Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chakvetadze receives tennis award in Russia

World number 6 Anna Chakvetadze was named Female Tennis Player of 2007 Saturday at the National Tennis Awards ceremony in Russia.

Let's hope this award is a confidence boost for Chakvetadze, who has the game, but not the head, to play high-echelon tennis. In all fairness, her mental strength has increased, but it is not yet at the level it needs to be. She has been working with Robert Lansdorp, which is a good thing. Also, it takes some players longer than others to develop mental toughnes: How easily fans forget that, for many years, one of the most mentally weak players on the tour was a Belgian woman named Henin.

5 comments:

Jen Whittier said...

As an avid follower of Henin, I think you're overstating the case a bit by saying the Justine was mentally weak for many years. It hardly seems fair to look at years prior to 2001 when Justine was 16-18 years old. In 2001 and 2002, she was indeed mentally weak against Clijsters and in a few other matches. During those years Justine lost 5 of 7 matches to Kim, and famously blew the 2001 French Open semi leading a set and a break. Yes, Kim was in her head. However, starting with Henin's breakthrough win (at age 20) against Davenport at the 2003 Australian Open, she shed the choke problem so thoroughly that she shortly upset Serena Williams (then on a terrific win streak and considered virtually unbeatable) twice in a row, crushed Kim in the French Open final, and played one of the all time great matches at the 2003 U.S. Open in beating an ultra-combative Capriati at about 1:00am just before winning the final vs Clijsters the next day! So I think that Henin developed remarkable mental toughness at age 20, after only two years ranked in the world's top 50. I believe a better example of taking longer than others to develop mental toughness is none other than one of your favs, Amelie Mauresmo, right? Thanks for your blog!
Jen

Diane said...

While I appreciate your accuracy and even agree with you, Jen, my point--that someone can change from mentally weak to mentally tough-- would not have been made had I said Mauresmo. People still don't think of Mauresmo as a mentally tough player, but everyone thinks of Henin as one. The metaphor just wouldn't have worked. And Henin did have a reputation as a choker, but she did overcome it at a young age, as you point out, and I correct myself on that.

And thanks!

Jen Whittier said...

I see what you mean, yes. Funny though, because I *was* thinking of Amelie as having become mentally strong after many years of choking when, at age 26(!), she beat Clijsters, Sharapova and Mary Pierce consecutively to take the 2005 WTA Tour Championships. Of course, that led to her two "grand slam" wins in 2006, including the excellent win over Henin at Wimbledon. Everyone thought it would be Mauresmo to crumble mentally in that third set, but she put the choker rap to bed for good as far as I'm concerned. (Ironically, I believe it was Justine who choked there, just as she did in 2007 vs Bartoli. Such is her nervousness over the possibility that she will never will The Championships!) And it's worth noting that even after Wimbledon 2006, Amelie beat Serena at the U.S. Open, in three sets after being blanked 6-0 in the second. You need mental toughness to come back from that kind of shelling. Yes, she then fell to Sharapova in an Open semi and lost to Henin in the Tour Championship final but anyone at all can lose to those two when they're hot. So is Amelie still a choker, or was she just not healthy enough to compete most of 2007? The latter, right? Of course, whether she can come back strong in '08 also depends on whether turning 29 in July is too much of a handicap. I'm not really optimistic, although I admire her game almost as much as Justine's. But I wish her some very good wins! Jen

Diane said...

I think Amelie has come a long, long way from her choking days, too, but I don't think she is necessarily perceived by others as having overcome her mental court issues.

She is also to be commended for overcoming her back problems; now the modified serve is all the rage.

What happened this year was so unfortunate; I really feel bad for her. The Justine-Amelie rivalry is my favorite! I, too, love to watch both of them play.

Jen Whittier said...

I agree with you on the rivalry, if only for the beauty of watching Justine and Amelie play on the same court. And Justine has designated Mauresmo as the player she least enjoys facing, which says something. I think the only negative is that an in-form Henin seems to be in a slightly higher league. An interesting way of illustrating this is to consider not only their head-to-head record, but also the sets needed to win. From 2003 on, when Justine emerged as a powerhouse, she has beaten Amelie eight times. Six of those eight wins were straight setters! (Only two were on clay, while four were on hardcourts, by the way.) Mauresmo beat Henin five times, and it took her 3 sets to do it every time save one -- Juju's infamous retirement in the '06 Aussie Open final. My conclusion is that Justine needs to be a bit off her best for Mauresmo to win. Nonetheless, I would love to see more of their matches and I hope Amelie recovers to her best level. Jen