Zvonareva Rallies Over Pironkova

2010 Wimbledon Championships
By Hiland Doolittle, July 2nd, 2010
 Zvonareva Rallies Over Pironkova

Zvonareva Rallies Over Pironkova

Long and engagingly gangly, 22-year old Tsvetana Pironkova sometimes looks like a yearling as she moves around a tennis court. She plays with the youthful exuberance that women’s tennis so desperately needs and is so sadly lacking.

This explains why players like Melanie Oudin, Aravane Rezai, Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka quickly take a piece of our hearts each time they play. Just when we think we have witnessed every shot a tennis woman can strike, along came Petra Kvitova and Tsvetana Pironkova.

On Thursday, the 82nd ranked Pironkova and the 62nd ranked Kvitova may have lost the battles, but they won our hearts and reminded us that new faces and new challengers are on the way.

In the day’s first match, Vera Zvonareva, once the fifth ranked player in the world, and a power to be reckoned with, was a strong favorite against the young 82nd ranked player on the planet. We have seen it so many times.

A player performs beyond her abilities, accomplishes unexpected success and then collapses in the next match. After all, the overachiever has exceeded everyone’s expectations, has earned the biggest payday of her life and is an overnight media darling.

Sure enough, after the youngster shakes up the powers-that-be in women’s tennis, she melts under the exposure and just fades away a la Oudin. The tennis season is long, tough and demanding, just like we fans.

Look what has happened to Victoria Azarenka, who pushed Serena so hard in Melbourne and who put so much of herself into that three set loss that she has yet to recover. Before that match, Azarenka was headed to a top five ranking. Soon, she will be lucky to be in the top twenty. And, lest we forget, she is a child, a young, beautiful tennis player.

This is what people expected to see on Thursday. They expected that the gangly woman who upset Venus Williams in the quarterfinals, that 22-year old Bulgarian who hits unorthodox balls, would collapse against a force like Zvonareva, proven tour winner.

And why not? Zvonareva is no stranger to success. Vera has a little temper problem. She has been recovering from ankle surgery and is only ranked 21st on the tour. She is acknowledged to have top five potential. Vera Zvonareva is the real deal.

Nonetheless, Tsvetana Pironkova showed up in all her gangliness. Vera showed up and brought all her power to Centre Court. Vera played with experience and intensity. She was the better player. Vera Zvonareva deserves her birth in the finals.

Her 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory was hard-earned. Zvonareva will show up on Saturday fully aware of her 1-5 record against Serena Williams and inside herself she will expect to lose. Therein lies the difference between Tsvetana Pironkova and the establishment.

You see, Tsvetana is not worried about winning or losing. Of course, she would rather win than lose, but you see, Tsvetana would show up with a plan for unlikely success because that is al she knows. Somewhere in that crazy plan is a mental reminder to always play with passion and enjoy the sport, just like she did in her semifinal loss.

Yes, Vera Zvonareva won the semifinal match, but if you are like me, you cannot wait to see Ms. Pironkova take the court again. Thank you Tsvetana, you made us smile.


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