Chandigarh, Tuesday, September 22, 1998
Leander disappoints at US Open
By Harbans Singh Virdi
THE US Open Tennis Championships which concluded at Flushing Meadows last week ended on a note of disappointment for India.
Soccer calendar in need of
qualified umpires needed
By Harbans Singh Virdi
THE US Open Tennis Championships which concluded at Flushing Meadows last week ended on a note of disappointment for India, for its top player Leander Paes who was riding the wave of success, ranked a career-high 73 on the ATP list, failed to sustain his performance and bowed out in the very first round.
Those who have watched his career graph would agree that Leander has never been consistent. On a day he may be unstoppable and beat any top player in the world but the next day he may lose to a non-entity. This trait again came to the fore unfortunately at the US Open where he was certainly expected to perform much better. This was not asking for too much from a player like Leander who was riding the wave of success just at the right time.
Having tottered at around 122nd on the ATP for a long time, Leander had broken into the elite 100-group for the first time when he stunned the world with his scintillating victories over players ranked much higher. Playing in the Pilot Pen International, he shocked Marc Rosset, then cut former French Open champion Sergei Bruguera to size and finally earned the most prized scalp of current world No 1 Pete Sampras of the USA. His victory over Sampras was certainly unbelievable.
Hence it was natural that fans all over India expected a much better performance from Leander who was in top shape and form. Besides, he did not have a formidable foe in the first round. Alex O Brien of the USA was much lower ranked (121) than Leanders 73rd ranking.
At the top of it Brien was considered a doubles specialist. Even in doubles Leander in much higher ranked; in fact with Mahesh Bhupathi of India, they are the third best pair in the world. The point is the odds were against Brien not against Leander, but Leander with all his attacking shots in his armoury and new found confidence failed to match Brien and lost to the American.
So far Leander had great victories in Davis Cup matches only. Who can forget his victory over Goran Ivansevic of Croatia in a Davis Cup match at Delhi when the Indian was trailing in the initial stages. But it was for the first time that Leander had shown a great performance outside the Davis Cup format. Hence disappointment is natural for both Leander and his fans.
As for the mens doubles where the Indians are really a force to reckon with, well it is a story of too near and yet too far for Leander and Mahesh Bhupathi. The two have thrice reached the semi-final stage in the three grand slam events, but luck has eluded the two on all the three occasions. However, at this years US Open the two were again doing well. Leander and Bhupathi had a better of Karsten Braasch (Germany) and Marcos Ondruska of South Africa in the second round. In the third round they took the better of Lan Bale of South Africa and Danny Sapsford of Britain to enter the quarterfinals. Their march went unchecked as in the quarterfinals, Leander and Bhupathi made short work of the Argentine-Spanish combination of Lois Lobo and Javier Sanchez in straight sets. All these victories raised hopes of a grand slam title for the two Indians. But continuing their bad luck at this juncture, Leander and Bhupathi lost to Sander Stolle (Australia) and Cyril Suk (Czech Republic), who entered the final for the first time. This was the only achievement at this years US Open for Indians.
Bad luck accompanied Leander even in the mixed doubles event. Pairing up with Rika Hiraki of Japan, Leander lost to the Aussie pair of Rachel McQuilan and David Macpherson in the first round. Bhupathi was a shade luckier than Leander in this event. He combined with Mirjana Lucic of Croatia for this event and entered the third round when the two beat Elena Likhovtseva (Russia) and Menno Oosting (Netherlands) in the second round. But the pair could not go too far as it lost in the quarters. Their victors were Serena Williams and Max Mirnyi, a US-Belrus combine.
This time India too has entries in the boys and girls event. But the juniors also disappointed. For them it was too big an occasion. Uzma Khan of India paired up with Zuzana Kucova of Slovakia for the girls doubles event. But the pair lost to Jackuelyn Rosen of Israel and Milagros Sequerra of Venzuela a humiliating 0-6, 0-6 washout.
In the boys singles event, Manoj Mahadeven of India went down to Jarkko Nieminen of Finland in the first round.
Thus there is nothing to cheer about the performance of the Indians in this years Open, which threw up a new champion in the womens singles event. Lindsay Davenport crowned herself as the new queen when she took the better of teenage sensation Martina Hingis of Switzerland. A good thing about womens tennis these days is that it is no longer a field of a few as it used to be in the days of Martina Navratilova or Chris Evert. Quite a few players are knocking the steam off Hingis these days. Victory is never on a platter at such a level-just in mens singles, you are never sure of victory even in the first round.
Patrick Rafter of
Australia who defended his title almost pulled himself
out from the jaws of defeat when he was two sets down in
the first round, but then he hung on, progressed from
match to match and ultimately dashed the hopes of another
Australian Mark Phillippoussis to retain the title. That
is the stuff champions are made of.
Soccer calendar in need of rescheduling
By Ramu Sharma
THE recently-concluded prize money Federation Cup football tournament has raised some pertinent issues, the most important one relating to the scheduling of matches and the timing of the competition. The first major tournament for clubs to assess their gains and losses in terms of actual performance after the transfers, this years show never did give the impression of being only the second biggest prize-money competition in the country, the first of course being the national league.
The reasons for the inability of the teams to raise the level of their game was perhaps the most important failure. But the teams could hardly be faulted. The weather was the biggest obstacle. The tournament was held at a time when the monsoon was active all over India and this year, in most places, it was over-active. The playing conditions at most of the venues were thus not conducive to good football. The players could hardly be criticised for not going all out in such conditions particularly when the season was just beginning. Quite a few had been paid a tidy sum to preserve themselves for bigger occasions, particularly the national league.
Apart from the weather which hit the tournament badly, there was also the issue of the way the matches were scheduled. A bit more imagination could have gone into the scheduling of the ties and also in the making of the draw. Here one like to take the case of F.C. Kochi which was drawn to play Mohun Bagan as early as the pre-quarter-final. It could have happened to any team but F.C. Kochis exit early in the competition did take a lot of sting out of the tournament. And in addition to the many other irritants, including weather and travel, some of the participating teams were clearly unhappy about not being able to play in front of their own supporters.
In view of the many problems which shrouded the Federation Cup it would be in the interest of the game if the All India Football Federation does a rethinking on the conduct of the competition. It must of course first seriously dwell on the possibility of changing the timing. The tournament could either be held immediately after the transfers or after the national league. The tournament would then be free from the uncertainties of the weather.
The AIFF could also consider reverting to the old system of holding the competition from the pre-quarter-final stage in any one centre but retaining the responsibility of hosting it. The preliminaries can be held on different venues. Concentrating the final phase on one centre will certainly sustain interest of both the players and the public.
Staging the knock-out round of 15 matches at one centre will save time and other associated expenses. It will also enable the AIFF to accommodate some of the other tournaments which are being threatened because of overlapping of major competitions and non-availability of top teams.
This year the Federation Cup was spread over 12 centres in 66 days including the elimination rounds. Just imagine the time saved if the knock-out matches are held in one centre and the qualifying rounds capsuled accordingly to be completed in about 10 days. This would mean a saving of more than a month. Enough time to accommodate one tournament.
The AIFF should give this a thought and, thereby, ensure that none of the traditional tournaments like the DCM, which at the moment appears to be the most threatened is squeezed out of the Indian calendar. The introduction of the national league and the limit placed on the number of matches to be played by the footballers has hit some of the tournaments badly. If one remembers the DCM tournament, one of the most popular competitions in Asia, could not be held a couple of years ago. And one year it was held in a diluted form, as was the Durand, because of the clash of dates with another tournament, with strong affiliations to the AIFF.
The federation should go back to the old system of democratisation, particularly in relation to the organising of tournaments by independent entities. In that system a number of major tournaments in India were organised by business houses or professional units like the Services, leaving the federation to run the national championships and perhaps the Federation Cup.
What has happened in recent years is that the federation appears to be encroaching on the time normally given to private organisers by taking over the conduct of more and more tournaments. It may be more profitable and manageable for the AIFF to monopolise the running of competitions but it is also threatening the very existence of popular tournaments, some of them as old as Independent India and a couple of them with a standing of over a hundred years.
Let us first weigh the responsibility taken over by the AIFF. As at the moment, at the senior level, it is officially conducting the national championships, the national league, the Federation Cup and the Scissors Trophy. In addition, it has its interest in the IF Shield and for the last couple of years, in ensuring that the Bordoloi Tournament is protected by participating of major teams.
The national league is perhaps the best thing that has happened to Indian football. The national championship for the Santosh Trophy is equally important, being the only state-level competition in the country. The Scissors Trophy in the early days was the biggest money-spinner and still brings in a considerable amount and thus its importance cannot be over-emphasised.
The Federation Cup in its new format is the second largest prize-money tournament, the first being the national league. Scissors Trophy, Federation Cup and National League, all fork out big money. Indian footballers never had it so good as far as money was concerned. And these days even private tournaments offer cash incentives.
The AIFF should remember that private tournaments like the DCM, Rovers, Durand and IFA Shield have not only sustained Indian football but have also contributed to making the game very popular. These tournaments should not go out of the Indian calendar merely because their importance has diminished in view of the federation expanding its own activities.
All these tournaments can coexist if only the Federation takes a more rational approach. One of them, of course, is to restrict the duration of the Federation Cup to reasonable limits and if possible change the dates, holding it immediately after the transfer papers are signed or at the of the season, after the national league. And some thought could be given to reshaping the national league. The present system of home-and-away matches could be done away with and the competition held in four different centres to be decided each year by the federation.
The whole question hinges on time. The federation could work out a compromise formula which not only ensures the smooth functioning of tournaments directly coming under its own administration but allows the traditional tournaments run by private parties to flourish as in the past. The solution is there but the AIFF must be able to bring itself to work towards it.
Panel of qualified umpires needed
By Gursharan Singh
Hoshiarpur staged a state-level championship after a gap of 11 years when it organised the junior and sub-junior badminton competition in its indoor stadium.
Singles title went to Rohan Kapoor of Jalandhar when he defeated Dilpreet by a narrow margin. Rohan proved to be a great fighter. Trailing in both the games in the final, he fought for every point to win the match. Rohan needs to be more consistent. It was his poor finishing which cost Dilpreet the match though he was leading almost till the end in both the games. Amandeep, who won the doubles title in partnership with Dilpreet, was the best doubles player in the championship. Ritin Khanna, son of a former State player, plays doubles in great style and needs training to do well. He is well, tall and has good reach. Tuseef (Sangrur) and Bhupinder (Ropar) also showed promise. In the girls section Hoshiarpur girls played well.
True that efforts were made to improve the playing conditions in the hall still lights were insufficient and the playing arena uneven.
Juniors and sub-juniors events should be held at different times. Most of the sub-junior players also participate in the junior events as well and playing continuously affects their performance. Punjab Badminton Association should have a panel of qualified umpires to conduct the matches. Unqualified umpires create avoidable problems for players and officials.
Almost all the affiliated units of Punjab Badminton Association participated in the championship. Dilpreet Singh of Ludhiana won singles and doubles titles in the under-16 category, Dilpreet is improving fast and if continues to progress at this speed he will soon bring laurels to the state. He will be a changed player if he becomes mentally tough, learns to avoid mistakes at crucial junctures and improves his service and stamina. Others players to impress in this group were Varun Khanna (Amritsar), Iqbal Singh (Patiala) and Akhtar (Sangrur).
In the Under-13 category (boys) Sahil Arora of Jalandhar has improved a lot since last games. This hard working boy won singles and doubles titles. Gurinder of Gurdaspur and Dineshwar Singh of Amritsar also gave a good account of themselves. Qasim (Sangrur) is another player who is coming up fast and impressed every one in the hall with his superb court craft.
The hard work done by Arti
(Ropar) paid off when she won all the four titles at the
meet. All his fancied opponents fell to sidelines one by
one. Arti is very quick in the court and anticipates
well. Three Hoshiarpur girls, namely, Navneet, Indermeet
and Gurpreet also showed their ability. They are
physically fit but week in technique. Shahnaz (Sangrur)
also impressed in patches
India face heavy odds in Davis Cup
By Sanjay Manchanda
WARY of the Indian players track record on grass courts, British lawn tennis officials have decided to hold the India-Great Britain Davis Cup World Group play-off tie on indoor carpet. The crucial fixture, scheduled from September 25 to 27, will decide which team plays next years Davis Cup main group and which gets relegated to the zonal groups.
Before India and Great Britan were drawn to play each other, British non-playing captain David Llyod and British tennis officials had planned for the tie to be played on grass, probably at Wimbledon itself. Reacting after the draw, Llyod said: "India knows almost as much about grass courts as we do. I respect what India can do on a fast court and I know they have a world class doubles combination. We will have to make every use of home advantage to go into the world group".
David Llyod has carefully chosen the surface of slow indoor carpet for the main reason of keeping Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi off-balance rather than helping his own top players, Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski. Both Henman, semi-finalist at this years Wimbledon, and Rusedski, currently the fastest server in the game, revel in grass court conditions more than any other surface. Surprisingly, therefore, instead of playing to their own players strength, the British officials seemed to have been cowed down by the Indian duos reputation on grass and fast hard courts.
Obviously, the India No 1 player, Leanders recent exploits in the international circuit must have caused many a consternation in the British camp. He notched up three sensational straight-set victories against world class players, Pete Sampras, Sergei Bruguera and Marc Rosset, in the first three rounds of a lead-up ATP tournament to the US Open. The giant-killing feat for once vaulted Leander to his all-time high singles ranking of 73, which, however, dropped by 11 places after his disappointing first round exit from the US Open.
Lack of consistency has always been Leanders bane in most of the ATP tournaments and Grand Slam championships. However, as far as the Davis Cup is concerned, he has always reserved his best and sky is the limit for the mercurial Indian. Such is his stamp on Indian Davis Cup scene that without him in the India-Italy first round tie held in April at Genoa, India looked like Shakespeares Hamlet without the Prince. Never before, Indian tennis has been so heavily reliant on one individual. With his return to the mainstream, Indians can at least hope to put up a tough resistance for the Britishers. The ever-improving Bhupathis game, both in singles and doubles play, is another an encouraging sign for the visitors. However, still the Indian duo sadly lack the back-up support from Prahlad Srinath and Syed Fazluddin, ranked 453 and 618, respectively.
The British players, on the other hand, in spite of their fear over their opponents strength in doubles, may not be unduly worried about losing the tie. With two top-twenty solid players like Henman and Rusedski in their ranks and having avoided the Indians favourite surface of grass, the British side would look to concentrate more on winning all the four singles matches, because the third-ranked Indian doubles combination can be more than handful for any English pair on the second days doubles match on any surface. But Henmans and Rusedskis own performance on indoor carpet can also be suspect as they may find themselves on the slow surface as uncomfortable and unused to as the Indians.
So, even though Great Britains chances of making to the top grade Davis Cup competition may be brighter than India, it would not be any less than being a foolhardy to predict Davis Cup results that have often belied that actually rankings of the players. For the record, though, India had beaten Britain in their last clash in New Delhi in 1992 by a fairly comfortable margin of 4-1. Interestingly, the tie then was also held at the same stage of the competition to pave way for Indias flight to the world group. However, India has not played a Davis Cup tie in Britain since 1955 and this time around the hosts would be more than keen to turn the table on the Indians.
|| Nation | Punjab | Haryana | Himachal Pradesh | Jammu
& Kashmir | Chandigarh |
| Editorial | Business | Stocks | Sports |
| Mailbag | Spotlight | World | 50 years of Independence | Weather |
| Search | Subscribe | Archive | Suggestion | Home | E-mail |