DALIAN, China -- Seven years ago, Vera Zvonareva spent this weekend contesting the US Open final. Now, after injuries, university, marriage, and motherhood kept her off the tour for nearly two years, she's into another final -- the biggest final of her WTA comeback.
Zvonareva, the 2010 Wimbledon and US Open finalist from Russia, dispatched her compatriot Vitalia Diatchenko, 6-4, 6-2, and advanced to the Dalian Open final on Saturday. Her opponent in the championship match will be No.5 seed Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine, who defeated Kazakhstan's Zarina Diyas, the No.3 seed, 6-4, 7-5.
Diatchenko, like Zvonareva, is also returning from extended periods of injury, and is nearing the form which pushed her into the Top 75 in 2014. But the former World No.2 eased to victory in 89 minutes, in a match where service holds were paramount. Half of the games went against serve, but it was Zvonareva who broke Diatchenko six times, wresting control of the match since the pivotal break at 3-2 in the first set.
Breaks of serve featured heavily in the other semifinal as well, as Kozlova and Diyas were hoping to grab coveted ranking points to get a foothold in the WTA Top 100. Kozlova led 5-1 before Diyas won three games on the trot, but a love hold at 5-4 clinched the one-set lead for the Ukrainian.
A relatively stable second set became complicated at 4-4, with three consecutive breaks of serve. But, at 6-5, Kozlova pulled her serve back together to reach triple match point. The first two went begging, but the Ukrainian topped the Kazakh on the third, to advance to the biggest final of her career.
This will be Kozlova and Zvonareva's first meeting. Zvonareva's experience in major finals will be a benefit for the former Top 10 regular. Kozlova, however, is in sterling form, coming off of her first-ever match win in a Grand Slam main draw at the US Open last week, and not having dropped a set in her four matches in Dalian so far.