Tuesday, July 28, 1998
Leander needs more
Sachin equals Haynes'
Leander needs more consistency
By Harbans Singh Virdi
Indias top tennis player, Leander Paes, who had been so far hogging limelight with his exploits in the mens doubles event in partnership with Mahesh Bhupathi showed in no uncertain terms that he was not finished yet as a singles player and that he possesses all that which goes to make a "top 100" player.
It may be mentioned here that in India and abroad, Leander had so far been participating in Challenger series and ATP tournaments but unfortunately his success rate had not been encouraging in this case. Of late Leander had also not been figuring in the mens singles event very frequently, primarily because either he failed to qualify or secondly he did not have enough points on the ATP list to facilitate his direct entry. He, of course, played this year at Wimbledon but lost in the first round.
A Grand Slam event or an ATP tournament is the one where by good showing a player accumulates enough points to push him up the ATP ladder but unfortunately Leander was not doing well in both for, the competition in the mens singles event was as tough as ever.
But last week Leander stunned or surprised the tennis world and made India proud when he went on to win the Hall of Fame Tennis Tournament his first-ever ATP tournament. Throughout the tournament at Newport, Leander was in such dazzling form that none could break his service. He lost his service for the first time in the final against Neville Godwin of South Africa but Leander struck back immediately to restore parity in the first set.
Without encountering any tough resistence, Leander went on to win the Hall title in straight sets. True, not much has been heard of the South African player, true also, Wayne Ferreira has been the top player for South Africa for more than a decade now, yet Godwins entry into the final was no fluke either. He had entered the final by upsetting top seed Jason Stoltenberg of Australia.
Before the ATP tournament, Leanders ATP ranking had been hovering around the 120-mark but Leanders victory at Newport has propelled him to the 103rd spot on the ATP list. With this ranking under his belt, it should not be much of an effort to qualify straight for the Grand Slam tournaments in future where heroes are made and careers marred.
For Leander now the stress should be to maintain the ranking or further improve it to break into the elite "top 100 group" of players on the ATP list, enabling smooth and safe participation in Grand Slam tournaments.
However, the Hall of Fame success is not the first for India. Vijay Amrithraj who besides Ramanathan and Ramesh Krishnan had been the best players for India, won the same Hall of Fame tournament in 1984 which brought him instant fame and fortune. Next, Vijay also won the Volvo tournament. And the man whom Vijay beat in the final was no other than the illustrious Rod Laver, the "red haired" Australia as he was called during his time. True, the Australian champion was passing through the last phase of his career and Vijay Amrithraj formed the young brigade, called ABC which stood for Amrithraj, Borg (Bjorn) and Connors (Jimmy).
The crux of the matter is that Leander must utilise this victory as the launching pad for a successful singles career where his predecessors Vijay and Ramesh had been quite successful. One must agree that Leander is no less talented than Vijay or Ramesh, the only difference here is that the edge of the tennis competition is sharper today. Leander has a fine serve and volley game much suited to the grass. This sort of game is equally effective at Australia Open or US Open surfaces provided one charges to the net after each first serve. The success of a serve and volley player depends on how much and often does he get his first serve in for, that is where his success lies. And besides all strokes in his armoury and the kind of aggression he shows on the court, Leander looks every inch the stuff champions are made of.
However, unlike the mens doubles and mixed doubles events, the competition in the singles event is too hot to handle. It is here that Leander has to show more staying power and consistency.
At the same time it would not be a bad idea if he engages the service of a foreign coach. All top players name any if you want have their personal coaches to hone their skills, it will be good if Leander too has someone who corrects any fault in his game. That would do a world of good to him and his game. After all, one must not forget that Vijay Amrithraj too had a foreign coach in Pancho Gonzales of the USA who helped Vijay no end in the begining of his career on the international scene. Coaching coupled with hard work and dedication, Vijay twice entered the last eight stage at the Wimbledon and the US Open in the 80s. A factor which held good for Vijay might hold good for Leander too. Over to Leander!
AITA must change attitude
By Ramu Sharma
IT is an irony that Leander Paes should win his first ATP tour event title on grass at the Hall of Fame Championship at New Port, Rhode Island, U.S.A., even as the All-India Tennis Association (AITA) decided to away with tournaments on grass in the country.
It is a retrograde step and may have far reaching consequences on the future of the game in the country. The AITA must have its own compulsions but obviously not much thought has been given to player preference of surface while grading grass as a secondary consideration in conducting the national championships.
The decision is indeed surprising since one of the most important figures in the present AITA, Mr R.K. Khanna, has been at the helm of the association even during the days when Indian tennis could not think of any other surface but grass. Mr Khanna may have reasons to change his mind now but he cannot deny the importance of grass as the ideal surface for the Indian style of play.
It must be remembered that grass has been our strong point in Davis Cup ties and India has always shown preference for this surface while playing at home. Indian tennis has been bred on grass alone and it is a surface which goes well with the general approach to the game in the country. Indian players rely more on touch than on physical toughness in sharp contrast to the world outside, except perhaps England and Australia. Clay and synthetic surface requires a rare degree of stamina and fitness, something lacking among the Indians.
That is the main reason for players like Leander Paes in recent times finding it difficult to make an impression on the clay and synthetic surfaces on the ATP circuit. In fact the success Paes has achieved has been on grass, finishing at the semi-final-stage of the Hall of Fame Championship at New Port in the U.S.A. It is only since last year that he and Bhupathi as a doubles combination struck a winning patch on surfaces other than grass.
It is rather strange though and somewhat contradictory in nature. The two of them have done better on clay and synthetic surfaces as a doubles combination that on grass. See what happened to them in the Wimbledon in the last two years. Bhupathi of course made the final in the mixed-doubles. But that is a different story altogether. And he did win the French Open last year in this variety.
One can go back to the Krishnan era and the Vijay Amrithraj period which came immediately after that and count the number of achievement of grass. It was not just home ambience that helped India reach the final of the challenge round. It was the familiarity of the Indians with grass that contributed to the progress made on the Davis Cup front. Even today grass is the reason that India despite not having a player in the first 100 of the ATP ratings continues to be in the main draw. That is why the decision of the AITA to do away with grass as surface for the National Championships becomes very intriguing.
One thought process suggests that the AITA may be getting its own back on the players who made such a big fuss, protesting against the venue (Dibrugarh) in Assam during the last National Championship which incidentally was won by an Indian-born German, Marcus Hilpert. The AITAs reasoning could well be that "look we have gone out of our way to provide you a grass surface and all you do is to make a noise". That, however, seems unlikely considering the many other opportunities that have arisen to keep the Players Association-AITA feud firing.
What has been over looked by the decision makers is that by cutting out grass as an official surface, the AITA is going against tradition. The National Championships in India have always been on grass and this is a surface available in most of the centres. In fact it is preparing clay or synthetic surface that require more funds.
And again one wonders at the need to weed out grass when all these years the country has had two national championships, one on grass and the other on hardcourt. And here too the main National Championship has been the one played on grass. Why this sudden change of preference by the brains trust in the AITA is something difficult to understood?
The curious part of the new schedule chalked out by the AITA is that even the Hardcourt National Championship is not listed in the schedule for the year. What has happened is that the AITA has rechristened the Shriram Championship in Delhi as the National Hardcourt Championship and this too against the wishes of the sponsor which wanted to retain its identity. A natural enough desire by a sponsor which is spending so much money!
The conversion of the Shriram Championship into the National Championship has other implications. Initially the ten lakh rupee Shriram Open for all age group including veterans did not feature any national championship in any age group. Slowly the junior events were converted into national championship to make it convenient for the AITA and now the senior event to has lost its identity. The one aspect over looked while clubbing all age groups as part of the Shriram Open has been that grass appears to have been wiped out at even at the junior level. There is no question about it.
The Players Association could well be wondering if it did the right thing by confronting the AITA on the many controversial issues. When there was an uproar about fewer Rs 2.5 lakh tournaments and more Rs 1.25 lakh tournaments by the players on the Indian circuit, the AITA responded by removing the entire domestic circuit in the guise of introducing more international tournaments for the sole benefit of recognised stars seeking ATP points.
Lack of sponsorship cannot be a valid reason, for the AITA and its affiliated units are confident of holding $ 25,000 Challengers and Satellite circuits, $ 10,000 Future tournaments, $ 75,000 WTA event apart from the $ 80,000 Asian Cup (which is a permanent fixture on the ATF calendar to be hosted by India for the first five years and the first edition of which was held in Delhi last year). Compared to the cost of these tournaments, the Rs 10 lakh required for the conduct of the National Championship is hardly anything.
As to the wisdom of hosting the Asia Cup, it must made clear here that this tournament will benefit other Asian countries in the light of the Asia-Oceania Davis Cup ties. There is not much for India in this meet. And as for the $ 75,000 WTF event, it will be of value to the foreigners only. Indian women find it difficult even to qualify for the $ 10,000 events.
Coming back to the issue under discussion the fight between AITA and units like Jaipur and Chandigarh was the initial reason for grass being ignored. Lucknow used to regularly hold the National Junior grasscourt Championship and withdrew thereafter. Patna used to hold grasscourt junior and sub-junior championships but has stopped doing so in the last couple of years.Whatever be the reason, there appears to be a conscious effort to have more synthetic courts to replace the quietly and quickly fading out grasscourts in various centres. The AITA should reverse the trend before grass disappears altogether from the Indian tennis scene. "Grass may be for cows" outside but in India the tennis players just love it.
Sachin equals Haynes' record
By S. Pervez Qaiser
FORMER Indian captain Sachin Tendulkar equalled West Indian Desmond Haynes record of 17 centuries in one-day internationals by scoring 128 off 131 balls with two sixes and eight fours in the final of the Independence Cup against Sri Lanka at R. Premadasa Stadium, Colombo.
It was Sachin's 189th innings of his 196th one-day international match. Haynes played 237 innings and 238 matches to score 17 centuries.
The master batsman also completed his 7000 runs in one-day internationals when he reached 58 during his innings.
Only four batsmen, West Indian Desmond Haynes (8648 runs in 238 matches), Indian captain Mohammed Azharuddin (8285 runs in 291 matches), Sri Lanka's Aravinda de Silva (7605 runs in 238 matches) and Pakistan's Javed Miandad (7381 runs in 233 matches), are ahead of Tendulkar.
Born on April 24, 1973 at Mumbai, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar made his international debut against Pakistan at Gujranwala on December 18, 1989, with a second ball duck. He scored his first century, 110, against Australia at Colombo on September 9, 1994, in his 79th one-day international match.
Of his 17 centuries in one dayers, four each were scored against Australia and Sri Lanka, two each against Pakistan, New Zealand and Kenya and one each against West Indies, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Tendulkar made his highest score, 143 off 131 balls with nine fours and five sixes, against Australia at Sharjah on April 22, 1998. He set up an Indian recored of most sixes in an innings by hitting seven sixes during his 100-run knock against Australia at Kanpur on April 7, 1998.
Besides these hundreds, Tendulkar has made 42 scores of fifty and above.
Balls 4's 6's Opponents Venue Date Match
110 132 8 2 Australia Colombo 09.09.94 79
115 136 9 - New Zealand Baroda 28.10.94 84
105 134 10 - West Indies Jaipur 11.11.94 90
112* 105 15 - Sri Lanka Sharjah 09.04.95 96
127* 136 15 1 Kenya Cuttack 18.02.96 103
137 137 8 5 Sri Lanka Delhi 02.03.96 106
100 111 9 1 Pakistan Singapore 05.04.96 111
118 140 8 2 Pakistan Sharjah 15.04.96 114
110 138 5 1 Sri Lanka Colombo 28.08.96 120
114 126 14 - South Africa Mumbai 14.12.96 134
104 97 8 1 Zimbabwe Benoni 09.02.97 140
117 136 13 2 New Zealand Bangalore 14.05.97 148
100 89 5 7 Australia Kanpur 07.04.98 181
143 131 9 5 Australia Sharjah 22.04.98 187
134 131 12 3 Australia Sharjah 24.04.98 188
100* 102 13 - Kenya Calcutta 31.05.98 191
128 131 8 2 Sri Lanka Colombo 07.07.98 196
Sachin's country-wise performance:
Opponent M I N.O. Runs Avg H.S. 100s 50s
Pakistan 34 32 4 1003 35.82 118 2 7
Australia 20 20 - 1119 55.95 143 4 6
England 13 13 1 362 30.16 91 - 2
West Indies 23 23 4 795 41.84 105 1 7
New Zealand 20 19 - 900 47.36 117 2 6
Sri Lanka 36 34 5 1320 45.51 137 4 7
Bangladesh 5 4 - 163 40.75 54 - 1
Zimbabwe 14 13 1 368 30.66 104 1 1
South Africa 27 27 - 732 27.11 114 1 4
Emirates 1 1 - 63 63.00 63 - 1
Kenya 3 3 2 245 245.00 127* 2 -
Total 196 189 17 7070 41.10 143 17 42