Tennis: Zvonareva displays coolness under pressure
VERA ZVONAREVA knows all about the dark soul of Mother Russia.
There have been times in her career when the 25-year-old has cursed and rioted like a Cossack, but yesterday she finally learned to keep her cool, coming back from a set down to Tsvetana Pironkova to reach her first Grand Slam final.
Zvonareva has enough ability to beat Serena Williams tomorrow, but it will be tough to give the American a one-set lead. In both her quarter-final and semi-final, Zvonareva walked onto court with tension etched onto her face and promptly lost the first set.
Pironkova played beautifully for most of that first set and the cheerful mob of Bulgarians up in the players' box looked ready for a party when she took it 6-3.
But then Zvonareva took over, just as she had in her previous match against Kim Clijsters. Pironkova's tennis didn't deteriorate, but the Russian started hitting winners and defending like Rafael Nadal. She also began to target Pironkova's forehand.
The Bulgarian idolised Steffi Graf growing up, but her forehand doesn't belong in the same coaching manual. The German's forehand was the greatest that the woman's game has seen. Pironkova's won't even be the best in Sofia.
Zvonareva knows that she won't be able to break down Williams in the final so easily. Speaking after her 3-6 6-3 6-2 win, the Russian said: "Serena is a great player, the defending champion and very tough to play against. But I always believe in myself. I will have to stay aggressive no matter what and not let her dominate."
It could be a feisty final. Both players had meltdowns at last year's US Open. Williams swore at a line judge after being footfaulted in her semi-final.
Zvonareva swore, ripped off her knee bandages, threw her racket to the ground, cried and hit herself during her defeat by Flavia Pennetta. (© Daily Telegraph, London)