Paris 2007: Andrew's tournament-review / UK TV-alert -
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Paris 2007: Andrew's tournament-review / UK TV-alert

(UK TV-alert is at the end of this LONG message.)

OPEN GAZ DE FRANCE (Paris, France; indoor hard (Greenset), WTA Tier II)

Lucie Šafářová [DF]:
1r + Tsvetana Pironkova [Q], 6-3 6-7 (5/7) 6-3
2r + NICOLE VAIDIŠOVÁ [5,EF], 6-4 6-2
qf + SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA [3], 6-3 6-4
sf + JUSTINE HENIN [1], 7-6 (7/5) 6-4
_f - NADIA PETROVA [4], 6-4 1-6 4-6

It's an amazing transformation for Lucie this year. Last year she was just another pretty face in the top 50, more famous for being TomᚠBerdych's girlfriend than for her own achievements (which include three WTA singles-titles).

Lucie's win over Amélie Mauresmo at the Australian Open could have been a one-off, but taken together with these amazing results from Paris, and some brilliant shots from a few points of highlights (which is all I've ever seen Lucie play so far), it looks like she has the potential to become both a top-3 player and quite possibly the next member of my Eternal Fanship!

For now, I have merely promoted Lucie to my demi-fanship (my second tier of favourite players below my Eternal Fanship). The earliest I would even consider inducting her into my Eternal Fanship would be in June - if she can get herself televised by the BBC at the French Open or Wimbledon, and impress me sufficiently then.

Lucie moves up from #32 in the rankings to a career-high #26 - not that that will be her highest ranking for long!

------ (very nice!)
Search Getty Images for "safarova"

Lucie makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up!


Interviews (with French voiceover);
First-round highlights ("Résumé du 6 février"):
Second-round highlights ("Résumé du 8 février");
Quarter-final highlights ("Résumé du 9 février");
Semi-final highlights ("Résumé du 10 février");
"Résumé de la finale du 15eme Open Gaz de France":

I hate voiceovers! Why can't they just use subtitles instead?

From the little bits that they didn't talk over, Lucie's voice sounds very cute! Unfortunately, I've never heard it without a voiceover!

The semi-final and final highlights are the closest I've come to seeing Lucie play. My observations:
* she's left-handed;
* her groundstrokes are hard and deep!
* she hit plenty of impressive winners, even in the final!
* her groundstrokes seem relatively flairsome, but with more topspin than a lot of the girls, who hit very flat;
* she has a swinging lefty serve out wide in the ad-court, which is good for one-two punches on big points!
* she has a big forehand, and her favourite shot seems to be the forehand down the line;
* she has a nice high-pitched two-tone grunt!

In the second-round highlights, Lucie won the point of the day against Nicole Vaidišová, with wonderful hard, deep groundstrokes and a crosscourt forehand winner just inside the sideline!

Also in the second-round video is Lucie's match-point against Nicole: a booming ace down the middle that made me go "wow"!

My favourite players

The above evidence is enough for me to promote Lucie into my demi-fanship, and even the thought of inducting her into my Eternal Fanship has crossed my mind!

But I'd need to see her play at least one whole match before I could start thinking seriously about that, and I'm in no hurry to induct anyone so soon after Nicole Vaidišová (6/6/06) and Anna Chakvetadze (19/12/06).

So I'm not going to make any proactive effort towards evaluating Lucie (at least not yet). If she's for real - as this week strongly suggests that she is - then it will only be a matter of time before she persuades the BBC to televise her, and then I'll see!

So for now, the top two tiers of my list of favourite players stand as follows:

My Eternal Fanship:
1. Monica Seles
2. Maria Sharapova
3. Daniela Hantuchová
4. Jelena Dokić
5. Iva Majoli (retired)
6. Karina Habšudová (retired)
7. Iroda Tulyaganova
8. Vera Zvonarëva
9. Nicole Vaidišová
10. Anna Chakvetadze

My demi-fanship:
11. Tatiana Golovin
12. Maria Kirilenko
13. Lucie Šafářová
14. Sania Mirza
15. Ana Ivanović
16. Magdaléna Rybáriková
17. Karolina Šprem
18. Gisela Dulko
19. Flavia Pennetta

My first impulse - the excitement of the new - was to put Lucie straight in at #11. But Tatiana and Little Maria have meant too much to me over the last three years to demote them that easily.

Right now, though, if you asked me to guess who will be the next player I induct into my Eternal Fanship, I'd say Lucie!

First round (Thursday 8th February)

+ Lucie Šafářová [DF] d. Tsvetana Pironkova [Q], 6-3 6-7 (5/7) 6-3

Their only previous meeting was in the first round of this very tournament last year!

Tsvetana won that one 6-2 2-6 6-0, but this was Lucie's week for revenges (or in the cases of Kuznetsova and Henin, establishing 1-0 head-to-head records).

It's ironic that Lucie was taken to three sets by the battle-hardened qualifier, and then beat three top-tenners in straight sets!

Second round (Thursday 8th February)

+ Lucie Šafářová [DF] d. NICOLE VAIDIŠOVÁ [5,EF], 6-4 6-2

At the time, this was a disappointing loss for me as a Nicole-fan, as Nicole had beaten Lucie 6-1 6-4 in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open. But I'm glad Nicole beat Lucie at the AO, rather than beating her here and losing to her there!

But when Lucie went on to upset Kuznetsova and Henin - three top-10 scalps in a row, all in straight sets - my disappointment was replaced by the excitement of the emergence of a very nice new star!

Lucie's results here suggest that she has top-5 or even top-3 potential if she can maintain this form! It's just unlucky that Nicole had to draw her in the second round.

Nicole was broken in the first game of the match, and the rest of the first set went with serve. And Nicole couldn't break Lucie in the second set either, in which she found herself *1-5 down.

Global Guy [re. Nicole]:
Her swings are long which hurts her vs. a player like Safarova who can hit deep, on a fast court.

At the Australian Open it was a totally different story.

[Perhaps Nicole's long swings could also be a reason why she does better on clay and hardcourts than on grass?]

Clément Lizet (translated by Aurelia Ruetsch) <>
Lucie Šafářová hasn't finished making a name for herself. Last January she was incredible in her victory over Amélie Mauresmo in the round of 16 of the 2007 Australian Open.

The young Czech, freshly turned 20, amazed the public in Coubertin on Thursday as she easily returned Nicole Vaidišová serves rated among the best of the circuit.

As a talented left-hand player who likes to rush up to the net to finish off her points with volleys, Šafářová develops an alluring but highly risky tennis.
Šafářová's win over the No.9-ranked Vaidišová marks her third career Top 10 victory; a victory over Patty Schnyder at Gold Coast last year was her first, and a win over Mauresmo in the round of 16 at the Australian this year was her second.

And now Lucie has five top-ten victories in her career!

PA SportsTicker:
Šafářová, who turned 20 last Sunday, needed just 72 minutes to oust Vaidišová, firing nine aces and converting three break-points. She will meet third-seeded Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarter-finals.

Cécile Verin
< e.html>:
No Czech tennis fan would have wanted to miss that second-round match, as it was a clash between Czech Republic's best two players: The world's number 9 Nicole Vaidišová, and left-handed player Lucie Šafářová.

Despite her higher ranking and greater experience of high-level matches, the former found it hard to get into the rhythm of the starting clash, and soon found herself down 0-2.

She then proceeded to take as much charge as the ranking difference between the two players should have allowed, and won her serve, putting a lot of pressure on Šafářová's shoulders with her strong line-hitting groundstrokes.

But that was not enough to prevent her opponent from staying one break ahead and, at 5-4, from getting three consecutive set-points. If Šafářová first gave the impression she was going to be too impressed to make it, her third attempt was successful, and a winning serve allowed her to claim the first set 6-4.

As soon as the second set started, it became obvious that the key elements were going to be the athletes' serves and returns, on which most of the points of the first game were scored.

And returns were precisely something Šafářová had turned out to excel at in the first set, and she did not tire in the second, making a real difference with that skill. It took Vaidišová almost ten minutes to simply win her serve game, while the older Czech won hers easily.

As the pattern of the match was becoming easier to read, no one was surprised when Lucie Šafářová followed suit and broke Vaidišová's serve not once but twice, moving ahead 5-1.

The world's number 9 managed to score one more game thanks to two winning serves, offering the Coubertin spectators the opportunity to find out whether or not her countrywoman was going to feel as nervous as she had when close to winning the first set.

Šafářová's clear answer was an ace which, after 1h12m, gave her a victory that looked like a very nice gift received only four days after her twentieth birthday.

The Devil:
Nicole wasn't at the press conference.Apparently,She left the stadium 10 minutes after her match.She will propably have a fine.

At the training, some people told me, everything was ok.So,the lost is suprising.She was maybe too nervous.

i've seen the match and Nicole has nothing to reproach to herself because Lucie was just in an amazing day, serving aces and aces, returning amazingly and hitting winners all over the place ! Maybe Nicole could have served better but Lucie was pressuring her a lot and obviously Nicole was a bit slow with the legs that day... Nothing serious even she was rather angry at the end...

Nicole quotes

{before the match}

"I know her very well; we are partners in Fed Cup. But whoever is on the other side of the net, I just concentrate on my own game."

Lucie quotes

{after the match}

"I wanted my revenge after our quarter-final match in Australia. I was very concentrated in this match. There was a bit of tension because we know each other very well.

"I don't want to look ahead; I play my matches one after the other. I'd rather not set any precise goal. I can't wait to play against Kuznetsova. She's a very good player. It will be a great match."

Quarter-final (Friday 9th February)

+ Lucie Šafářová [DF] d. SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA [3], 6-3 6-4
Lucie Šafářová had an incredible start to 2007 in Australia, and she doesn't seem to be slowing down as the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour heads to Europe. The big-hitting Czech youngster notched her third Top 10 win of the season on Friday, taking out Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets to reach the Open Gaz de France semifinals.

The two big-hitters were fairly equal through the bulk of the match but it was on important points where Šafářová shone; she saved all four of the break-points against her, and converted on three of her six opportunities. She clinched the win on one of those breaks.

Šafářová, who turned 20 last Sunday, has had one of the most phenomenal starts to the year. She caused a stir at the Australian Open, ousting defending champion (and world No.3) Amélie Mauresmo en route to her first major quarter-final; and she hasn't been a disappointment in her follow-up event this week, with two more Top 10 wins over Nicole Vaidišová and now Kuznetsova. Her only early-round loss so far this year was a second-round defeat at Hobart - in a third set tiebreak - to Serena Williams.

Julien Pretot (Reuters):
Šafářová, who broke into the limelight last month when she beat champion Mauresmo to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals, won in one hour and 21 minutes.

The 20-year-old Czech, who is 32nd in the world rankings, got off to a flying start, breaking in the first game on Kuznetsova's fourth double fault.

Šafářová dictated the points, forcing her opponent behind her baseline, and claiming the first set in 39 minutes after breaking a second time.

Both players held serve until the 10th game of the second set, when unseeded Šafářová broke again to snatch an impressive win with a stunning forehand.

PA SportsTicker:
Lucie Šafářová is making a habit of upsetting the best players in the world.

Šafářová advanced to the semi-finals of the $600,000 Open Gaz de France on Friday with a 6-3 6-4 ousting of third-seeded Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova.

The victory came less than three weeks after Šafářová bounced world No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo in the round of 16 at the Australian Open.

The unseeded Czech was outstanding once again Friday, firing seven aces and converting three break-points in a match lasting 82 minutes.

The world's fifth-ranked player, Kuznetsova recorded 11 aces but double-faulted six times.

Cécile Verin <>:
The open outcome of the match was confirmed right from the first game, which Kuznetsova lost by making four double faults[!].

The Czech proved to be much more comfortable on her serves, so much in fact that she even engaged in a rush to the net, and risky shots overflowing with confidence which remained inside the court.

On the other side of the net, Kuznetsova, unable to apply her own match-plan, could only endure that of her opponent, who won the set 6-3, breaking her serve for the second time.

Probably following the advice of her coach present on the court, the Russian decided to give everything she had in the beginning of the second set. Her screams became louder as she attempted more winners, rushed several times to the net, and concentrated on her serve. Although she became more successful than earlier in the match, her efforts only enabled her to stay afloat against a pervasive Šafářová.

The Czech was leading 5-4, but Kuznetsova, who was 'serving to survive', was unable to stop her opponent's growing enthusiasm at the perspective of winning. Šafářová pulled out all the stops, and eventually won the set 6-4.

Cécile Verin interviews Lucie
-----------------------------'t_wait_to_play_the_s emi-finals._.html:
CÉCILE VERIN: Congratulations Lucie, you served and returned particularly well today. Was that the key of the match?
LUCIE ŠAFÁŘOVÁ: Yes, it was very important. In the first set I broke her serve straight away, and I managed to hold on afterwards by keeping an extra break during the whole set; it changed a lot of things. In the second set, she also had an excellent serve, but I still managed to find a way out - notably by not falling behind thanks to my serve and my returns. It was an asset for today.

CÉCILE VERIN: You have defeated two seeded players in two days. You must feel incredible...
LUCIE ŠAFÁŘOVÁ: Yes, it's really great, I'm delighted. I can't wait for tomorrow, and perhaps I'll add a third one to the list!

CÉCILE VERIN: How do you explain that in the Top 50, there are only three left-handed players, including yourself?
LUCIE ŠAFÁŘOVÁ: First of all you have to bear in mind that there aren't many left-hand players, whatever the level; we are only 5 or 10%. This figure translates in the rankings. It's not always easy for a left-handed player to make progress. But on the other hand, you can also hinder the opponent, and that's when it turns into an advantage. In my case, I have no idea to what extent it helps me...

CÉCILE VERIN: How are you going to prepare for tomorrow's semi-final?
LUCIE ŠAFÁŘOVÁ: I am going to start by resting, because I feel really exhausted now. Then I'll go see the physio and get a massage to recover the best I can after these two difficult matches, and be 100% fit for tomorrow.

More quotes from Lucie

"I'm so happy to win this match, it was so hard. It's just amazing for me.

"It was a very good match. I can feel my play getting much better. It's because I'm getting more and more confidence after every match. I like playing here; I like this surface. When I go out there, I'm trying to be aggressive, and get on top of every ball.

"I worked very hard in the off-season. I got a new conditioning-coach, and I think that really helped me.

"I can't wait to play tomorrow!"

Semi-final (Saturday 10th February)

+ Lucie Šafářová [DF] d. JUSTINE HENIN [1], 7-6 (7/5) 6-4


Clément Lizet (translated by Aurelia Ruetsch) <>:
Against her, the young Lucie Šafářová also has serious assets to put on display on the offensive level.

The left-hand player, recently turned 20, has just won two brilliant matches against Top 10 players Nicole Vaidišová (n°5) - her fellow countrywoman - and the Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova (n°9).

Having defeated Amélie Mauresmo in the last 16 of the 2007 Australian Open, TomᚠBerdych's (ATP n°12) girlfriend is not the kind of player to be apprehensive about big matches. After her qualification for the semi-finals of the Open Gaz de France, she said she "couldn't wait to play the semi-finals".

This will be the first match opposing the two players.

To help her in her task, Lucie will perhaps want to remember that in 2005, a few kilometres away from Coubertin, her fiancé won the Bercy indoor tournament. Will love make her want to fly?

Šafářová, unseeded in the French capital, took down top seed and tournament favourite Justine Henin, 7-6(5) 6-4. She battled back in both sets to clinch the victory, saving three set-points in the first set, and rallying back from a 4-2 deficit in the second. It was her first meeting against the former world No.1.

The win over the No.2-ranked Belgian, who was contesting her first event of the year, was Šafářová's third over a Top 10 player this week. here. The Czech also sent No.9 Nicole Vaidišová and No.5 Svetlana Kuznetsova home over the last few days. They were the third, fourth and fifth Top 10 wins of her career.

Šafářová's aggressive play gave her the advantage throughout the one-hour, 39-minute battle.

Julien Pretot (Reuters):
Lucie Šafářová's brilliant run at the Paris Open continued when the Czech knocked out top seed Justine Henin 7-6 6-4 on Saturday to reach the final, where she will play Nadia Petrova.

Henin, whose last event was the season-ending Tour championships in Madrid in November, squandered a 5-2 lead in the first set and a 4-2 gap in the second against Šafářová.

Unseeded Šafářová, who beat compatriot Nicole Vaidišová and world number five Svetlana Kuznetsova in the previous rounds, broke into the limelight at last month's Australian Open.

She knocked out then-champion Mauresmo in the fourth round in Melbourne before falling to Vaidišová in the quarter-finals.

Šafářová's booming returns put early pressure on Henin's serve, but the former world number one's devastating backhand kept her in contention.

Henin broke in the sixth game when Šafářová netted an easy forehand, and opened a 5-2 lead.

The Czech, however, saved three set-points before breaking Henin's serve. Šafářová levelled at 5-5, and clinched the set in the tiebreak, which she won 7/5.

Henin broke in the fifth game of the second set as Šafářová showed some signs of nerves.

But the Czech stormed back, winning the final four games to wrap up victory in one hour and 39 minutes.

Associated Press (AP):
Henin, playing in her first tournament of the year, wasted three set-points in the opening set, and then led 5/4 in the tiebreaker. But Šafářová won the next three points, clinching the set when Henin hit an off-balance shot out.

Henin led 4-2 in the second set, but the unseeded Šafářová fought back with two service-breaks to wrap up the match.

PA SportsTicker:
After falling behind, 5-2, in the first set, Šafářová rallied to forge a tiebreak, breaking Henin twice in the process.

After serving out the set, Šafářová held serve in the second set until the decisive 10th game when she broke Henin to reach her first final since last year's season opener at Gold Coast, where she captured one of her three career-titles.
Lucie Šafářová created an upset in the first semi-final match of this 15th Open Gaz de France. The young Czech aged 20 dominated the Belgian Justine Henin: 7-6 6-4.

Justine Henin already knew before this first semi-final match of the day that she had to be wary of Czechs. As the months pass, these young talented players have more and more weight on the circuit which is usually dominated by the Russians. Given the performance put on Saturday by Lucie Šafářová, the world number 2 player's fears were founded. After a beautiful battle, the player ranked number 32 in the world defeated the Belgian and qualified after winning two sets: 7-6 6-4.

Visibly not impressed by the calibre of her opponent of the day, TomᚠBerdych's girlfriend started the match with serenity and appetite. After defeating Mauresmo in Melbourne, then Vaidišová and Kuznetsova in Paris, Šafářová was determined to add yet another Top 10 name to her list.

The beginning of the match certainly took that direction. Credited with two break-points in the first game, Šafářová cashed in points thanks to a double fault from Henin. The player hailing from Liège quickly made up for her mistake. Determined to stay in control, she came back 1-1.

Once the observation stage was over, the Belgian took the match in her hands and disciplined the careless Czech, who quickly found herself trailing at 5-2 after conceding her serve for the second time of the match.

Not ready to give in, Šafářová (who is coached by Jaroslav Bulant) relaunched her attack. After struggling to make up for two break-points, the Czech made a brilliant comeback by winning the next two games and posting a 5-all on the scoreboard.

The outcome of the first set only came after a tiebreak which turned to Lucie's advantage. Delighted, she concluded the act on her first set-point opportunity, and won 7-6 after almost one hour of play.

Strengthened by the score and the mental dispositions that come along, Šafářová kept up the good work, and started the second set by inflicting on Henin a love-game.

But this impeccable start suddenly stopped at 2-2 after a controversial refereeing decision. This was the perfect opportunity for Henin to take control of the match again and break free 4-2.

Brno's child prodigy chose that exact moment to intensify her game. Cheered by a public who was 100% behind her, the young left-hand player, recently turned 20, unleashed her powerful bag of shots to definitely silence the number 1 seed.

Šafářová, ecstatic, put on a great show by hitting incredible shots right on the sideline. She managed to win three games in a row, including two love-games (5-4).

For Henin, defeat was looming. And indeed a few minutes after, the Belgian gave in. After a fifth double fault, she gave her rival two match-point opportunities - of which only one was necessary for Šafářová to reach the final.

Lucie quotes

"It's amazing; I'm so happy to win today. Every time I wasn't in control of the point, I lost it. I'd never played her, and was surprised how much she was attacking at the beginning. Being aggressive was my only chance to push her from the first moment; it was the only way to win."

^[Spoken like a top-five player!]

"I tried to put her under pressure on every point. I was feeling very good on the court.

"With every match you win, you're stronger mentally; I'm not really nervous on court right now. I'm thinking positively, playing each point and trying to win it. I try not to think about the pressure. Every time I play a match, I try to win.

"I didn't think before the tournament that I'd make the final... but I was hoping."

Lucie interview
--------------- elieve_it_.html
You have beaten three Top 10 players in three days, that's impressive...
LUCIE ŠAFÁŘOVÁ: Yes, what I'm experiencing here is absolutely incredible. After the match, I had to pinch myself to believe it. This match against Henin was very difficult, but I felt comfortable with my tennis, and today I managed to play better than her. I quickly understood that I had to constantly put pressure on her, because every time I didn't, I lost the point; I had no choice.

Were you expecting such good results here?
LUCIE ŠAFÁŘOVÁ: Every time you play in a tournament, you hope to win matches. I can't say that I was expecting to beat such good players here and to make it to the final, but I was hoping for it, especially after my injury last season. I wanted a successful 2007 season and so far, I'm satisfied! But I also know that a string of victories doesn't mean anything if afterwards there's no consistency. I could very well start losing matches, so I have to stay vigilant.

^[So true.]

In the final, would you rather play against Amélie Mauresmo or Nadia Petrova?
LUCIE ŠAFÁŘOVÁ: That's a difficult question, I don't know. I imagine that the public would rather have me play against Amélie, but as far as I'm concerned, I don't care - both of them are excellent players.

Was your father your first coach?
LUCIE ŠAFÁŘOVÁ: Yes, he coached me until was ten. When I was little, he made me start tennis even earlier than my sister, and he hoped that one day I would become a professional tennis-player. He arrived in Paris today to see me play. I am in contact with him, and he gives me technical and tactical advice from a distance.

Your boyfriend TomᚠBerdych is currently palying in the Davis Cup. Do you think that your victory will inspire him?
LUCIE ŠAFÁŘOVÁ: I hope so. Unusually we say that if one of us wins, the other has to do the same. I hope that this time it will be the case.

Would you say that your mental strength is one of your assets?
LUCIE ŠAFÁŘOVÁ: Yes, I think so. I feel strong mentally, and every match I play reinforces this feeling. It helps me stay focused and positive on the court, and to play each point without thinking about the next one. I try not to put any pressure on myself.

Interview by Cécile Verin
Translated by Aurélia Ruetsch

Henin quotes

{before the match}

"She is on the rise; she is a very impressive player who will have nothing to lose.

"It's not a tricky match in the sense that, at this stage of the competition, anything can happen. But she's a dangerous player. She is young, on the rise and did an exceptional Australian tour. She takes a lot of risks, tries a great deal of things. It will be a good test playing against someone who will have nothing to lose."

[Re. Lucie's left-handedness]
"It's special. You're less used to it. Šafářová is a hard hitter, she takes a lot of initiatives and risks, she doesn't think twice. I will have to slightly adjust to her returns. I'm going to try and forget what's happening on the other side of the net. If I do things the right way, usually it goes smoothly."

{after the match}

"I'm back from very far, so the defeat is logical. It is always disappointing to lose, but you have to accept it to improve. Just being here was already a big chance.

"I have shown I am on the right path, even though I cannot draw conclusions on this week yet. Today, I did not have a good feeling; I played too defensive. I was not feeling as good as in the previous rounds; I was a bit tired, and she played very well - very aggressively.

"Even when I was leading, I was not playing well.

"She has a very good serve; I really struggled to read it, especially on my backhand."

Henin interview
--------------- l
Justine, you were leading in the two sets (5-2 and 4-2) before giving in; what happened?
JUSTINE HENIN: I was unable to express what I wanted today on the court. I had a bit of a negative state of mind against a girl who played well. She wasn't giving much and I wasn't getting any good sensations. Even when I was leading, I thought I was a bit negative, and in the end, it's the little things that made the difference. But it wasn't enough to win today, so I'm putting things into perspective. I know that this was my first tournament since my comeback. My goal was to play a few matches - that's done. I reached my goal and I remain confident. You always need a bit of time before recovering your landmarks. I've come a long way, so it wasn't necessarily easy. In this kind of situation, emotions always overcome you... In the end, it's all logical, and obviously it's always disappointing to lose. I don't like that, but sometimes you just have to accept it and to move on.

Is there an explanation to this negative state of mind?
JUSTINE HENIN: No, today I didn't feel as good on the court. I'm a bit more tired, I was less comfortable. There are days when you just don't have a good vibe. Even when I was leading I got the impression that I was less good. I was a bit intolerant. Because of my victory on Friday, perhaps I was expecting more from myself, I wanted to raise my level of play higher. I knew that it was going to be a difficult match. I didn't come here just to win the tournament, but to see where I stand. She didn't give me much, and she took advantage of many opportunities. She played a very decent match from the beginning to the end, and for me it wasn't enough to win today.

Even though you didn't feel well, you tried to play according to your new game-plans – moving up, rushing to the net...
JUSTINE HENIN: Yes, I have to, but I was unable to put it into place. I couldn't find the right balance between the patience and aggression necessary to come up to the net. I had a problem with the intentions of my game. I was playing too short. I didn't put enough pressure. You have to be 100% to win matches like this, and I was definitely not at my best. But at least today I tried. It didn't work, but there will be better days.

What surprised you about Šafářová?
JUSTINE HENIN: She served well. Her left-hand serve really hindered me. Apart from that, she jumps on almost everything. When you're not confident and that the ball is in, it hurts. I played a bit too short; I was defensive. She had a lot of time to organise her game. She's very talented, and didn't hesitate.

You were wary of her though...
JUSTINE HENIN: Yes, of course. I didn't underestimate this match at all.

What lessons have you drawn from this tournament? Do you have the feeling that you still were successful in this tournament?
JUSTINE HENIN: It's still a bit early to draw conclusions. Being here is already a chance because initially I was supposed to come back in Dubai, but I decided to come back earlier, so there are plenty of things that need to be put back into place. It won't happen overnight, but I still showed I was on the right path. I have to recover my serenity, work on a few things, and slowly things will improve. You have to be able to manage your emotions, and that's not always easy.

Can Šafářová reach the top level?
JUSTINE HENIN: She has the potential to do so, but now we have to see how she evolves. It's the first time she succeeds so regularly. She has a great potential, and in the next years we'll have to take her into consideration.

At the moment, tennis is your anchorage in life. Did you recover good things this week?
JUSTINE HENIN: It's important to get back into it. I wasn't able to play much over the last few months because of my injuries, my personal problems everyone knows about, so it's nice to be able to get back in the atmosphere of things. I had to go through this, and it was a brave decision to come here. It wasn't easy, but I wanted to take my responsibilities, come back on the circuit, face all this, and in the end it went relatively smoothly.

Translated by Aurelia Ruetsch

Liezel Huber

"I saw Šafářová after her win against Henin. She was very happy of course. If she can play tomorrow like she did today, it will make for a very exciting singles-final!"

Final (Sunday 11th February)

- Lucie Šafářová [DF] lt. NADIA PETROVA [4], 6-4 1-6 4-6

Lucie led 6-4 *1-0, but sadly she couldn't take the final step in a brilliant week, and lost six games in a row to drop the second set, and went *1-5 down in the third before making a partial recovery to 4-5*.

On Sunday, the final of the 15th Open Gaz de France will oppose Lucie Šafářová to Nadia Petrova (n°4), from 15h00.

The dream final between Amélie Mauresmo and the Belgian Justine Henin (n°2) will not happen as Saturday, Nadia Petrova (n°4) and Lucie Šafářová unleashed their incredible talent to win their ticket for the final. Whoever wins the match, will be crowned champion of the Paris tournament for the first time.

Lucie Šafářová, the young Czech aged 20, kept creating upsets in this 2007 Open Gaz de France. On Saturday, the player hailing from Brno, Czech Republic, defeated Justine Henin (n°2), thus eliminating her third Top 10 player this week after Nicole Vaidišová (n°9) and Svetlana Kuznetsova (n°5). And always in two sets! Her toughest match was actually in the first round when she needed 2h09m to take revenge on the Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova, who beat her here last year.

On the path to a 4th WTA circuit title, Šafářová will be matched up against a physically affected player. Indeed, Nadia Petrova (n°4) needed more than 2h40m to overcome Amélie Mauresmo (n°2), saving a match-point as she went (5-7 6-4 7-6 (7)). Looking peaky throughout the match, the Russian wisely withdrew from the doubles semi-final after her victory. To prepare for the final, the player ranked n°5 in the world will have the psychological advantage of never have lost against her opponent in two previous matches. But from Šafářová's point of view, these defeats have to be put into perspective as they occurred last year, on claycourt. Also, ever since her victory (6-4 6-3) over Amélie Mauresmo in the last sixteen of the 2007 Australian Open last January, the Czech seems to have reached a new dimension.

Šafářová, who before this year hadn't won more than two consecutive matches on the circuit since 2006, just keeps surprising her rivals. Relying on a very efficient left-hand serve, she "jumps on every opportunity" [to quote her latest victim, Justine Henin]. Will she manage to successfully apply the same tactic on Sunday? Against her, Petrova will also use her excellent serve as well as her efficient forward game. The only unknown factor is her health.

Clément Lizet (Translated by Aurelia Ruetsch)

The one-hour, 48-minute championship duel was a streaky one. Šafářová was the first to assert herself, using her aggression to perfection in winning the opening set and holding points for a 2-0 lead in the second.

But that was the turning-point; Petrova used her own brand of aggressive tennis, following her groundstrokes into the net on many occasions, and reeling off 11 of the next 12 games to clinch the second and pull ahead 5-1 in the third.

Although the Czech was able to close to 5-4, it was too late, and the Russian sealed the 4-6 6-1 6-4 win on an errant forehand.

Julien Pretot (Reuters):
Russian Nadia Petrova ended Lucie Šafářová's brilliant run at the Paris Open when she outfoxed the Czech 4-6 6-1 6-4 in Sunday's final.

The world number seven fought back from one set down to claim her seventh WTA title in one hour and 48 minutes.

Šafářová, who beat compatriot Nicole Vaidišová, third seed Svetlana Kuznetsova and former world number one Justine Henin en route to the final, fell short of experience after a flying start.

Unseeded Šafářová broke into the limelight at last month's Australian Open by knocking out then-champion Amelie Mauresmo in the fourth round before falling to Vaidišová in the quarter-finals.

The 20-year-old Czech tormented the world number seven with booming returns, stunning backhands and unpredictable forehands to snatch the first set in just 30 minutes.

She gallantly took her chance in the first game of the second set, stealing Petrova's serve when the Russian sent a forehand wide.

Petrova, however, hit back, taking advantage of Šafářová's string of unforced errors to win six games in succession to claim the second set in 32 minutes.

The Russian, who eliminated holder Mauresmo of France in Saturday's semi-final, broke again in the decider's third and fifth games.

The Czech saved a match-point on her serve with a powerful backhand that wrong-footed her opponent. She saved a second in the next game with another stunning backhand.

Šafářová cut the deficit to 3-5 when she benefited from two Petrova double faults to break and then come back to 4-5.

She saved a third match-point, and had two more break-points before bowing out on a Petrova service-winner.

PA SportsTicker:
Šafářová, who turned 20 last Sunday, entered this $600,000 hardcourt event as the world's 32nd-ranked player. But the unseeded Czech rolled through this indoor event to reach her fifth career WTA final, beating three of the world's top nine players.

She beat world No. 9 Nicole Vaidišová in the second round before her quarter-final upset of Kuznetsova.

Šafářová's run was ended by Petrova in 1 hour and 48 minutes. Šafářová held her serve to close out the first seat and led the second 1-0 before Petrova ran off six straight games.

Petrova led the third set 5-1 before Šafářová clawed her way back to 5-4. Petrova was down love/30 in the 10th game before she righted the ship and held serve to win the match and capture her seventh career-title.

Petrova, who rallied for a 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (9-7) upset of second-seeded and defending champion Amelie Mauresmo in the semifinals, has now won all three career meetings with Šafářová.

Associated Press (AP):
Šafářová saved three match-points, but Petrova clinched the win when the Czech's powerful forehand bounced out.

Going for a fourth career-title, Šafářová took the first set with a crosscourt forehand which flew past Petrova.

Petrova looked to be in trouble early in the second set, when Šafářová broke immediately and led 40/0 on her own serve.

But Petrova fought back to break Šafářová three straight times in a dominant second set in which she hit nine winners, while her opponent made 13 unforced errors.

Petrova broke Šafářová in the third game after the Czech player sent a wild forehand long. After holding serve, Petrova broke Šafářová again when she made another unforced error - a wild shot which landed out.

Petrova led 5-1 but lost three straight games, and Šafářová pulled back to 5-4 in the third set.

Serving for the match, Petrova saved two break-points with a net volley and an ace.

The 20-year-old Šafářová beat three top 10 players to reach the final.

Šafářová said she'll skip the upcoming Diamond Games in Anvers [Antwerp], Belgium, because of shoulder pains.
After a match lasting 1h48 and marked by several developments, Nadia Petrova (n°4) won the 15th edition of the Open Gaz de France. The Russian defeated 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 the Czech Lucie Šafářová, who will probably remember for a long time her week in Coubertin.

The head-to-head match between the two players with excellent serves held all its promises right from the first set. In the first four games, both quickly won their serves - only conceded one point each on their serve.

The beginning of the match was pleasant, and featured numerous winners. At 2-2, Lucie Šafářová's ease was almost cheeky as she imposed a love-game to Petrova (n°5), who couldn't believe what had just happened.

As she was leading 4-2, the young Czech made a few youthful mistakes and let her rival come back. Šafářová's risky tennis isn't yet faultless. After a double fault from Petrova, she got three break-point opportunities at 0/40. On the second one, she forced the Russian to make a fault, thus winning the right to serve for the first set.

After an untouchable crosscourt forehand at the first set-point opportunity, she won the first set 6-4 after 31 minutes of play-time. At this stage, she was just one set away from getting rid of her fourth Top 10 player this week in Paris, after defeating Vaidišová (n°9), Kuznetsova (n°5) and Henin (n°2).

6 games in a row

The second set got off to a quick start. After a dazzling passing shot along the sideline, Šafářová got a nice break-point opportunity at the beginning of the second set. Out of fair play, Petrova clapped with her racket before conceding the break-point on a direct fault.

The Czech's winning series of three consecutive games suddenly came to a stop after an ugly double fault which allowed Petrova to get back into the match.

Back at 1-1, the 1998 French Open champion in the junior category saw her young rival go through an unproductive spell. Cumulating the number of direct faults, she lost one game after the other.

The sixth game allowed Petrova to even the situation at one set-all: 4-6 6-1 after 1h of play-time. For the fifth time in fifteen Open Gaz de France editions, the outcome of the final was to be determined after three sets.

After winning (5-7 6-4 7-6) an epic match against Amélie Mauresmo which lasted more than 2h40m on Saturday, Nadia Petrova didn't show any sign of physical fatigue in the third set. Once again, benefiting from Lucie Šafářová's magnanimity, the Russian quickly won a break-point to lead 2-1. A second break-point enabled her to break away 4-1.

At 5-1 she had a nice match-point opportunity thanks to an unplayable passing shot along the sideline, but missed her chance.

In the next game she had a second match-point opportunity, but again was unable to conclude. She allowed her rival to catch up after making two double faults.

At 5-4, serving a second time to win the match, Petrova scared herself. Led 0/30, she made up for a deuce ball at 5-5 with an 8th ace. Eventually she took advantage of two big faults from Šafářová on her returns, and definitely sealed the outcome of match by winning the 7th title of her career (4-6 6-1 6-4 in 1h48m).

Just like Amélie Mauresmo last year, Nadia Petrova won the Open Gaz de France after saving a match-point in the semi-finals. In front of the public in Coubertin, she received the winner's trophy from Jean-François Cirelli, CEO of Gaz de France. The trophy is a piece of artwork from Annaïck Barbé made in Baccarat crystal. Petrova is the second Russian to receive the trophy after Dinara Safina in 2005. Today her joy measured up to her talent.

Clément Lizet (Translated by Aurelia Ruetsch)

Liezel Huber <>:
Both Petrova and Šafářová had an excellent week. Petrova had just that bit of extra experience and it showed in the end. Šafářová will have her chance for sure again. She is such a talented and smart player. It was a full house in the stadium and the crowd enjoyed every second of it!

Lucie quotes

"It has been a great week for me; I beat players that I only dreamed about beating.

"So it would not be right to be sad now, because this has opened the way for the next tournaments. It gives me a lot of hope for the rest
of the season.

"I got a lot of experience and confidence. Hopefully this will help me get better.

"The match was very tough. I felt she was getting nervous [in the third set], and I had a chance to get it back to 5-all, but then she just played well.

"I felt a bit tired, and I had a shoulder-problem which stopped me from serving as well. I was really hurting."

Lucie interview

Lucie, you've lost, but you are still smiling!
LUCIE ŠAFÁŘOVÁ: Yes, I've had a great week. The match against Nadia was very difficult. Let's not forget that it was the fourth Top 10 girl I played against this week. I have defeated players that I dreamed of beating. It would be strange to feel sad, because this tournament gives me high hopes for the rest of the season. I am leaving this Open Gaz de France more confident and more experienced.

What happened in the match when you were leading one set, 1-0 and 40/0 in the second?
LUCIE ŠAFÁŘOVÁ: I felt a bit tired, and I had a shoulder-problem that prevented me from serving as well as I did until then. It really hurts. I withdrew from the Antwerp main draw I was supposed to be in next week.

When you came back from 1-5 to 4-5 with a game-point opportunity to reach 5-5, were you still thinking about victory?
LUCIE ŠAFÁŘOVÁ: Yes. Nadia seemed a bit tense. She was no longer playing as well and made a few double faults. The public wanted the match to go on, and cheered for me. I thought it was possible, but eventually Nadia did a good job at closing the game in.

Did you have TomᚠBerdych [at the same moment, her boyfriend was playing a crucial match against the United States in the Davis Cup] on the phone?
LUCIE ŠAFÁŘOVÁ: Yes. When I entered on the court, he was leading one set-zero against Roddick, and when I came out, he had lost. It was a bad day for us. But we'll spend the next week together. We'll comfort each other.

Petrova quotes

{before the match}

"After winning such a long match [semi-final against Mauresmo], I wasn't able to carry on playing doubles. The final is tomorrow, and so the tournament is expecting two players to be healthy and be able to play a match.

"Clay is a much different surface; here it's much faster, points are going very quickly. It'll be fast with shorter points tomorrow."

{after the match}

"The level of tennis she was playing at in the beginning was very high, and there was nothing I could do about it. It was like her eyes were closed and everything was going in! She played unbelievable tennis, and I was struggling a bit on my second serve.

"I changed how I played after that; in the beginning I was building points, and she was blowing me away. I decided to stick to the basics and look for the opportunities. She began giving me errors - that gave me some rhythm, and I was back in the game.

"I changed a little bit the way I was playing, because in the beginning I was building the points in the wrong way. I was playing the ball up the lines and giving her too many angles, so I just went back to basics.

"As soon as I started hitting more balls in, she made more unforced errors, and that got me fully into the game."

"I got a little bit nervous at the end, but she was really playing well; she felt she had nothing to lose. In the last game, I went to the net, and it really worked well."

"She made it really tough for me, especially on the match-points. She played unbelievable tennis, and I was struggling a bit on my second

"In the last game [4-6 6-1 5-4], I understood that I could do nothing if I stayed on the baseline. I came to the net, and it worked pretty well for me."

[Your opponent was off to a very good start in the match]
"Yes, honestly I couldn't believe it. Sometimes I was even under the impression that she could have put the ball inside the court even with her eyes closed! She played incredibly well; I couldn't do anything. Eventually I brought a few changes to my game, and relied on the basics, which enabled me to get back into the match."

[You missed two match-points before winning. Were you nervous?]
"Honestly, yes. I felt nervous - I don't really know how to explain it. I think that if you were in my shoes, you couldn't explain it either. Also, at that moment, she started playing very well again - I think she might have told herself she had nothing to lose.

"In the last game, I understood that if I stayed on the baseline I wasn't going to achieve much. So I came up to the net and it served me rather well!"

[Do you think that she was impressed to play the final?]
"No, I don't think so - that's not her style, and she has proved throughout the week by beating excellent players."

UK TV-alert

(Transworld Sport may be televised in other countries, but the details in this message are specific to the UK.)

There are four points from the Paris final between Lucie Šafářová and Nadia Petrova in this week's Transworld Sport, which is repeated with sign-language at 02:25 GMT on {Wednesday night/Thursday morning} on Channel 4.

The tennis was 29 minutes into Sunday's broadcast of Transworld Sport, so I recommend 02:54 as a safe start-time for timer-record, and 03:01 as a safe stop-time (Transworld Sport has been known to start up to 5 minutes late).

The points they showed:

* Lucie serving 3-2 (15/15): Lucie hit a good, deep serve down the middle, a deep off-forehand, a crosscourt backhand, and she clouted a forehand winner down the line, into the corner.

* Lucie serving 5-4 (40/15): Lucie played a fabulous one-two punch: a deep, wide serve followed by a crosscourt forehand winner.

* Lucie serving 6-4 1-4 (40/30): Lucie hit another fast, deep serve down the middle, but couldn't maintain her initiative; Petrova on the fourth stroke hit a deep backhand lob into Lucie's (left-handed) backhand-corner to force a short ball; Petrova hit a penetrating crosscourt forehand to force an even shorter ball; Petrova hit an impressive acute-angled crosscourt backhand winner.

* Petrova serving 4-6 6-1 5-4 (ad Petrova): a big serve down the middle forced Lucie to hit a backhand return very long.

I love the colour-scheme of Lucie's green outfit against the purple backdrop at Stade Coubertin!

Dr. Andrew Broad

My Eternal Fanship: 1. Monica Seles; 2. Мария Шарапова (‘Maria Sharapova’); 3. Daniela Hantuchová; 4. Jelena Dokić; 5. Iva Majoli; 6. Karina Habšudová; 7. Вера Звонарёва (‘Vera Zvonarëva’); 8. Nicole Vaidišová; 9. Анна Чакветадзе (‘Anna Chakvetadze’); 10. Lucie Šafářová; 11. Ирода Туляганова (‘Iroda Tulyaganova’); 12. Magdaléna Rybáriková; 13. Sabine Lisicki
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