Contrary to rumor, Mother Russia is alive and well, in the form of Vera Zvonareva. The 21st seed advanced to the Wimbledon final today with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Tsvetana Pironkova.
This is the first time that Zvonareva has reached the final of a major, and she achieves this pinnacle in her career after working hard to return from a serious injury. On two occasions, Zvonareva has sustained serious injuries while playing in Charleston (Obviously free of superstition, she continues to play at the Family Circle Cup, where she has twice been a finalist). The last one occurred in 2009, when she rolled her ankle and was out for months. To make matters worse, the ankle injury occurred just when Zvonareva was playing the best tennis of her career.
During the match, the commentators on ESPN talked repeatedly about Zvonareva's fragile mentality, but if they had known anything about her opponent, they would have realized that she is the one who suffers more with fragility of the mind. However, they know almost nothing about players who are not in the top 10 or from the U.S. Not to pick on ESPN, though--I didn't come across any commentators or writers who gave evidence of knowing about Pironkova's strengths and weaknesses. At any rate, Pironkova has a really fine game which I hope the juniors are watching so they can emulate it. But it is difficult for her to string victories together, and indeed, I found it amazing that she held herself together to get to the semifinals.
Playing with the guile she has shown throughout the tournament, the Bulgarian took the first set. In the second set, however, she became shaky. Zvonareva's form had something to do with that, I should hasten to add, but it wasn't surprising, under any circumstances, that Pironkova's level went down. After the first set, she never broke Zvonareva again, and the 21st seed became more confident as the match went on.
In the other semifinal, top seed Serena Williams faced Petra Kvitova, who put on quite a show in coming down from 0-4 in the third to defeat Kaia Kanepi in the quarterfinals. Kvitova kept up with Williams through the first set, and even pulled herself up from 0-4 to 3-4 in the tiebreak, but was unable to withstand the damage done by the Williams serve and by Williams' consistency. Kvitova is quite a shot-maker, but in this match, she made too many errors, most of which appeared to come out of sheer anxiety and rushing her shots. In fact, she controlled many of the rallies, only to make silly mistakes and lose the points.
Ever the showwoman--at 2-4, 30-40--Kivotova won the point of the match, a highly entertaining affair in which both players were forced to hit far out of their comfort zones. Williams, using her serve and her experience, won the match 7-6, 6-2.
Both Pironkova and Kvitova had great runs in this tournament and provided fans with some exciting tennis--Pironkova with her very tricky style, and Kvitova with her big shot-making. Both were undone not only by their opponents, but by their own nerves.