Saturday, September 1, 2007

Sania Mirza loses to Anna Chakvetadze

Russian star Anna Chakvetadze dashed several Indian hearts at the US Open by thrashing good friend Sania Mirza 6-2, 6-3 in less than an hour, aided by a slew of errors from the 20-year-old Hyderabadi.

The third round match never quite reached the expectations of vociferous Indian supporters watching from the sidelines on Court 11, witness to their only hope succumb tamely to the Russian's powerplay.

Chakvetadze had begun well, clinically taking her first service game, before the Indian even had time to settle down in the court, a far cry from the Grandstand and Louis Armstrong stadium of her first two matches. Mirza was dressed in red-and-white, the same ensemble she had worn earlier this week. Was it going to be third time lucky?

Apparently not.

Serving in the second game, Mirza let loose a double fault - her 13th of the tournament. A couple of unforced errors later, Chakvetadze was up a break and serving at 2-0.

A double fault of her own put pressure on the Russian, who was soon 0-30 down in the third game. Mirza, desperate to get back into the game, tried her best but couldn't match Chakvetadze, who whipped some great crosscourt shots to hold her serve.

Now down 0-3, Mirza seemed determined to fight and she won four points on the trot, ending the game with an on-the-line crosscourt shot. Holding her serve seemed to boost her confidence and as Chakvetadze began the fifth game with consecutive double faults, it seemed the Indian was about to get back into the match.

Mirza, cheered on by her Indian supporters, found herself having a rare breakpoint but an unforced error on the next point erased the advantage. The first deuce of the match was followed quickly by two points that went Chakvetadze's way.

The Russian had taken a 4-1 lead in just 13 minutes.

Though struggling with her serve in the sixth game, Mirza found her rhythm again - winning the game when Chakvetadze came to the net and the Indian sent the ball sailing past her just short of the baseline.

Serving at 4-2, Chakvetadze let loose an ace and then let Mirza help her out. The Russian prolonged the rallies waiting and watching till the Indian made a mistake. On gamepoint, Mirza sent a backhand wide.

The Indian, looking more and more dejected as the match progressed, now served to stay in the set. A doublefault, Mirza's second of the match, didn't help matters. The Russian struck a winner next, her eighth of the match, before Mirza committed yet another double fault - setting up three setpoints for Chakvetadze.

Mirza's body language suggested that she was going to lose the set but unforced errors had erased two of Chakvetadze's breakpoints. Could the Indian possibly hold her serve?

But it wasn't to be.

A shot sent long by Mirza gave Chakvetadze the game, the Russian taking the set 6-2 in convincing fashion - in just 24 minutes.


Mirza looked tired. Was doubles taking a toll on her? She's still surviving in the women's and mixed doubles and has been playing non-stop for five days. Whatever the reason, Chakvetadze's power play wasn't helping Mirza.

A couple of Mirza shots ended up in the net, helping Chakvetadze wrap up her first service game of the second set.

Down 0-1 it seemed the story of the first set was being repeated. The Russian didn't fail with her groundstrokes even as Mirza served yet another double fault. The break, the third time Chakvetadze had broken Mirza in the match, seemed to spell doom for the Indian.

The Russian was serving well. Leading 2-0, the world number 6 seemed to have got into the groove as she quickly went 40-0 up. Mirza's returns ended too long or too short, allowing Chakvetadze to put away winners at will.

Now serving at 0-3, Mirza tried adopting the Russian's strategy. Working the court well and coming to the net, she won the game with a down-the-line shot.

But two unforced errors by Mirza set the tone for the fifth game, helping Chakvetadze hold serve to lead 4-1.

Mirza's morale sapped. The first Indian to be seeded at the US Open was being decimated by her friend. Will they even talk in the dressing rooms later today?

Serving in the sixth game, Mirza was soon 0-40 down, handing the Russian three breakpoints to lead 5-1. A top 10 player could have saved the situation but not Mirza. She reacted with a doublefault, her fifth of the match.

The end looked near as Chakvetadze served for the match - and promptly served consecutive doublefaults. Could Mirza take advantage of the lapse in concentration? More errors by the Russian set up two breakpoints for Mirza, and she capitalised on the second.

With Mirza 2-5 down and serving to stay in the match, the two 20-year-olds engaged in a battle of crosscourt shots. An error by Mirza set up matchpoint for Chakvetadze. But the Russian squandered it with an unforced error. The second deuce of the match was soon followed by Mirza taking advantage of a Chakvetadze error, and for the first time winning consecutive games.

The Russian was looking vulnerable now and the Indians in the crowd imagined there could be a turnaround for their young star. But Chakvetadze was in no mood to gift Mirza a chance to come back.

Serving at 5-3, Chakvetadze whipped out an ace. Then a Mirza return found its way into the net. The Russian answered with an ace, her third of the match. 40-0 up and with three more matchpoints, the blonde from Moscow could afford to relax. But she didn't and took the match on the next point, blazing a winner metres away from Mirza.

It was Mirza's fourth straight loss to Chakvetadze.

The 6-2, 6-3 scoreline was the story of the match - too much power for the Russian and too many unforced errors for Mirza. The one-sided match, except for the hiccup in the second set, had been won in just 53 minutes. Leaving Mirza's fourth round showing at the 2005 US Open a record to be broken at some other Grand Slam.

Chakvetadze finished with 19 winners compared to Mirza's nine. Unforced errors (18) and a low first service percentage (48) had led to the Indian's downfall. Mirza had won just one of three breakpoints, serving five double faults and zero aces.

The only silver lining - she had won all six of her points at the net. Good doubles tactic perhaps? Mirza won't be leaving New York for now - she still has her doubles matches to look forward to - but the 2007 US Open has more or less ended for the world number 27.

The Mirza-Chakvetadze match background
Mirza beats Laura Granville in Round 2
Mirza beats Kaia Kanepi in Round 1
Paes out but Indians going strong in doubles
Did Sania Mirza play her best at the US Open?
Yes, she was beaten by a superior player
Yes, today was just not her day
No, she wasted too many opportunities
No, she didn't deserve to be in the third round
No, but she'll do better next year free polls

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