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

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