The New Hingis: Chakvetadze is Martina With a Twist
Anna on Potential Sharapova Match: 'If I use my game plan right, then I can win'
FROM THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN –There are just two Russians who have lost just one match since October – Maria Sharapova and guess who, Anna Chakvetadze, who after whipping eighth seed Patty Schnyder 6-4, 6-1 on Monday, has won out of her 15 out of her last 16 matches. Tracy Austin calls the creative and clean ball stroker the new Martina Hingis. Not a bad call, although the thin blonde thinks that she packs a little more punch than the once great Swiss.
“Martina is a great player, a former No. 1 and it’s a compliment that they say that, but I think I hit the ball little harder than Martina,” Chakvetadze told TR.net
The label might stick if the 19-year-old continues to display the same intelligence that she’s showed during the past few months. She’s very hard to read, especially when she’s hitting out of an open stance, because she seems to wait until the last second to decide which direction she's going. She plays the angles adeptly, but more importantly, she’s secure in both her crosscourt and down the line game off both wings. Her serve is mediocre and her net game is still a work in progress, but there aren’t many gaping holes in her technique.
“ My groundstroke are okay and when I feel my return, I’m really okay.”
More than okay, apparently.
Not every player can play with such assurance and given that Chakvetadze is quick and is rarely off balance, she has a lot of options at her disposal. Knowing when to use which shot and when will come with more experience.
“I’m trying to play smart but I don’t always do it,” she said.
Seeded No. 12, the Russian has had a bang-up past four months, winning Guangzhou, and then stunning Russia by talking it’s highly coveted national championships, other wise known as Moscow, a Tier I. There, she bested Dinara Safina, Francesca Schiavone, Elena Dementieva and Nadia Petrova. Before the AO, she won Hobart. Here at the Aussie Open, she played one lousy set, against Laura Granville in the second round, but when she’s had to step up and close, she has.
“After I beat Petrova in San Diego, I started to believe I can beat top players,” said Chakvetadze. “Then I started player better and better at every tournament. I didn’t play well against Golovin at the US Open, but she played great. But I already believed by then that when I got on court, that I could win. It’s all confidence.”
The 5-foot 7, 128-pound Chakvetadze can tire out and says that when she’s not training or playing, that she naturally loses weight. When she first came on tour she was a substantial head case and is very hard on herself when she loses. She simply seethed if she made an unforced error.
“I’m concentrating more now, not losing easy points,” she said.
She’s very hard on herself, so much so that she offered that an easy draw was part o the reason for her progress here. She doesn’t smile nearly enough and is more than a bit of a perfectionist.
[I am pretty hard on myself],” she said. “That's how I'm thinking. I don't want to talk, like some of the players, they like to say, ‘I will win a Grand Slam.’ All the players want to win a Grand Slam. I just play.”
Like Kim Clijsters and Roger Federer, Chakvetadze is coach-less. Those two are veterans, but she’s not. She’s at the Aussie Open with her father, Djambuli, and her hitting partner, Australian Andre Roberts. She's not giving her dad lot of props for designing strategies.
“He’s not like my coach, he just my dad,” she said. “He helps a little, but I’m trying to think by myself about my game.”
Chakvetadze will play either Maria Sharapova or Vera Zvonareva in the next round, two players she’s familiar with. She lost to Sharapova at ’05 Roland Garros and then fell to her 7-5 in the third set at ’05 Los Angeles. After that loss, she shed tears. The two are less than a month apart in age and not as far apart as one would think in overall ability. Sharapova has proven herself to be mentally tougher, now it’s up to Chakvetadze to show that her eyes won’t get wet when the going gets tough on the big stage.
“I’m happy to play in second week," she said. “ It's different, because the pressure is on. I’m just trying to stay calm because when I don’t, I can’t play tennis. I’m still working on that. I start to think more about the next point, how to beat my opponent and not get frustrated after the point I lost. Now I have more confidence and I know how should I play. If I use my game plan right, then I can win.”