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Chakvetadze Bullies Frenchwomen

Vincent DAVOLI
Saturday 09 Febuary 2008 at 20h09
Just like Nathalie Dechy and Amélie Mauresmo, an ailing Marion Bartoli was brushed aside by Anna Chakvetadze in three sets 2-6, 6-2, 6-0.  The Russian will face Hungary's Agnès Szavay in the finals. (Photo: Panoramic)  

In her first semifinal appearance at the Open Gaz de France, Marion Bartoli had to face a player who has already claimed the scalps of two French women this week. After receiving a first-round bye, Anna Chakvetadze defeated Nathalie Dechy in the round-of-sixteen and Amélie Mauresmo in the quarterfinals to earn her spot in the semifinals.  As the announcer listed the players' paths to the semifinals, a few Parisian boos echoed throughout the stadium.

Visibly troubled by the fans' welcome, the Russian dropped her first service game.  And with France's top player crushing her returns of serve, Chakvetadze dropped her next service game to find herself down 3-0 after 11 minutes on the court.  Although struggling with her serve, the 2007 Wimbledon finalist managed to hold in the next game.  It took the Russian player 24 minutes to get on the score board (4-1).  But, with Bartoli utilizing her powerful double-fisted groundstrokes to near perfection, Chakvetadze woke up a bit too late to challenge for the first set.  Bartoli sealed the set 6-2 after 38 minutes.

Trainer putting in double time

The first sign that the Russian was looking to stay in the battle came during the changeover.  Visibly fatigued after yesterday's long match against Mauresmo, she called for the trainer between sets.  But, the treatment did little to help the world number 7.  She lost her service game to open the second set.  This time, however, the Frenchwoman was unable to consolidate the break.  After exchanging another pair of breaks, the Moscow native who had been receiving massages from the trainer on each changeover finally managed to hold serve to take a 3-2 lead.  The next two games saw the Russian keeping Bartoli on the defensive and she raced to a 5-2 lead.  Then it was the French woman's turn to call for the trainer to have her shoulder and back massaged.  A few minutes after the timeout, the world number 9 lost the second set 6-2 after 1 hour and 31 minutes of play.

Looking to be in pain, Bartoli could not have asked for a worst start to the deciding set. Unable to keep up with an opponent who was raising her game with each point, she dropped serve twice to find herself down 4-0.  Inspite of the fans' support, the French woman looked like she had already thrown in the towel.  The fiery glances she had been throwing her father at the start of the match were replaced by looks of helplessness and dismay.  Like in her round-of-sixteen match at last year's Roland Garros against J. Jankovic, Bartoli refused to retire, however.  But, it was obvious her heart was not in the match.  She finally succumbed 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 after 1 hour and 57 minutes.  Chakvetadze will face Szavay tomorrow in a wide-open final.   
Translated by Timothy Aaron Priest

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