your own location, or ‑‑ are you going to practice...
CARA BLACK: We haven't thought about that.
LEANDER PAES: We might think of that.

One more question to you: How far do you still want to play? I mean, you talked about it...
LEANDER PAES: It's fairly simple for me. If I wake up 31 days in a row in the morning and I feel like I don't enjoy this game, I'll stop on the 32nd day. That's always been the way for me.

You were in the first tiebreaker first set, you were down 3‑5. You made a great volley to 4‑5, 5‑6, 6‑6, 7‑6. How was the feeling after you made a great shot?
CARA BLACK: It was amazing to pull that set out. I think I struggled to put quite a few returns in.
Leander was great. He was getting it back for me all the time, but we just got down that one break and that mini break in the tiebreak, but ‑‑ yeah, it was ‑‑ it was all reaction, you know.
After coming through, after being ‑‑ what was it? 6‑4? Yeah, 6‑4 down. To pull that through that set when you just didn't expect it was amazing and really gave us a huge lift.

How does it feel to have, on the other side of the court, your doubles partner?
LEANDER PAES: Leander is amazing. You're not going to find anyone with quicker hands and such magic flying around that court. It's such a joy to play with him.
No, I think we are ‑‑ I'm very blessed to have him there by my side.

So mixed doubles, doubles. Do you prefer ‑‑ any preference?
CARA BLACK: They're totally different, you know. But, yeah, I do prefer mixed, because then Leander can do all the work.
LEANDER PAES: She says she's playing with two girls

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sania Mirza to miss US Open

Sania Mirza's wrist injury has forced her to miss the 2008 US Open, the final Grand Slam of the year, which starts next week.

"I've always done well at the US Open and it is very disappointing for me to miss a Grand Slam on my favourite surface due to my wrist injury," India's top woman player said in a statement.

Mirza, 21, has struggled to come to terms with her game since undergoing wrist surgery and has been advised complete rest for an initial period of 3 weeks.

The injury also forced her to retire in her first round match at the Beijing Olympics. Mirza first injured her wrist during the Indian Wells tournament in March, necessitating a surgery in Miami the following month.

Mirza dropped out of the Top 40 in July and is currently ranked 63 in the world.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Maiden ATP doubles crown for Rohan Bopanna

Rohan Bopanna won his maiden ATP doubles crown on Sunday, his first from five appearances in a final, when he partnered American Eric Butorac to beat Travis Parrott and Dusan Vemic 7-6(5), 7-6(5) at the Countrywide Classic in Los Angeles.

Last month, 28-year-old Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan reached the final at Newport. His three other final round appearances were all on home soil in 2006 and 2007.

With the win, Bopanna moved up 10 places to 44 in the ATP doubles rankings, within striking distance of the career-high ranking of 43 he achieved last month.

Bopanna now heads for the $508,000 Legg Mason Classic in Washington DC where he teams up again with regular partner Qureshi.

Somdev Devvarman represents India in the singles event, after battling through three rounds of qualifying. In the final round of qualifying, Devvarman beat Japan's Go Soeda 7-5,7-5. Soeda had brought the Indian's unbeaten streak as a pro player to an end in the Vancouver Open quarterfinals last month.

(Photo: ATP website)

$475,000 COUNTRYWIDE CLASSIC, Los Angeles
(August 4 -10, 2008)
Men's Singles Qualifying Round 1
Rohan Bopanna lost to (6)Woong-Sun Jun(KOR) 4-6,2-6

Men's Doubles Final
Rohan Bopanna/Eric Butorac(USA) beat Travis Parrott(US)/Dusan Vemic(SRB) 7-6(5),7-6(5)
beat Juan Martin Del Potro(ARG)/Fabio Fognini(ITA) 7-6(4),4-6,10-5
beat (2)Scott Lipsky(US)/David Martin(US) 6-4,6-4
Round 1
beat (WC)Johan Brunstrom(SWE)/Jean-Julien Rojer(AHO) 6-3,1-6,10-3

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Stephen Amritraj, Mustafa Ghouse pair up for Europe summer

Stephen Amritraj, the lesser-known Amritraj in contemporary tennis, is partnering Mustafa Ghouse in doubles events for the rest of the European summer.

While the Indian contingent (Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Sania Mirza and Sunitha Rao) start their Olympic campaign on August 11, Stephen and Mustafa will be pairing up at a challenger in Istanbul and then playing the Italy challengers in Manerbio and Como the following weeks.

"Musty and I are pretty much best friends and have a lot in common including good results together. We believe that the way to do it is to stick with one partner so we have given it this summer in Europe together," Amritraj told the Indian Tennis Blog.

Last month, he reached the doubles semifinals of Challenger tournaments at Rimini (with Mustafa Ghouse) and Medjugorje (with Matwe Middelkoop).

Getting good results in doubles means Stephen ends up missing singles qualifiers for the following week's events, thus forcing him to put his singles career on the backburner.

"I want to play singles when I can, but it isn't my top priority right now just because of goals and financial status," the 24-year-old said.

While cousin Prakash is currently India's highest-ranked tennis player, Stephen is ranked a lowly 1622 (as on July 28) in singles. But he's ranked 285 in doubles, 44 rungs short of a career-high he achieved in November 2007.

Last year, Stephen won four doubles trophies -- at the Kaohsiung challenger in Taiwan and three Futures events. At the very least, he'll have to match that performance to move into the Top 200.

It won't be easy, considering Stephen is yet to salvage his career from a clutch of injuries sustained over the years.

On February 16, 2003, while still a student at Duke University, Amritraj injured his knee while playing Mark Henderson. Rehabilitation after surgery forced him off the courts for three months.

Two years later, during his last match at college, Stephen tore ligaments in his knee. The result -- more time spent at the hospital.

"I have had three surgeries on my knees...and this has hampered my movement on slippery surfaces and has hurt in long, grinding matches," Amritraj said.

In May this year, just before the Carson challenger in the US, Stephen took a fall and broke it with his left hand, injuring his wrist.

"Basically played a whole month with just a one-handed chip backhand. I took a cortisone shot and went to Europe but after eight weeks, it's worn off so I have needed rest and therapy from time to time," he said.

That's also one of the reasons he won't be playing anywhere the coming week.

Amritraj, who grew up in the Californian city of Calabasas, is skipping both the challenger events in New Delhi, a decision he arrived at after changing his mind "at least four times each week".

"(I was) pretty much expecting to win both and nothing less, especially the second one because no one will stick around for doubles and my record last year against other Indians was something like 27-3."

After losing their opening match at the Graz challenger in Austria, Stephen and Mustafa opted to take a fortnight off before they rejoin the Tour in Istanbul.

Karan Rastogi to resume playing Tour events in 2009
Somdev Devvarman wins at Lexington, his fourth title in a row
May take Sania Mirza weeks to get back killer forehand
Somdev Devvarman misses out on ACC player honour

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Karan Rastogi to resume playing Tour events in 2009

India's Karan Rastogi, his promising tennis career laid low by recurring back problems, will attempt a comeback on the Tour early next year.

Rastogi, 21, underwent surgery in Melbourne last week after staying off the tennis courts for almost two months.

"The surgery went off exactly as planned, the surgeon was very happy with the result. I have been discharged already and have been walking around quite a bit," Rastogi told the Indian Tennis Blog on Tuesday.

"Planning on returning to the Tour (in) January or February 2009 but all that depends on the physio and surgeon and how fast I recover," he said.

Back problems have been Rastogi's bane in the past year, noticeably at the Mumbai Open in September, and continued to affect his game and confidence as his ATP ranking plummeted nearly 300 places in recent months.

As a junior, Rastogi was hailed as India's best tennis hope since Leander Paes but a successful transition to men's tennis was no easy task.

His career-best ranking of 327, which he achieved as a 19-year-old in June 2006, is a milestone Rastogi looked set to beat when he won the Morocco F5 Futures claycourt tournament in July last year.

But the Mumbai resident has enjoyed only sporadic success since -- semifinal placings at the $15,000 TCL Futures in Taizhou(China) in April and the $15,000 Meshref Futures in Kuwait the following month.

Although he picked up two doubles titles in China and Korea in April, back problems again forced him to miss the two New Delhi Challengers in May.

Rastogi gifted Australia's Miles Armstrong a walkover victory in the Kuwait semifinal and hasn't played professionally since.

Chances of him coming back to the tennis court this year are bleak -- the recovery process will keep him in Melbourne for a couple of months.

"I won't be able to get back to practice for at least another two months or so I think," Rastogi said.

With Somdev Devvarman having usurped Rastogi's place as upcoming tennis great and teenager Yuki Bhambri fast catching up, the world number 718 (as on July 28) has a hard task at hand.

But no one can take Karan Rastogi for granted. After all, he might just spring some surprises next year.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Somdev Devvarman wins at Lexington, his fourth title in a row

Winning one tennis tournament is hard enough, winning four on the trot may seem impossible. But not for Somdev Devvarman.

The reigning NCAA champion picked up his fourth consecutive title from as many tournaments when he beat American Robert Kendrick in the final of the Lexington Challenger on Sunday.

Devvarman prevailed 6-3, 6-3 to win the $50,000 event, his biggest triumph yet -- one that may vault him 200 places into the Top 350 when the ATP ranking list is released on Monday. (Update: Devvarman rose from 566 to 345)

The 23-year-old Indian lost just two sets the entire week -- in his upset win over second seed Bobby Reynolds in Round 2 and his opening match in the qualifiers. In all, he came through eight matches to win his first Challenger title.

Devvarman has remained unbeaten on the pro tour since passing out of the University of Virginia in May -- with trophies at the $10,000 Buffalo Bills tournament in Rochester, the $10,000 Futures event in Pittsburgh, New York's Kennedy Funding Invitational and now at Lexington.

Currently ranked 566 on the ATP list, the lanky Indian beat Top-100 players Sam Querrey and Dudi Sela in New York before beating number 92 Reynolds this week.

(July 21 - 27, 2008)
Men's Singles Final
Somdev Devvarman beat (3)Robert Kendrick(USA) 6-3,6-3

beat Xavier Malisse(BEL) 4-1 (retired)
beat Andrea Stoppini(ITA) 7-6(6),6-1
Round 2
(2)Bobby Reynolds(US) 6-7(4),7-5,6-4
Round 1
beat Jamie Baker(GB) 7-5,6-2
Qualifying Round 3

beat (7)Jose Statham(NZ) 6-2,6-2

Round 2
beat Marcus Fugate(USA) 6-0,6-0

Round 1
beat (3)Takao Suzuki(JPN) 6-2,2-6,7-6(7)

Devvarman now heads to Vancouver to try and continue his unbeaten streak at the $100,000 Odlum Brown Open -- a feat that will surely make his Top-100 peers sit up and take notice.

In a poll conducted by the Indian Tennis Blog in December, 48 per cent picked Devvarman as the "Indian player to watch out for in 2008".

(Photos from Lexington tournament website)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

May take Sania Mirza weeks to get back killer forehand

When Sania Mirza embarks on a quest for Olympic glory in August, even the prayers of a billion Indians may not be enough to see her through.

The golden girl of Indian tennis hasn't quite regained the form that took her to number 27 in the WTA rankings in August 2007. But it's not just a question of finding her rhythm.

After wrist surgery in April this year, Sania only returned to the Tour a fortnight before Wimbledon. And her forehand, considered one of the best in the game, is no longer the formidable weapon it used to be.

That's something even Sania's father and mentor Imran Mirza admits.

"I think Sania is still not playing at the level she was at before the injury. Basically, she still does not have the awesome power and control in her forehand that made her a top 30 player," Mirza told the Indian Tennis Blog on Sunday.

The vagaries of the ranking points system have ensured that Sania stays in the Top 40(Update: She fell 15 spots to number 50 on Monday) but the truth is the 21-year-old hasn't won consecutive matches in the five events she played since her comeback.

Imran Mirza urges patience.

"I think it may take a few more weeks or even months before she gets that venom back in her forehand although it is gradually improving."

"However, her fitness level and other aspects of the game have improved considerably although these are not good enough without her world-class forehand to win consistently at the highest level."

That's certainly not good news for those hoping for a medal-winning run from Sania at the Beijing Olympics. But there's hope yet in the women's doubles event, where she partners Sunitha Rao.

Currently in Stockholm for the $145,000 Nordea Nordic Light Open, Sania will return to India for a few days before proceeding to Beijing. After the Olympics, she'll rush to the United States for the $600,000 Pilot Pen event in New Haven, a week before the U.S. Open kicks off on August 25.

But Mirza senior knows it may be some time before Sania can live up to fans' expectations and start winning more matches.

"We need to be patient with her game as of now."

Friday, July 25, 2008

Somdev Devvarman misses out on ACC player honour

Reigning NCAA tennis champion Somdev Devvarman of India has missed out on the 2008 Atlantic Coast Conference Male Athlete of the Year honour, finishing eight votes behind eventual winner basketball player Tyler Hansbrough.

The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) is a collegiate athletic league in the United States. Founded in 1953, the ACC's 12 member universities compete in twenty sports in the NCAA Division I.

Of the 67 members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association who determined the winner, 20 voted for Devvarman. Baseball player Buster Posey was third with 12 votes.

As the league’s top male performer, Hansbrough was announced the winner of the Anthony J. McKevlin Award on Tuesday.

Somdev Devvarman, 23, passed out of the University of Virginia in May and has started his pro career on a winning note with victories at the $10,000 Buffalo Bills tournament in Rochester, the $10,000 Futures event in Pittsburgh and New York's Kennedy Funding Invitational.

Devvarman, currently ranked 566 on the ATP list, beat Top-100 players Sam Querrey and Dudi Sela in New York.

This week, he beat number 92 Bobby Reynolds in the $50,000 ATP Challenger event in Lexington, USA.

In a poll conducted by the Indian Tennis Blog in December, 48 per cent picked Devvarman as the "Indian player to watch out for in 2008".

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi crash out at Indianapolis

Top seeds Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes squandered a matchpoint to lose to Daniel Nestor and Frederic Niemeyer of Canada 4-6, 6-3, 10-12 in the first round of the $525,000 Indianapolis Tennis Championships on Wednesday.

The Indian Express were making only their second ATP main draw appearance together since 2004, trying to get some match practice ahead of their quest for Olympic gold at Beijing next month. The duo had reached the Ordina Open final in the Netherlands in June.

Bhupathi and Paes could again face ATP Doubles ranking leader Nestor and Niemeyer at the Olympics as the duo will be representing Canada in Beijing.

On Wednesday, Nestor and Niemeyer held triple match point at 9-6 in the match tie-break but Bhupathi and Paes leveled the score at 9-all and then took the 10-9 lead. The Canadians responded by winning the next three points to prevail against the No. 1 seeds in one hour and 25 minutes.

Bhupathi and Paes have a 217-79 career record as a pair. They have won 23 titles together but now play with separate partners on the ATP Tour.

Earlier, Rohan Bopanna teamed up with Pakistan's Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi to defeat No. 4 seeds Igor Kunitsyn and Dmitry Tursunov 2-6, 7-5, 10-6.

Bopanna was ranked a career-high 43 in the ATP doubles list on Monday thanks to an appearance in the final at Newport last week.

(Watch Bhupathi and Paes speak of their chances at the Beijing Olympics in this interview to ATP)

Monday, June 30, 2008

Twin triumph for Somdev Dev Varman at Rochester

Wimbledon 2008 may have ended early for some of India's tennis stars but across the Atlantic Ocean a lanky 23-year-old proved just why he is the country's next big tennis hope.

On Sunday, Somdev Dev Varman won both the singles and doubles titles at the $10,000 Buffalo Bills tournament in Rochester. The double NCAA champion had been playing his first professional tournament since passing out of the University of Virginia last month.

And the victory, his second Futures title on US soil this year, was especially sweet -- the eighth seed breezed through his five matches in straight sets. In fact, his first two opponents couldn't win a single game.

After he beat American Alexander Domijan 6-2, 6-2 in the singles final, Dev Varman was back on court with college mate Treat Huey, eking out a 6-1,4-6,12-10 win over Americans Bryan Koniecko and Justin Kronauge to claim the doubles title.

Dev Varman, currently ranked 797 on the ATP list, is expected to soar up the rankings thanks to his performance at Rochester and also possibly at the Futures Tournament in Pittsburgh, where he's playing this week.

Dev Varman won the NCAA championship in May for the second year running -- the first Indian to triumph at the premier American collegiate event and emulate the likes of John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Arthur Ashe. See INTERVIEW (Oct 2007)

In a poll conducted by the Indian Tennis Blog in December, 48 per cent picked Dev Varman as the "Indian player to watch out for in 2008".

In Ireland, Harsh Mankad was a match away from returning to the winner's circle once again, but a 3-6,4-6 loss to second seed Conor Niland of Ireland put paid to his hopes.

The 28-year-old, making a slow comeback to the Tour after injuries, had earlier upset the top and third seeds at the $15,000 Futures at Limerick.

Another name missing out on tennis action this month was Karan Rastogi. Back problems are becoming Rastogi's bane and the 21-year-old is finding it a challenge just to keep fit.

"I'm in Australia getting it treated so might be out for a little longer," the 609-ranked Rastogi told the Indian Tennis Blog.

Back at Wimbledon, a quick exit in both men's and mixed doubles events finds Mahesh Bhupathi preparing for tournaments in the United States.

Leander Paes and Sania Mirza still survive (as of now) in their respective doubles events but the 2008 grasscourt Grand Slam hasn't been too kind to Indians.

(Photo of Somdev Dev Varman: from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)
(Photo of Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi: from Wimbledon.org)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Wimbledon 2008 starts with four Indians in focus

Sania Mirza, Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna are in action at Wimbledon this week although it's tough to predict whether any of them will survive till the second week of the grasscourt Grand Slam.

Prakash Amritraj and Sunitha Rao crashed out in the second round of singles qualifying but two other Indians - Yuki Bhambri and Poojashree Venkatesh - will also be battling it out in the junior events.

Mirza, returning from a long break after wrist surgery, will be hoping to better her previous showing at Wimbledon -- reaching the second round in 2005 and 2007.

She's played two tournaments since rejoining the WTA tour and her performance hasn't been exactly impressive.

But the number 32 seed has a slightly easier draw at Wimbledon this year and her most formidable opponent should be defending champion Venus Williams in the third round.

Beating Venus on grass would seem impossible for the Indian number one but Mirza should be more than happy if she makes the elder Williams sweat it out over three sets on Centre Court.

As usual, there's no representation from India in the men's singles - although Bopanna would have been a good bet to make it through the qualifiers, had he played them. But a low ranking forced him to miss the Grand Slam this year. Last week, Bopanna replaced Amritraj as India's number one and hopefully he should be around for the U.S. Open qualifiers.

Bopanna, 28, will be making his debut at Wimbledon in the men's doubles with Pakistan's Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi.

Mahesh Bhupathi is recovering from a few injuries of his own and it remains to be seen if he and Mark Knowles, seeded fourth here, can recapture the form that saw them bag two doubles titles earlier this year.

Leander Paes, who turned 35 last week, seems to be in better form after breaking his lacklustre partnership with Australian Paul Hanley. The Kolkatan partnered Bhupathi to the Ordina Open final last week and reached the Halle final with Czech player Lukas Dlouhy in their first outing. Paes and Dlouhy are seeded ninth here.

This week, Indian tennis fans will also be keeping an eye on the USA F15 Futures in Rochester where double NCAA champion Somdev Dev Varman is playing his first professional match since leaving college.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Sania Mirza says road to total recovery tough

Sania Mirza's loss in her comeback match at the DFS Classic at Birmingham this week suggests that India's number one tennis player may need some more time to return to top form after undergoing wrist surgery.

Marina Erakovic is no pushover. After all, she won the Surbiton event last week. But Mirza's straight-set loss to the Kiwi player was still surprising.

"There is some pain in the wrist when I play particular strokes and there are still a few movements that I find difficult," Mirza told the Indian Tennis Blog via email.

"I hope to get back soon to the level I was playing at before the injury but the road to total recovery is going to be longer than I thought."

Coming just two weeks before Wimbledon, it wasn't quite the start the 21-year-old was looking forward to on her return to the WTA Tour after three months of inactivity.

To top it all, Mirza might just miss getting seeded for the premier tennis Grand Slam after slipping to 33 in the WTA rankings.

Mirza and her American partner Bethanie Mattek also lost in their doubles opener at Birmingham.

"Even though Sania's recovery has been swift, her wrist will still need some time to adapt to and to generate high intensity power in high pressured match situations," Mirza's trainer and physiotherapist Renuka Pinto said.

"The only way this can be achieved is by allowing the wrist to be exposed to match situations in a phased manner."

Monday, June 9, 2008

No French luck for Indians, moving on to grass now

No luck at the 2008 French Open for India. Even Mahesh Bhupathi, the only player from the country to survive the first week, was forced to concede his mixed doubles semifinal after injuring his calf muscle.

Will this affect his chances at events in the run-up to Wimbledon?

"Hopefully not" was all that the doubles specialist told The Indian Tennis Blog.

Bhupathi, who turned 34 on Saturday, is partnering Rohan Bopanna at the Artois Championship in London this week.

Arch rival Leander Paes (that's still how the media describes the split halves of the Indian Express) continues his not-so-old partnership with Czech player Lukas Dlouhy at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle.

Playing together for the first time, the duo put up a decent show at Roland Garros, losing to eventual champions Horna and Cuevas in the pre-quarterfinals.

Even tennis prodigy Yuki Bhambri stumbled in his opening encounter of the boys' singles. Was India's next tennis hope, so impressive in his run to the semifinals of the Australian Open in January, a no-show on clay courts?

The 15-year-old didn't think so and that's what he told the Indian Tennis Blog after his early ouster.

"I'm fit and fine. I think it was just lack of match practice cause I don't feel that there is anything wrong with my game right now but unfortunately I also ran into some very good clay court players. I played before in Europe on numerous occasions and I can definitely play on clay."
This week's tennis spotlight will be on Sania Mirza when she makes her long-awaited comeback after wrist surgery at the DFS Classic in Birmingham.

Sunitha Rao made it a double delight with a superb show in the qualifying rounds and a hard-fought main draw victory to join Mirza in the second round. The Indian number one enjoyed a bye in her first match.

Away from the media glare, Prakash Amritraj and Rohan Bopanna clashed in the final qualifier round at Surbiton. Bopanna emerged the winner - a sign that perhaps he is once again ready to don the mantle of being India's best men's player, an honour he lost to Amritraj earlier this year.

Harsh Mankad had another disappointment at the Yuba City Challenger, though his 0-6,1-6 loss in the opening round was at least understandable since he was playing the second seed. Also down on his luck is Stephen Amritraj, the lesser known of the two Amritraj cousins, who has been struggling with his doubles game for some time now.

Back problems are also becoming Karan Rastogi's bane and the 21-year-old might find it a challenge just to keep fit.

"I am scheduled to play in Iran in a couple of weeks. But will go only if I am a 100% fit," Rastogi told the Indian Tennis Blog.

On the domestic front, most of the country's second-rung women players are battling it out at a $10,000 tournament in Gurgaon this week.

ATP RANKINGS (9 June 2008)
(in brackets - positions lost/gained since last week)
282 (-22) Amritraj, Prakash
293 (+17) Bopanna, Rohan
468 (-18) Sipaeya, Sunil Kumar
481 (-22) Rastogi, Karan
540 (-4) Singh, Ashutosh

13 (-4) Bhupathi, Mahesh
23 (+1) Paes, Leander
52 (-1) Bopanna, Rohan

WTA RANKINGS (9 June 2008)
(in brackets - positions lost/gained since last week)
33 (-1) Mirza, Sania
160 (-5) Rao, Sunitha
310 (-4) Lakhani, Isha
441 (+5) Iyer, Tara
502 (-3) Bhambri, Ankita

20 (0) Mirza, Sania
120 (-9) Rao, Sunitha
326 (-4) Iyer, Tara

Friday, May 23, 2008

Film on Sania Mirza? Dad didn't know

The rumour mills are abuzz about a film being made on Sania Mirza by filmmaker Deepak Gandhi. The film "I For You" reportedly casts actress Esha Deol in the role of India's best tennis player.

But Sania's dad Imran Mirza said he had no idea if such a film is indeed being made.

"We only read about it in today's newspaper. Don't know if it is true," Mirza told the Indian Tennis Blog on Thursday.

Mirza said he's busy preparing Sania for her upcoming tournaments and wasn't bothered by the rumours.

"We have other more important things on our minds, like getting ready for Wimbledon and Olympics," he said.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sandhya Nagaraj, Leander Paes reach semis, others disappoint

May 12 - May 18: Sandhya Nagaraj reaches semis at Badalona, Paes/Robredo make it to last four at Hamburg Masters, Sunitha Rao only Indian hope in French Open singles


After several opening round losses in previous weeks, Sandhya Nagaraj made full use of a weak draw at $10,000 ITF Badalona, Spain to reach the semifinals of the claycourt event.

The 19-year-old from Chennai beat three qualifiers along the way before losing to the fourth seed and eventual winner in straight sets.

Nagaraj, ranked as high as 511 on the WTA Tour two years ago, will be hoping to get back into the Top 600 next week.

ITF $10,000 BADALONA, Spain
(12 - 18 May 2008)
Women's Singles Semifinal
Sandhya Nagaraj lost to (4)Eva Fernandez-Brugues(SPN) 3-6,3-6


Looks like a break from regular partner Paul Hanley did Leander Paes a lot of good. After a string of inexplicable early losses this season, Paes teamed up with Spaniard Tommy Robredo to reach the semifinals of the Hamburg Masters.

The unseeded duo beat third seeds Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram in the second round but fell to second seeds and eventual winners Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zomonjic in the last four (See photo).

Paes later revealed that he will be teaming up with Lukas Dlouhy in the future.

(11 - 18 May 2008)
Men's Doubles Semifinal
Leander Paes/Tommy Robredo(SPN) lost to (2)Daniel Nestor(CAN)/Nenad Zimonjic(SRB) 3-6,6-3,2-10

Interestingly, Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles lost their opening encounter for the second straight tournament in a row. Before their disappointments in Rome and Hamburg, Bhupathi and Knowles claimed back-to-back titles at Memphis and Dubai and were losing finalists at Miami and Monte Carlo this season.


There was also disappointment in store for those hoping for an Indian resurgence in the first of two challenger events in New Delhi. Apart from wildcard Ashutosh Singh, no other Indian (in a draw including the likes of Prakash Amritraj, Harsh Mankad and Yuki Bhambri) made it to the second round.

Ashutosh Singh jumped 38 places on the ATP rankings on Monday and is currently ranked 567.

In doubles, Prakash Amritraj and American Rajeev Ram reached the semifinals while Purav Raja and Rohan Gajjar lost in the other semifinal.

(12 - 17 May 2008)
Men's Singles Round 2
(WC)Ashutosh Singh lost to Colin Ebelthite(AUS) 4-6,4-6

Two of India's hopes Rohan Bopanna and Karan Rastogi withdrew from the challengers due to injury-related probems - Bopanna with a knee injury and Rastogi with a back problem.

Bopanna, who started a blog last week, achieved a career-high 50 in the ATP doubles rankings on Monday.


Tennis action continues at the second men's challenger in New Delhi but with several Indians losing in the first round on Monday, it looks as if this event will also be a no-show.

The Bhambri sisters - Ankita and Sanaa - lead a contingent of Indians at another $10,000 event in Thailand. Last week in Bangkok, Sanaa was the only Indian to reach the singles quarterfinals. The Bhambri sisters also lost in the doubles semifinals.

Navdeep Singh and Rohan Gajjar are trying their luck in the Kuwait F1 Futures in Meshref. Karan Rastogi told the Indian Tennis Blog he'll be hoping to join them at the Kuwait F2 Futures the following week.

The qualifiers at Roland Garros begin on Tuesday with no Indian representative in the men's singles. With Sania Mirza out of action till next month, Sunitha Rao will be the lone Indian hope in the singles events of the French Open.

[Update: Sunitha Rao lost in the first round of the French Open women's singles qualifying at Roland Garros on Wednesday, falling to Kristina Barrois of Canada in three sets -- 6-2,6-7(3),2-6 -- effectively ending India's interest in the singles events at this year's claycourt Grand Slam]

While Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes are serious contenders in the doubles draw with Rohan Bopanna making his Grand Slam debut, Yuki Bhambri is also one of the favourites in the junior events.

On Monday, Sunitha Rao was ranked a career-high 108 in the WTA doubles list while Isha Lakhani achieved a career-high position of 291 in the singles rankings.

ATP RANKINGS (19 May 2008)
(in brackets - positions lost/gained since last week)
252 (-3) Amritraj, Prakash
308 (-2) Bopanna, Rohan
436 (-8) Sipaeya, Sunil Kumar
441 (+2) Rastogi, Karan
567 (+38) Singh, Ashutosh

11 (-1) Bhupathi, Mahesh
24 (+1) Paes, Leander
50 (+1) Bopanna, Rohan

WTA RANKINGS (19 May 2008)
(in brackets - positions lost/gained since last week)
32 (+1) Mirza, Sania
156 (+2) Rao, Sunitha
291 (+4) Lakhani, Isha
399 (-20) Iyer, Tara
485 (+14) Chakravarthi, Rushmi

18 (+1) Mirza, Sania
108 (+2) Rao, Sunitha
319 (-1) Iyer, Tara

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sania Mirza pulls out of French Open

India's number one tennis player Sania Mirza will not be playing at next week's French Open, her father Imran Mirza said on Monday.

The 21-year-old Sania is yet to fully recover from a wrist surgery conducted in April and is now expected to make a comeback at the $200,000 DFS Classic in Birmingham next month.

"Hopefully, she will start with Birmingham on 9th June," Imran Mirza told the Indian Tennis Blog.

Last year at Roland Garros, Sania had won a match for the first time in three tries. She then lost in the second round to eventual finalist Ana Ivanovic.

Despite her inactivity in recent weeks, Sania managed to hold on to her ranking and moved one place up to 32 on Monday, thanks to world number one Justine Henin's sudden retirement from professional tennis.

"I would say she is about 80 percent recovered," Imran Mirza had told the blog about Sania's recovery on Wednesday.

"The cast came off on the 5th but there is still a little pain in the wrist and she is still not able to bend it completely forwards and backwards due to the pain."

Monday, May 12, 2008

Isha Lakhani enters Top 300, Sunitha Rao wins at Zagreb

May 5 - May 11: Isha Lakhani wins Kerala Open, Sunitha Rao picks up doubles title at Zagreb, Paes' doubles partnership with Hanley on a break


Isha Lakhani entered the Top 300 in the WTA rankings this week thanks to her runner-spot in the $25,000 Balikpapan (Indonesia) event two weeks ago and looks set to rise further after winning the Kerala Open title on Saturday. A Top 200 spot by the end of 2008 no longer seems a distant dream.

"Hitting the top 200 is achievable, it's tough but I have got to get tougher," the 23-year-old told the Indian Tennis Blog. "My temperament has improved a lot which has helped me perform, but there's always room for improvement."

$10,000 BSNL KERALA OPEN 2008, Thiruvananthapuram
(5 - 11 May 2008)
Women's Singles Final
(WC)(1)Isha Lakhani beat (6)Miki Miyamura(JPN) 6-7(2),6-2,6-4

A lack of financial backing may hinder her plan of participating in higher-level tournaments but for now Lakhani is looking forward to playing $25,000 events in Turkey and China next month.


The Florida-based Sunitha Rao jumped 17 places to a career-high 110 in the women's doubles rankings this week after partnering Melinda Czink of Hungary to win the title at the $75,000 tournament in Zagreb.

The second seeds did not lose a set all week.

$75,000 ZAGREB, Croatia
(5 - 11 May 2008)
Women's Doubles Final
(2)Sunitha Rao/Melinda Czink(HUN) beat (1)Stephanie Foretz(FRA)/Jelena Kostanic Tosic(CRO) 6-4,6-2


The ATP Masters at Rome didn't prove lucky for Indians with both Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes crashing out in their opening encounters. Despite the loss, Bhupathi returned to the ATP Top 10 this week -- moving one spot up from 11 while Paes slipped one place to number 25.

Bhupathi and partner Knowles have slipped to number 3 in the ATP Doubles Race with the Bryan brothers claiming the top spot after winning at Rome.

And Paes seems to be on a break from regular partner Paul Hanley after a string of inexplicable first round losses this season. The Kolkatan has teamed up with Spaniard Tommy Robredo for the Hamburg Masters while Hanley tries his luck partnering Wesley Moodie.

(5 - 11 May 2008)
Men's Doubles Round 2
(4)Mahesh Bhupathi/Mark Knowles(BAH) lost to Fernando Verdasco(SPN)/Feliciano Lopez(SPN) 7-6(4),4-6,7-10
(8)Leander Paes/Paul Hanley(AUS) lost to Mariusz Fyrstenberg(POL)/Marcin Matkowski(POL) 6-4,3-6,6-10


All eyes are on the $50,000 SAIL Open challenger in New Delhi this week. Rohan Bopanna has withdrawn with a bad knee while wildcard Yuki Bhambri lost his opening match. But Prakash Amritraj, Harsh Mankad, Ashutosh Singh and Mustafa Ghouse are still in the fray.

Navdeep Singh, Rohan Gajjar and Purav Raja couldn't work wonders at the Great Britain Futures at Bournemouth and Edinburgh. The trio will be trying their luck in the doubles draw in New Delhi.


The Bhambri sisters - Ankita and Sanaa - lead a contingent of Indians at a $10,000 event in Bangkok this week.

Youngster Shalini Sahoo's semifinal spot at the $10,000 Kochi event two weeks ago saw her enter the Top 1000 in the WTA rankings on Monday. The 18-year-old is ranked 944, a climb of 120 spots since last week.


Disappointing result for India with our girls finishing eighth in the Asia-Oceania Junior Fed Cup girls under-16 tennis tournament in Bangkok.

ATP RANKINGS (12 May 2008)
(in brackets - positions lost/gained since last week)
249 (-3) Amritraj, Prakash
306 (-3) Bopanna, Rohan
428 (-8) Sipaeya, Sunil Kumar
443 (0) Rastogi, Karan
605 (-3) Singh, Ashutosh

10 (+1) Bhupathi, Mahesh
25 (-1) Paes, Leander
51 (0) Bopanna, Rohan

(12 May 2008)
(in brackets - positions lost/gained since last week)
33 (0) Mirza, Sania
158 (-1) Rao, Sunitha
295 (+50) Lakhani, Isha
379 (+2) Iyer, Tara
499 (+19) Chakravarthi, Rushmi

19 (0) Mirza, Sania
110 (+17) Rao, Sunitha
318 (-2) Iyer, Tara
For everything ever written on The Indian Tennis Blog, click here
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For posts on Mahesh Bhupathi, click here
For posts on Rohan Bopanna, click here
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For posts on Sunitha Rao, click here

With Somdev Devvarman (January 13, 2009 and October 4, 2007)

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