Zvonareva sets sights on Serena in tussle for title

Tsvetana Pironkova is unable to capitalise on the magnificent job she carried out in stunning Venus Williams in the quarter-finals.

Vera Zvonareva was slow off the mark against Tsvetana Pironkova yesterday, but got going in the second set and never looked like succumbing to her surprise semi-final opponent.
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LONDON // Tsvetana Pironkova was unable yesterday to capitalise on the magnificent job she carried out in stunning Venus Williams in the quarter-finals. In the end she could do little to prevent the more experienced Vera Zvonareva from reaching her first grand slam final. Zvonareva, who held an elitist position among the world's leading five players barely a year ago but has since slipped alarmingly out of the top 20 after a series of injuries, will now be hoping to continue her resurgence by upsetting Serena Williams, the defending champion, in tomorrow's final.

Guaranteed a return to the top 10 after her battling 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory, Zvonareva, promised that she will not be overawed against Serena, despite losing five of their six previous engagements. "It's going to be tough, for sure," she said. "But I always believe in myself and we'll just have to wait and see what happens. I will have to stay aggressive against her and not let her dominate because when Serena dominates she is very difficult to play against.

As in her more surprising quarter-final win over Kim Clijsters, Zvonareva was slow off the mark against Pironkova, but once she got going in the second set she never looked like succumbing to one of the brightest new prospects in her sport. The turning point was a break of the Pironkova serve in the sixth game of the second set and Zvonareva never looked back after that as she controlled the deciding set, breaking twice more to ease her way across the finishing line.

Pironkova, 22, who was disappointed to miss the chance to make history by becoming the first unseeded player to reach the Wimbledon final, maintained that she would benefit enormously from her Centre Court debut. "It has been a huge experience for me," she said. "It was a dream to get to the semi-finals and I will learn a lot from it. "I will know next time that I have to try to be a bit more relaxed, yet still fight hard for every point."

She will console herself with becoming the first Bulgarian woman to reach a grand slam semi-final and the fact that she did so by eliminating one of Wimbledon's greatest champions in five-time winner Venus. "It has been top news back home," she said. "I am very pleased that I have made my people so happy. "This is a great success for tennis in my country. Zvonareva will relax in front of the television before the biggest day of her career tomorrow.

She revealed that he had formed a kindred spirit with Robin van Persie, the Holland striker, while they were both in rehabilitation from ankle surgery at an Amsterdam clinic. She will watch him and his Dutch teammates try to overcome Brazil in this afternoon's World Cup quarter-final. "It was a pleasure to have a fellow international athlete working alongside you trying to get fit," she said. "We exchange good luck messages. He sent me 'Congratulations' and I wish him the best at the World Cup." wjohnson@thenational.ae