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Youth Prevails!

Christian Lacaze
 
 
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Saturday 09 Febuary 2008 at 21h20
The final of the 2008 Open Gaz de France will feature two young stars.  20 year-old Russian Anna Chakvetadze will face Hungary's 19 year-old Agnès Szavay.  Both are players with promising futures ahead of them. (Photo : Panoramic)  

Anna Chakvetadze (1) vs Agnes Szavay (7)

For the second straight year, there will be no French player in the Open Gaz de France finals.  Who is to blame?  Russia's 20 year-old Anna Chakvetadze, who defeated three Frenchwomen in a row: Nathalie Dechy, Amélie Mauresmo, and Marion Bartoli.  Standing in the Russian's way in the finals will be Hungarian youngster Agnès Szavay (7), who looks like she has what it takes to become one of Coubertin's new darlings.  

One of the most talented up and coming players, Agnès Szavay's strokes and serve approach technical perfection and she shows uncanny maturity and poise for such a young player.  On Saturday, she topped Elena Dementieva (4) after a breathtaking third set.  After a steller junior career which saw her win the singles and doubles titles at the Australian Open and Roland Garros, this budding champion raised in Budapest has already won two WTA titles:  Palermo and Beijing.  Szavay is not wasting any time on her way to the top of women's tennis.  And, that is the least one could say. 

From the qualifiers to the quarters...and beyond

Ranked 182 in the world last year, Agnès Szavay had to come through the qualifiers last year to play her first Open Gaz de France. And, she needed a wildcard for that!  A member of the Team Gaz de France, Agnès has turned a lot of heads at this year's tournament with her strong all around game.  Her serve is a real weapon despite her "short" stature (1.69m) and she even recorded one of the three fastest serves at Roland Garros last year.   

The scene of the only tour meeting between Chakvetadze and Szavay came at last year's Roland Garos.  In her French Open debut, the Hungarian put up a hard fight against the Russian in the second-round before succumbing 6-4, 6-7 (1), 6-4.  Chakvetadze also has a bright tennis future ahead of her.  A semifinalist at last year's US Open and the WTA Championships, the Moscow native currently ranked 7 in the world has won all six finals in which she has participated, with four of those coming last year alone.    

An equation with several variables

So, is it mission impossible for Szavay?  That is doubtful given her form here this week.  If the Russian doesn't serve better than she has been (roughly 50% in three previous matches, and a meager 39% in the first set against Bartoli), she could be vulnerable, especially with the blistering returns the Hungarian has shown this week.  Both players have sensationally strong backhands and some lightening exchanges are to be expected on that wing.  Physical fatigue could also play a role in tomorrow's final match up.  Coming into Paris having just played four Fed Cup matches, Szavay is certainly the least fresh of the two.  As for Chakvetadze, she only played one match last week and received a first-round bye here at Coubertin.  Another factor to be considered is the ever vocal Parisian crowd.   Against her in her previous three matches (Dechy, Mauresmo, Bartoli), Chakvetadze may feel like she deserves a bit of support from French fans.  That said, the crowd has already proven they have a soft spot for the Hungarian youngster.  There are more questions and answers at this point.  One thing, however, is sure.  The 16th final at the Open Gaz de France has all the makings of a heated battle between two women hungry to be crowned Coubertin's next queen. 


Translated by Timothy Aaron Priest

 

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BREAKING NEWS

02/10 - Open Gaz de France: Chakvetadze Takes the Title

02/10 - Open Gaz de France: Bondarenko Sisters Add to Australia Title

02/09 - Open Gaz de France: Bartoli Falls to Chakvetadze

02/09 - Open Gaz de France: Szavay Downs Demientieva!

02/08 - Open Gaz de France: Bondarenko Sisters into the Doubles Final

02/08 - Open Gaz de France: Chakvetadze Ousts Mauresmo

02/08 - Open Gaz de France: Czech Pair Through to the Doubles Final

02/08 - Open Gaz de France: Bartoli Downs Razzano

02/08 - Open Gaz de France: Dementieva Through to the Semifinals

02/08 - Open Gaz de France: Splendid Szavay

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