Saturday, September 27, 2008

Junior Davis Cup: India beat Brazil 2-1

(Match report from

(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

(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

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

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