July 3, 2010

Why Vera Has a Chance

Okay, it's a slim chance. A very, very slim chance.

But of all the women who made the semis this year at Wimbledon, Vera Zvonareva is the only one who'd ever beaten Serena Williams before -- it was in Cincinnati in 2006, when the Russian was ranked fiftieth in the world and Serena, you might remember, was #139. Things have changed since then, of course. Williams has won nine more titles, including a handful of Grand Slams. Vera went on to capture the trophy at the Western & Southern that year and soon after cracked the top ten.

Vera has been struggling with injuries in the past year and does have a tendency to let her temper get the best of her -- she was, after all, the other player dealt a fine for profanity at the 2009 U.S. Open. But when she's good, she's good -- she's had one of the strongest return games of the tournament and a great percentage at the net. Against Kim Clijsters in the quarters, a woman she had never before beaten, she only committed nineteen errors to her opponent's thirty-six and won seventy-five percent of her first serves. And she hasn't gotten down on herself -- after losing sets to Kim and Tsvetana Pironkoa she was able to regroup without throwing racquets and smack the ball back at her adversaries harder than ever.

This is the first Major final in which Zvonareva has played -- after twenty-nine tries she's finally made her break out. Yes, it's a stage which often can flummox unexperienced players, but as a pro for almost ten years and with titles at Cincy and Indian Wells under her belt, Vera is no stranger to the spotlight. She also has the confidence of having beaten Serena on the doubles court a few days back -- she'll be battling for the dubs trophy a few hours after her singles match. If she's able to harness her strength at the net and get in more than a couple points on Serena's serve early, she might be able to catch Williams off-guard.

Make no mistake, it's not going to be an easy task. But Serena has gotten tripped up here before, and it wouldn't be unheard of to see someone as aggressive and as volatile as Vera get under her skin.

But mostly, if Vera's going to win the title, she's just going to have to bring it. There are no excuses on Centre Court at the All England Club -- especially against a three-time champion. And with a trophy on the line, we don't expect anything less

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