Monthly Archives: October 2007

Karan Rastogi back in action at Delhi Challenger

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

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

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

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

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

Rohan Bopanna and Leander Paes have also not played since the Stockholm Open and the BA-CA Tennis Trophy in Vienna earlier this month.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wall Collapses

Rahul DravidIn a shocking decision taken by the 5 wise men, Indian ex-captain Rahul Dravid finds himself out of ODI series openers against Pakistan. He has been replaced by the erratic Sultan of Najafgarh. This series also marks a new era in Indian cricket team selection. For the first time since its inception the selection committee are going to rake in heavy moolah for their services. All this for ensuring accountability from the selection panel.

Dravid, the rock of Gibraltar of the middle order has seen his fortunes spiralling downwards from being the captain of the side to being a “drinks man” and now out of team. The last match of recently concluded Future Cup has marked only the second occasion of Dravid being left out of side since his debut. The selectors say that he has been “rested”, probably they don’t have courage to say that they have dropped Rahul. But this is unfair considering the past record of Dravid as an ODI batsman. He averages close to 40 in his last 15 games or so. The technically most correct batsman in the side and without whom we wouldn’t have won test matches and series abroad. There is something wrong within the board. There was shocking announcement by Dravid after England tour and decision to quit captaincy that took everyone by surprise. Then his body language in Australia series was questioned and he was not in his grooves as well. He was dropped for final ODI, challenger series and now for first two games against Pakistan.

You just cannot hope to regain form if you don’t spend time in the middle. But i will not be surprised if there is no hue or cry from the fans and media on this decision of the selection panel.

If Dravid was going to be dropped from the ODI then why wasn’t he given a chance in the ongoing Challenger Series like Sehwag, Kartik etc. Dravid as a cricketer had always been a true team man from opening in the tests to keeping in 2003 world cup. Dravid has always given the preference to team than himself. An underrated, low profile sportsman will hardly find any support from public as well. There will be no protests, no burning effigies, no rail block, no discussions in Parliament as was in the case of Ganguly and may be not even a prime time debate on any primary news channel.

The wall has finally collapsed and the way things are going on in Indian Cricket this might be the beginning of the end of Dravidian era.

Stephen Amritraj, Ashutosh shine this week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Injury-hit Sania Mirza cuts short 2007 season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

India’s performance at this year’s Hopman Cup mixed team challenge had earned Mirza and Rohan Bopanna direct entry into the 2008 edition in January but it remains unclear whether Mirza can recover in time for the event in Australia.

Racism, Cricket and India

If a random trawl of the blogosphere is any indication, Indian players travelling to Australia this winter should expect to cop more than a bit of heat in retaliation for the repeated barracking of Andrew Symonds by Indian crowds. Crowds at the fifth and seventh one-dayers in Vadodara and Mumbai taunted Symonds — Australia’s best performer by far and player of the series — with repeated cries and gestures seen as being racist by the Aussie players and media (Hindustan Times dated 19/10/07)

Gestures made by section of crowd in Wankhede StadiumRacism is not a subject that crops up much in India — when it does, it is usually to comment on how Indians are its victims, rather than its perpetrators. So it is with bemusement that we see Indian cricket fans being accused of racist behaviour against the visiting Australian team, specifically against one of its star players, Andrew Symonds. He has been the victim of jeering and ridicule and on Wednesday, five fans were detained by the police for indulging in such shameful activities at the Mumbai match.
This said, is one sensing a sort of snobbish put-on among both the Indian spectator crowd and some of our players? And, one wonders whether this snobbishness has anything to do with our new found status as a fast growing Asian economy and the richest cricketing country in the world? Are we coming across occasionally as the new upstarts in the block?
Racial abuse is prevalent across the sporting world of Australia, including its cricket grounds, says the report titled ‘ What’s the Score? A survey of cultural diversity and racism in Australian sport’ that was released recently by Australia’s Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC). On Australian cricket, the report points to “racial sledging” of South African cricketers who “were referred to as kaffirs by a small section of spectators” at Perth in December 2005. It says that cricketers from Sri Lanka were “subjected to calls of ‘black c——’ at Adelaide, and adds that an ICC security official was punched by spectators in Melbourne.
But we should not worry about the Australians — we need to set our house in order. The BCCI, which rules Indian cricket, will have to now look at the issue seriously to conform to international regulations. Remember, we owe a lot to Cricket for giving us lots of moments of pleasure when we were not what we were, not very long ago, and it is our duty to see that we do not take the game into disrepute in the country or even internationally. Vadodra and Mumbai, apologize or give up your right to watch cricket on the ground; BCCI take action more for the love of the game than for love of money.

Quick exit for Sania Mirza from Zurich Open

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunitha Rao falls at final hurdle in San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Middle-level Indian players have a chance to earn valuable points at the men’s $15,000 India F9 Futures event at Bellary, Karnataka which kicked off on Monday.

Paes, Bopanna and Sunitha Rao impress this week

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

Kremlin Cup, MoscowHer luck in the doubles was only marginally better. Partnering Switzerland’s Patty Schnyder, Mirza was ousted by the world’s best doubles pair – Cara Black and Liezel Huber – in the quarterfinals.

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

“Mirza has ignited a continent with her success. She is a cult figure in her native India, and can’t walk down the street without a full security detail. She possesses one of the biggest forehands in the game, and is attractive and charming. She’s also integral to growing the game in the Far East.”

As such the flag for Indian tennis was held high by Leander Paes. Just weeks before he ends his partnership with Martin Damm, the dynamic duo reached the semifinals of the BA-CA Tennis Trophy tournament in Vienna.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get the basics right to win against the best

India and AustraliaThe party time is over. India have lost the home series against the ODI World Champions in the ongoing Future Cup. I just hope India wins the next game. After a superb and immaculate performance by Andrew Symonds, Australia sealed the series with some good bowling and temperament when Sachin and Sourav were going well.
Being an ardent fan of Indian Cricket, i was hoping that India win win this game anyhow. They started well with the wicket of Clarke in first over. After the second wicket partnership Aussies lost the way and lost 3 quick wickets and score read 129/4. Then came the man who has been the most consistent performer for Australians in this series. Andrew Symonds spoke of his annoyance few days back at certain Indian cricketers and also at the manner in which he was heckled in Vadodara. In Nagpur, he channelised his ire to hit the Indians where it hurt most, and a glorious 82-ball century made sure that Australia get to good total on batting beauty.
India started well and Sachin and Sourav hit the boundaries regularly. Despite a good opening stand India lost the way in the middle and late flourish by Uthappa was also not sufficient to keep series alive. Australians played like true champions but India are themselves to be blamed for some lack of basics on the field.
Starting with the fielding India dropped couple of catches and that of two very crucial batsmen in opposition side. First Gilchrist was dropped by Dravid when he was on 4 and then he went to make on quick fired 51. The second chance was put down by Sreesanth of Andrew Symonds. He was on 2 then. He grabbed the chance and played a series winning knock for his side. The way Indians bowled at depth is the matter of serious concern. In all the matches Australians have scored almost 100 runs in last 8-9 overs and today too they scored 94 off last 9 overs. Apart from Zaheer none of the bowlers tried variations and yorker length. The main feature of Aussie innings was that apart from the boundaries they scored 85 singles, 20 twos, 3 threes. On the other hand Indians never looked for quick singles, doubles and forgot that they can take three runs as well. Ganguly was not interested in 2s and left quite a few 1s as well. In the end that what made the difference between the winning and loosing side.
These problems are not new to India but the problem is that they are not rectifying these. Unless and until they get the very basics of Cricket right we are not going to defeat the best team in the world. This is the time to set the things right at the grass root level.

Leander Paes makes winning return to ATP Tour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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