Playing before a hysteric audience of 5,000 � including Dhanraj Pillay & Co. � the top seeds battled from a set down and a break down in the decider to overcome Czech duo Tomas Cibulec and Ota Fukarek 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 in the Tata Open final.
Earlier in the evening Guillermo Canas, the boy-faced Argentine, outwitted giantkiller Paradorn Srichaphan 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) to become the first top seed to lift the winner�s trophy here since Patrick Rafter in 1998. It was Canas� second career title which fetched him a cheque for $54,000.
The doubles final pitted two teams which had come through nerve-wracking three-set wins well past midnight yesterday. The Czechs, both six-foot-three, were on court till 1.10 am. But they showed no �hangover� and came out firing on all cylinders.
Both returned well and Cibulec was razor-sharp at the net. The Indians, having lost their last two finals at the end of last season, were a trifle sluggish to begin with.
It was Paes who dropped serve first, in the sixth game. He made amends in the next game, jumping to put away a backhand overhead with typical flourish to get the breakback. Serving to force a tie-breaker, Bhupathi dropped serve, and the set, as both partners committed a mistake each.
Paes survived three close calls in the second game of the second set, fighting off the break-points with great spirit. The Indians then broke Fukarek, riding a pair of fine points by Paes. Cibulec lost serve too, with Paes and Bhupathi firing a winner each. Bhupathi served out the set, despite serving two double-faults.
Cibulec and Fukarek, one of five pairs from the Czech Republic in the top-20, faced a daunting task in front of the wildly-cheering Indian fans. To their credit, they didn�t give up. A misunderstanding between Paes and Bhupathi put the Czechs 4-2 up. The Indians, as they have done on countless occasions at this venue, shrugged off that lapse quickly and got back to 4-4 capturing Cibulec�s serve.
A tie-breaker seemed imminent, before Cibulec played a horrible service game to lose it at love. Bhupathi served out the match as Paes punched a volley between the two Czechs to ensure a cheque for $23,350.
�It�s good to have won a final after losing the last two,� said Paes. �Beginning the year with a title will help as Bob (Carmichael) won�t be with us this yea r and we�ll be on our own,� said Paes. Bhupathi echoed that thought, adding that they were still not close to the 1999 form.
Canas, who looked a worthy top seed from his very first match here, dominated the final against Srichaphan to win in an hour and 46 minutes. The 24-year-old Argentine went into the final clear in his mind how to tackle the rampaging Thai. Making Srichaphan play as many balls as possible, thus making the rallies long, was how Canas started off.
It paid immediate dividends. His looping top-spin drives all landed deep in Srichaphan�s court. The Thai, who had got into his free-stroking rhythm within moments of starting his previous four matches, was all at sea.
Srichaphan�s wins against four strong players � Max Mirnyi, Andrei Stoliarov, Thomas Johansson and Andrei Pavel � were soon distant memory as the Thai hit long and wide with disturbing regularity. Serving first, Srichaphan went 30-40 down on an immaculate down-the-line from Canas. The next point saw a long rally before Srichaphan netted the 18th shot.
It was one long swim against the tide from then onwards for the Asian champion. He fell into a deeper hole after a forehand error on the fourth break-point in game 5. Canas, in fact, should have cleaned up the set 6-1 as Srichaphan served a double-fault to trail 15-40.
Srichaphan saved those two set-points to hold serve. He even pulled one break back as Canas threw up a double-fault on break-point which the Thai had earned through a delectable stop-volley.
Srichaphan, erratic with his groundstrokes, had to fight off three more set-points before the Argentine made use of his sixth. The first set, which could have been over in less than half an hour, took all of 48 minutes.
Canas, not an attractive player to watch but extremely effective with his all-round baseline game, went all out at the beginning of the second set too. A tentative Srichaphan got into trouble straightaway and the Argentine grabbed his chance with a sledgehammer forehand.
Ripping his returns harder and going for the lines, Srichaphan looked a better player. He got one opening in the sixth game and broke back with a copybook backhand down-the-line pass. At 3-3, the first-time ATP finalist was back in the set.
The next six games went on serve, and it was tie-breaker time. For the third time, Srichaphan made a nightmarish start as he conceded the first mini-break. He was no match thereafter as the solid Canas converted his first match-point. Canas dedicated the title to his countrymen who are facing hardship because of the political turmoil there.
Paes-Bhupathi Final Appearances1997
April, Chennai: bt Oleg Ogorodov & Eyal Ran
May, Prague: bt Petr Luxa & David Skoch
August, Montreal: bt Sebastien Lareau & Alex O�Brien
August, New Haven: bt Lareau & O�Brien
October, Beijing: bt O�Brien & Jim Courier
October, Singapore: bt Rick Leach & Jonathan Stark
November, Hartford: lost to Leach & Stark
January, Qatar: bt Fabrice Santoro & Olivier Delaitre
February, Dubai: bt Don Johnson & Francisco Montana
April, Chennai: bt Delaitre & Mirnyi
May, Rome: bt Ellis Ferreira & Leach
October, Shanghai: bt Todd Woodbridge & Mark Woodforde
October, Singapore: lost to Woodbridge & Woodforde
November, Stuttgart: lost to Lareau & O�Brien
November, Paris: bt Jacco Eltingh & Paul Haarhuis
January, Australian Open: lost to Jonas Bjorkman & Patrick Rafter
June, French Open: bt Goran Ivanisevic & Jeff Tarango
July, Wimbledon: bt Haarhuis & Jared Palmer
September, US Open: lost to Lareau & O�Brien
November, Hartford: lost to Lareau & O�Brien
October, Japan Open: bt Michael Hill & Tarango
December, Bangalore: lost to Johnson & Piet Norval
April, Atlanta: bt Leach & David Macpherson
May, Houston: bt Kevin Kim & Jim Thomas
June, French Open: bt Petr Pala & Pavel Vizner
August, Cincinnati: bt Martin Damm & David Prinosil
October, Basel: lost to Leach & Ferreira
November, Paris: lost to Leach & Ferreira
January, Chennai: bt Ota Fukarek & Tomas Cibulec
Bangalore, which hosted the 2000 championship, should have been the natural choice �especially after the 2001 edition got postponed two months ago. But with the organisers Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association (KSLTA) still keen on having last season�s year-ending meet early next month, the 2002 one is on the back-burner.
�There has been no discussion on this year�s championship with KSLTA yet, negotiations are still going on to arrange the last one which unfortunately got postponed,� said a well-placed source.
The ATP, though, is highly unlikely to agree to the postponed event being run in the next few weeks� time. The Australian Open starts in eight days, then the regular ATP meets will resume. But for the week after the Australian Open, there will be two to three events starting every Monday. The only probable dates for the doubles meet is January 28-February 3.
But, as the source pointed out, the ATP would have agreed to those dates by now if it was to comply with the KSLTA request. With each passing day, chances of another world championship in Bangalore is receding.
Interestingly, there is a proposal to hold both the singles and doubles year-ending events the same week. Shanghai is due to hold the singles world championship (the Tennis Masters Cup) from November 12. If KSLTA drags its feet on this year�s doubles meet, they may lose it to Shanghai.
The singles and doubles world meets have never been held together at the same venue since the ATP Tour came into being. If the �marriage� of both events materialises, there has to be a change in format of the doubles event.
There will be no compromise on singles for obvious reasons, but the doubles field may be cut down to four teams from the usual eight. There could be just two semi-finals and a final, or the three teams will play in a round-robin format and then the top two will contest the final.
The residential academy, with modern facilities including multi-gym, will start with 72 boys and girls, informed AITA secretary Anil Khanna. Half of them will not have to pay for their tennis and education.
The development cost of the academy, for which land has already been acquired, will be to the tune of Rs 1.8 crore. The funds will be raised from corporate sponsorship. The ITF has been approached for help and requested to give the academy status of a centre of excellence in Asia.
A foreign coach will be in charge of the total programme, the hunt for which has already begun. The initial focus will be on training, but equal importance will be given to playing tournaments at home and abroad.
Players like Sania Mirza, Sunil Kumar and Rohan Bopanna will be invited to use the facilities when they are not playing. Sounds a very ambitious project. It has to be seen if words are translated into action.
SUMMARISED SCORESDKS 263/8. Ballygunge United Club 264/3 (Salindra Tiwari 97, Samrat Sengupta 85). Ballygunge won by 7 wkts.
Manoharpukur Milan Samity 327/6. Shibpur Inst. 282/6 (Pinaki Chakraborty 73, Samir Majhi 63) Match drawn.
Shyambazar Club 307. Paikpara SC 155/8 (Anindya Das 69, Soumen Sarkar 3/19). Match drawn.
City AC 335/9. CPT 338/8 (Soumen Singh 119, Sanjib Pandey 65; Souvik Bose 3/76). CPT won by 2 wkts.
Young Bengal SA 306. Kumartuli Inst 261/9 (Biswajit Singh 100; Debashish Sarkar 5/74).
Barisha SC 186 (including 30 penalty runs). Kalighat Club (overnight 108/3) 187/6 (Sourav Seal 45 n.o.; Harvinder Singh 3/56). Kalighat won by 4 wkts.
Suburban Club 279. Tapan Memorial 280/5 (Debopam Sarkar 72; Samir Ghosh 3/102). Tapan Memorial won by 5 wkts.
George Telegraph 312/9. High Court Club 234/8 (Ritesh Jaiswal 66; Subhranil Shome 3/50). Match drawn.
However, absence of at least five regulars and an injured Jose Ramirez Barreto may just force coach Subrata Bhattacharya to change his plans of arresting the slump ahead of tomorrow�s match against Vasco at Salt Lake.
Abdulateef Seriki and Abdul Saliu are out with their preoccupations in solving visa problems, Dulal Biswas and R.P. Singh are down with injuries and Debjit Ghosh will miss the match with a double booking. Add to this the shocking revelation that Barreto is not �match-fit�.
�I can�t risk Barreto suffering a burnout,� the Mohun Bagan coach maintained. �I�ll take the final decision on Barreto tomorrow morning,� he said.
Vasco coach Dereck Perera, however, made no bones about disclosing his intentions. �Defeating Mohun Bagan has always been a dream to me and I�ll try in whatever way to make this happen,� Perera said. �ITI (who East Bengal yesterday) has made us believe that Calcutta teams are not invincible at home�.
Perera is well aware of his opponents� current woes. �We�ll not take any flamboyant risks but we aren�t also brushing aside our chances,� he said.
Tolly hold SalgaocarIn Margao, even after taking an early lead, Tollygunge Agragami failed to script their first win.
Goalkeeper Amit Singha Roy reacted poorly and conceded a soft goal as the Calcutta team settled for a 1-1 draw with Salgaocar. Akim Abolanle struck for Tollygunge and Sunday Seah replied for the Goan team.
In Kochi, FC Kochin held Churchill Brothers 1-1. Churchill went ahead through Rajesh Meetei. Liberian Josiah Seton replied for the hosts.
If Touch of Silver was in her elements so was her trainer who broke a nearly 15 year old record by saddling seven winners in an eight-event card. The record of six winners on a day was held by trainer Phillip Corner, now training in Malaysia.
Prakash who returned to the winners� enclosure four times was the main contributor to Daniel�s cause. The schooler was also helped with jockey J. Abraham�s two winner with Nic Connorton completing the stable�s tally when he partnered Star Selection to an impressive victory in the Alokananda Stakes, the baby race.
1. Metropolitan 1,200m: (2-4-3-1) Beneficent (Prakash) 1; Clarice Cliff (Appu) 2; Acute (M. Narredu) 3; Artwork (C. Alford) 4. Won by: 1-3/4; 4-1/2; 3-1/2; (1-12.8). Tote: Win Rs 41; Place: 17; 29; Quinella: 107; Tanala: 735. Fav: Artwork (1). Winner trained by Daniel D.
2. Alokananda Stakes 1,200m: (6-1-2-3) Star Selection (Connorton) 1; Anatolia (Kader) 2; Abyssinia (Rabani) 3; Assertive Dancer (Prakash) 4. Won by: 1-1/2; 5; 1/2; (1-14.6). Tote: Win Rs 75; Place: 21; 17; Quinella: 56; Tanala: 690. Fav: Assertive Dancer (3). Winner trained by Daniel D.
3. Brave Dancer Cup 1,600m: (4-6-7-9) Accrete (C. Alford) 1; Alborada (R. Ahmed) 2; Leading Conquest (Appu) 3; Scavenger�s Son (Rajesh) 4. Won by: 6-1/2; 3/4; Nk; (1-39.6). Tote: Win Rs 16; Place: 13; 174; 21; Quinella: 922; Tanala: 5,273. Fav: Accrete (4). Winner trained by Vijay S.
4. Aphroze Cup, Div-I 1,200m: (10-4-9-11) Grecian Prince (Abraham) 1; As A Rule (Rutherford) 2; Abandoned (Rajinder) 3; Floral Path (Rabani) 4. Won by: 1-1/4; 5-3/4; 1-1/4; (1-13.7). Tote: Win Rs 67; Place: 19; 14; 16; Quinella: 67; Tanala: 481. Fav: As A Rule (4). Winner trained by Daniel D.
5. Robin Hood Cup 1,600m: (14-15-7-3) Discomatic (Abraham) 1; Rescue Act (Rabani) 2; Peace Envoy (Prakash) 3; Winning Glory (Rutherford) 4. Won by: 3/4; 4-1/2; 1; (1-39.7). Tote: Win Rs 209; Place: 49; 16; 24; Quinella: 478; Tanala: 8,153. Fav: Acklins (12). Winner trained by Daniel D.
6. Aphroze Cup, Div-II 1,200m: (7-2-4-6) Sergeant Slipper (Prakash) 1; Lively Project (Abraham) 2; Tequila Shot (Shanker) 3; Storm Centre (Dalpat S.) 4. Not run: Ever So Loyal (8). Won by: 1/2; 3; SH; (1-14.2). Tote: Win Rs 18; Place: 13; 16; 17; Quinella: 39; Tanala: 136. Fav: Sergeant Slipper (7). Winner trained by Daniel D.
7. Kingfisher Calcutta Derby Stakes 2,400m (10-3-9-6) Touch of Silver (Prakash) 1; Arterial (Norton) 2; Calorescence (C. Alford) 3; The Archer (M. Narredu) 4. Won by: SH; Hd; 2-3/4; (2-32.7). Tote: Win Rs 36; Place: 15; 18; 35; Quinella: 138; Tanala: 1,855. Fav: Antequera (2). Winner trained by Daniel D.
8. Robert Bruce Handicap 1,400m: (1-9-8-5) Impressive Prince (Prakash) 1; Odyssey (Rutherford) 2; Finders Keepers (Rajinder) 3; The Stud (Gowli) 4. Won by: Nk; 2-1/2; 4; (1-28.7). Tote: Win Rs 41; Place: 17; 14; 17; Quinella: 45; Tanala: 273. Fav: Odyssey (9). Winner trained by Daniel D.
Jackpot: Rs 23,601; (C) Rs 2,307.