A non-emotional win
Chakvetadze remains cool
By Josh Katzowitz
Post staff reporter
AL BEHRMAN/Associated Press
Anna Chakvetadze has a 5-0 record in championship finals after defeating Akiko Morigami on Sunday.
MASON, Ohio - When she played under-14 or under-16 tennis tournaments, Anna Chakvetadze could get quite emotional. She might cry during a match, she might yell at herself, she might laugh.
Sania Mirza knows. The two played doubles together on the junior circuit, and Mirza saw first-hand how short-tempered Chakvetadze could be, how much anger she could pour out.
But as she matures and gets more experienced, Chakvetadze is trying to hard to rectify that behavior.
When Chakvetadze disagrees with the judgment of the chair umpire - a regular occurrence during her Western & Southern Women's Open semifinal match against Mirza on Saturday - she'd cover her mouth in disbelief. That was it.
When seventh-seeded Akiko Morigami's two-handed forehand hit the net Sunday, giving the top-seeded Chakvetadze the 6-3, 6-1 victory in the final, Chakvetadze gave a little fist pump and walked nonchalantly to the net to shake hands. That was it.
For the 20-year-old Russian who admits she has struggled with outbursts before, she presented a perfectly calm disposition for most of the tournament.
So, it makes sense that when you ask Chakvetadze what she studies at Moscow University in her free time, the answer is perfectly simple.
Psychology, of course.
"I use that," said Chakvetadze after the 59-minute match improved her career record to 5-0 in tournament finals. "That's why I said I'm improving. I read so many books. In everything, psychology is really important in life. You can pick some stuff from everything that can help you in life and on the court."
She's been studying the subject for the past three years and has one more year of classes before she earns her degree. It's not easy, though. She doesn't spend much time on campus. Last year, she played 22 tournaments, and this year, she's competed in 13 so far and for her country's Fed Cup team.
She takes correspondence courses, but still, it's not the life of your typical college student.
"I'm away from home so much, and I take books and I do some tests on the Internet," said Chakvetadze, who was ranked eighth in the world before the W&S and will move to No. 7 in next week's rankings. "But of course, compared to other students, it's really tough, because I'm never there. They go there every day and they spend so much time there.
"It's very important to me. Not all of the teachers can understand that you are away from home for so many months. I started it because of my parents. I wanted to try it to see if I could study. The first year it was very tough for me. Then, I got used to it."
Morigami, also a W&S finalist in 2005, could see the results Sunday. Morigami could point to Chakvetadze's footwork on the court or her groundstrokes, but the No. 61 player in the world pointed to Chakvetadze's tennis intelligence as one her best attributes.
"She's definitely a very smart player," Morigami said. "When you try to get the rhythm going, she never gives you the time to do it. It's just difficult. She never gives you any free points. With something you want to get going, like two points in a row, she never does that."
It's born out of necessity. Chakvetadze knows she's not the most physically gifted player on the court, so she has to use a more cerebral approach.
"I wish I had great shots on the court like Venus (Williams) or Maria (Sharapova), because they're really tall girls and they hit the ball so fast," Chakvetadze said. "I wish I could hit as hard, but I just can't. I have to run more than they do, and I have to play smart, because I don't have such killer shots like they do. I have to use something else."
Keeping calm also helps.
"I've definitely been getting better," Chakvetadze said. "When people are telling me that I'm pretty emotional on the court, I am telling them that they didn't see my matches when I played under-14 and under-16. Then, I was really emotional. I'm improving every match with the way I play and with the way I act on the court. That's one of the parts on my game that I want to improve."
At times, though, her swing of emotions still is evident.
During the French Open, according to an account by the (London) Sunday Times, she was so happy with one of her shots against Agnes Szavay that she couldn't contain her laughter as she walked to the baseline. Later in the match, after Szavay won the second set, Chakvetadze began crying.
But she's getting better. Mirza notices the difference.
"She was very, very emotional," Mirza said. "When she used to play, she used to be very short-tempered, even when we played doubles. Just getting angry with herself. She's very calm now on the court, even when she's losing. She's very composed. That has a lot to do with the matches she's played and the confidence and the experience she gets playing. You look and you learn. That just comes with maturity. She's really matured as a player."