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Chakvetadze: A Perfect 7 Out of 7

Christian Lacaze
Monday 26 January 2009 at 14h07
After a final lasting more than two hours, Anna Chakvetadze (1) captures the title at the 16th Open Gaz de France 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.  The Russian has now won all seven finals she has played in. (Photo : Panoramic)  

For the last time at this 16th Open Gaz de France, French DJ Jean Roch's hit "Can You Feel It?" energized Coubertin stadium as the two finalists took to the court to battle for the 2008 title.  The first on court was Agnès Szavay (7), the underdog in the final against number 1 seed Anna Chakvetadze. 

5 double-faults in two games!

Booed by the French fans as the loud speaker listed the scalps she claimed en route to the final (three Frenchwomen), the Russian chose to start the match on the receiving end.  Struggling with nerves, Szavay got off to a terrible start.  After committing five double-faults in her first two service games, the Hungarian youngster found herself down 4-0 after only 15 minutes.  A Guns N' Roses fan, Joseph Bolskay, one of Szavay's two coaches – who typically watches his protege's matches to the beat of hard rock and heavy metal – must have been asking himself what was happening to his "Rock Queen."  

The unbashful Parisian fans were quick to show they were behind the sole Hungarian on the Team Gaz de France.  In spite of hitting her 6th double-fault, Szavay finally managed to hold serve to get on the scoreboard.  With the nerves settling, she finally broke back on her fifth break point.  After hitting her 7th double-fault in her next service game, Szavay fired an ace out wide to pull back to 4-3.  It looked like the tides might be turning.  But Chakvetadze, who has never lost a final in six tries, held serve and then broke Szavay at love.  She closed out the first set 6-3 with her trademark down-the-line backhand after 37 minutes on the court.   

A sixth three-set final

The Hungarian called for her coach between sets.  When she regained the court, the match swung dramatically in the other direction.  With her aggressive and varied groundstrokes finding their range, Szavay raced out to a 4-0 lead after hitting her second ace of the match.  The match was 1 hour old.  Leading 5-1, the smiling Hungarian earned herself two set points on her opponent's serve, but had to wait until the next game to level the match at one set all after saving two break points.  For the sixth time in sixteen years, the Open Gaz de France final was going to be settled in a decisive third set.  

After losing only her second set in seven final appearances, Anna Chakvetadze called for the trainer between sets.  She even left the court to receive treatment for an ailing left shoulder that was hindering her two-handed backhand (she is a right hander).  But, it obviously wasn't serious as the Russian resumed battle with a blistering ace en route to winning a love service game.   The last set saw both players raise their levels.  After winning her first two service games to love, Chakvetadze found herself facing two breakpoints, but she finally held after a 14 point game.  One game later, the Russian earned herself a chance to break the Hungarian after hitting a beautiful two-handed passing shot out of the air.  The Russian was suddenly pumped up and even threw a few fiery glances across the net after some stunning groundstroke winners.  The number 7 seed managed to save one break point, but lost serve a few points later.   Down 2-5 after 2 hours on the court, it looked like Szavay needed a miracle to mount another comeback.  Serving to stay in the match at 2-5, she saved one match point with a blistering winner but committed an error on the next point to gift the game and the title to Anna Chakvetadze.  

After 2 hours and 6 minutes of intense tennis, Anna Chakvetadze has succeeded compatriot Nadia Petrova as the Queen of the Open Gaz de France.  With her 7th title in as many final appearances, the Russian will rise to number 6 when the world rankings are issued on Monday.  Although Szavay leaves Paris a finalist and not a title holder, she has nothing to be disappointed about.  Hungarian writer, Imre Kertész (Nobel Prize for Literature in 2002) once wrote: "To be without destiny." However, this fellow Hungarian's dictum finds no echo in Agnès Szavay.  If she continues in this direction, her destiny could very well be leading her straight to the top of women's tennis.     

Translated by Timothy Aaron Priest

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