Greul dominates circuit, but Gruber bags Masters

IT was a one-man show. Simon Greul of Germany overpowered the rest of the field in collecting 45 ATP points from the Indian Satellite circuit.

KAMESH SRINIVASAN

Konstantin Gruber with the ITF Masters trophy. -- Pic. S. SUBRAMANIUM-

IT was a one-man show. Simon Greul of Germany overpowered the rest of the field in collecting 45 ATP points from the Indian Satellite circuit.

The success of the 23-year-old German who has won Challenger titles, beating the likes of Martin Verkerk of Holland, the French Open finalist, and Justin Gimelstob of the U.S was understandable as three of the four legs of the circuit were played on his favourite surface, clay.

In fact, there were quite a few players from Europe, who had been drawn to the National Tennis Academy (NTA) in Gurgaon that hosted the first three legs on clay.

Vishaal Uppal and Mustafa Ghouse, who won the doubles event in the Masters and the third leg. -- Pic. S. SUBRAMANIUM-

Quite expectedly, Greul dominated the first three legs, winning the singles titles every time, though the surface was quite bad. With a big serve, solid groundstrokes and a compact net-game, Greul with an admirable intensity of focus proved too strong for the rest of the field.

Two Indians, Sunil Kumar and Vishaal Uppal looked capable of matching the German in the first two weeks, but failed to capitalise on their chances. Sunil missed a 5-0 lead in the tie-break and lost in straight sets to the German in the semifinals of the first leg, while Vishaal with his fluent serve and volley game teased Greul before losing his way due to lack of conviction in his own ability.

By the third week, Greul's domination gained admission, as the rest folded meekly against him, with nobody winning more than six games from him in a match. Even the finalist, Konstantin Gruber of Austria, could win only six games despite breaking Greul's serve thrice in the final.

"I am happy with the way things have gone for me. I didn't expect to win so many matches'', said Greul, quite pleased to have collected the maximum possible 63 circuit points from the first three legs.

The show shifted to the hardcourts of Delhi in the Masters, and Greul hoped to continue in the same fashion, as the clay courts in Gurgaon had behaved like hardcourts except for the bad bounce.

Simon Greul who was unstoppable in all the three legs of the Satellite circuit. He also topped the ATP points in singles. -- Pic. S. SUBRAMANIUM-

Greul was playing only for three ATP points as he had already assured himself of 43 ATP points. By the semifinals of the Masters, he had had enough and lost in 45 minutes to Gruber, perhaps not willing to stay for an additional day for getting the last ATP point.

The manner in which Vijay Kannan and Ajay Ramaswami played, beating a clutch of quality players, it looked as if an Indian would crown himself as the champion in the Masters event. It was not to be, as Ajay beat Vijay in the semifinals, winning the second set tie-break 12-10, but folded without much of a fight in the final against Gruber despite leading 4-1 in the first set.

Thus, the Indian lads let Gruber collect the second highest tally of 37 ATP points including four bonus for finishing runner-up in the circuit.

Except for these two, none of the others, including the champion of the last Satellite held in the country, Norikazu Sugiyama of Japan, could make much of an impression. While the Japanese settled for nine ATP points, Alexey Kedriouk of Kazakhstan demonstrated his strong game to pocket 14 ATP points. Ajay and Vijay had to be content with 12 and 10 ATP points respectively.

In fact, the Indian players struggled to make an impact this time at home in a field that had players from 17 countries. While nine Indians collected 47 ATP points between them, 14 foreigners accounted for a whopping 162 ATP points.

This was in stark contrast to the 99 ATP points collected by 12 Indians in the Satellite circuit held a few months earlier on the hardcourts of Indore and Delhi.

Of course, the fact that two of the leading Indian players Vinod Sridhar and Prahlad Srinath opted to pack their bags and return home on seeing the conditions of the clay courts in Gurgaon, was a big factor. Both Srinath and Sridhar would have enjoyed playing on clay and asserted themselves to a great extent had the surface been well made.

It was indeed quite perplexing as to how the organisers went ahead with the idea of hosting an international event for three weeks on a substandard surface that continued to misbehave till the end. The hostel accommodation meant for the trainees at the centre was offered as hospitality and the same type of food, not to forget the general lack of hygiene, got on to the nerves of the players, as tennis professionals are generally used to a good quality of life on the tour.

With the NTA located 15 kilometres away from the national highway, amidst agriculture field, it was indeed a remote place. The only option for players was visiting the Malls of Gurgaon, about 25 kilometres from the venue. The fact that there was no communication facilities at the venue in terms of e-mail, etc., meant that the national media did not get the results. Except for Doordarshan showing the action on the last two days of every leg, and The Hindu reporting the circuit, it was literally a blackout in the media for the first three weeks.

The fact that there were no sponsors for the circuit must have been the reason for the organisers not being worried about lack of publicity in the media. Or, were they wary of negative publicity for the place?

Being confined to a place like that could get on the people's nerves was very much evident, when the American player, Adam Fass was smacked by his Argentinian coach for bad behaviour.

It was in the third leg, and Fass after losing a tough match, broke his racquet, smashed a dustbin and apparently abused his coach too. The coach would not tolerate such nonsense and slapped the player hard forcing him to literally run for cover.

Alexey Kedriouk (left) and Sergei Krotiouk, winners of the doubles in the first two legs . — Pic. S. SUBRAMANIUM-

Fass used the referee's mobile to call his parents in the U.S, asking them to sack the coach immediately. The referee had to close his room to avoid the coach storming in and thrashing the player further. Eventually, things cooled off and Fass got back to normal terms with his coach.

From such a view point, the Indian players went about their task with considerable discipline. Sunil Kumar's groin strain meant that he could not repeat his good run of the first week when he had made the semifinals. Vishaal Uppal made three successive quarterfinals, but was unable to build on it any further.

The rest of the Indians were unable to make much of an impact. Vivek Shokeen impressed with his strong game, but lacked the maturity. He had a couple of good wins. Divij Sharan started briskly, beating Sugiyama in the first leg, but was unable to make much headway.

Karan Rastogi was unlucky to run into seeds in the first three legs, and was unable to make the Masters. Actually, the uneven bounce of the courts robbed the confidence of most of the Indian juniors. Rupesh Roy did not make the Masters as he lost the play-off, but collected one ATP point.

In doubles, Mustafa Ghouse and Vishaal Uppal asserted their class, winning the title in the third leg and the Masters. The duo had lost the final in the first week. Otherwise, it was Alexey Kedriouk of Kazakhstan and Sergei Krotiouk of Russia who dominated by winning the first two legs.

In short, the returns from a circuit that offered $25,000 in prize money and almost an equal amount in hospitality did not bring much cheer for Indian tennis. When you get the basics wrong, you end up building castles in sand.

* * * ATP points Singles:

Simon Greul (Ger) 45; Konstantin Gruber (Aut) 37; Alexey Kedriouk (Kaz) 14; Stefano Ianni (Ita) 13; Tobias Koeck (Aut) 13; Ajay Ramaswami 12; Vijay Kannan 10; Norikazu Sugiyama (Jpn) 9; Vishaal Uppal 8; Adam Fass (US) 8; Sunil Kumar 6; Rick Schalkers (Ned) 5; Davor Kuseta (Cro) 5; Patrick John Tierro (Phi) 4; Andreas Fasching (Aut) 4; Vivek Shokeen 4; Divij Sharan 3; Sascha Kloer (Ger) 2; Sergei Krotiouk (Rus) 2; Kamala Kannan 2; Joseph Huber (Aut) 1; Punna Vishal 1; Rupesh Roy 1.

Doubles:

Mustafa Ghouse 44; Vishaal Uppal 44; Alexey Kedriouk (Kaz) 39; Sergei Krotiouk (Rus) 39; Simon Greul (Ger) 27; Peter Mayer-Tischer (Ger) 27; Ajay Ramaswami 19; Stefano Ianni (Ita) 17; Tobias Koeck (Aut) 17; Kamala Kannan 17; Sunil Kumar 14; Konstantin Gruber (Aut) 9; Dmitri Makeyev (Kaz) 8; Vijay Kannan 8; Norikazu Sugiyama (Jpn) 8; Punna Vishal 8; Karan Rastogi 2; Hiu-Tung Yu (Hkg) 2; Andreas Fasching (Aut) 2.

* * * The results Masters:

Singles (final): Konstantin Gruber (Aut) bt Ajay Ramaswami 6-4, 6-4; Semifinals: Konstantin Gruber bt Simon Greul (Ger) 6-1, 6-2; Ajay Ramaswami bt Vijay Kannan 6-3, 7-6 (10); Quarterfinals: Simon Greul bt Davor Kuseta (Cro) 6-2, 6-3; Konstantin Gruber bt Stefano Ianni (Ita) 1-0 (retired); Ajay Ramaswami bt Adam Fass (US) 6-1, 7-6 (8); Vijay Kannan bt Tobias Koeck (Aut) 6-3, 6-1.

Doubles (final): Mustafa Ghouse and Vishaal Uppal bt Simon Greul and Peter Mayer-Tischer (Ger) 6-3, 6-4; Semifinals: Simon Greul and Peter Mayer-Tischer bt Stefano Ianni (Ita) and Tobias Koeck (Aut) 1-0 (retired); Mustafa Ghouse and Vishaal Uppal bt Ajay Ramaswami and Kamala Kannan 6-3, 7-5.

Third leg:

Singles (final): Simon Greul (Ger) bt Konstantin Gruber (Aut) 6-3, 6-3; Semifinals: Simon Greul bt Tobias Koeck (Aut) 6-4, 6-1; Konstantin Gruber bt Alexey Kedriouk (Kaz) 6-4, 2-6, 6-4; Quarterfinals: Simon Greul bt Vishaal Uppal 6-2, 6-1; Tobias Koeck bt Norikazu Sugiyama (Jpn) 6-3, 7-5; Konstantin Gruber bt Stefano Ianni (Ita) 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-5; Alexey Kedriouk bt John Patrick Tierro (Phi) 6-1, 7-6 (6).

Doubles (final): Mustafa Ghouse and Vishaal Uppal bt Alexey Kedriouk (Kaz) and Sergei Krotiouk (Rus) 7-6 (4), 6-4; Semifinals: Alexey Kedriouk and Sergei Krotiouk bt Simon Greul and Peter Mayer-Tischer (Ger) 6-3, 6-4; Mustafa Ghouse and Vishaal Uppal bt Hiu-Tung Yu (Hkg) and Kamala Kannan 4-1 (retired).