Radwanska Too Solid, Zvonareva Eyes No.2
Published September 30, 2011 12:00
TOKYO, Japan - It takes a lot of mental strength to come back from a 5-1 deficit to win a set, especially against one of the most powerful players on the WTA. But Vera Zvonareva did just that Friday, denying Petra Kvitova a first set blowout and eventually beating the Czech in straight sets to reach the final of the Toray Pan Pacific Open. Next up will be Agnieszka Radwanska.
Zvonareva, the No.4 seed, trailed 5-1 and even faced three set points - all on Kvitova's huge serve - but clawed back to take the first set in a tie-break, then stormed through the second set to send the No.5 seed packing, 76(2) 60.
"I don't even remember being down 5-1 in the first set!" Zvonareva said. "I wasn't really thinking about it at all. I was just trying to find my rhythm - I couldn't find it in the beginning, and she was playing really well. But I slowly got into the match, making the shots I usually make. Then I was able to turn it around.
"I think I played very consistently in the second set and Petra started to make a few more mistakes. We had some tough games, but I was able to convert all my chances, and that's why the scoreline looked like that in the end."
"I started really well but I couldn't keep it up, and Vera was playing better and better," Kvitova said. "The second set was closer than it looked - I had chances to break, but I couldn't. I don't know what else to say, other than it was a good week and I'm happy I played here. I'm back in my game after the US Open."
Despite the loss, Kvitova's semifinal showing will push her from No.6 to No.5 on the new rankings this Monday, the 21-year-old's career Top 5 debut.
Awaiting Zvonareva in the final will be No.9 seed Radwanska, who upset No.3 seed Victoria Azarenka in the second semifinal of the day, 63 46 62. Radwanska looked on her way to a straight set victory as she led 63 42 but Azarenka caught fire, winning four games in a row to push the match to a third set; Radwanska once again had trouble closing Azarenka out in the decider, missing out on her first three match points, but she closed it out on her fourth.
"Agnieszka played the best I've ever seen her play," Azarenka said. "I played well but the execution wasn't there all the time. I had mistakes here and there and missed some chances, but I fought hard. It was a great quality match."
Zvonareva and Radwanska are tied in their head-to-head series, 2-2, but Radwanska definitely has the momentum in their rivalry - she has won their last two meetings in straight sets, both of those coming this past summer.
Although Zvonareva has been to many more WTA finals in her career (this is Zvonareva's 30th and Radwanska's eighth), Radwanska has performed better in her finals (Radwanska is 5-2 in her first seven, Zvonareva is 12-17 in her first 29).
Zvonareva will return to her career-high No.2 ranking if she captures the title.