Australian Open: Zvonareva d. Kvitova
Vera Zvonareva is one win away from reaching her third consecutive Grand Slam singles final. And even if she happens to get that victory and subsequently lose the finale—which would be her third runner-up finish at a major in a row—her consistently strong results should not go unrecognized. Therefore, I say that Zvonareva is also a win away from completing the third leg of the Vera Slam. The Rafa Slam it ain't. But it ain't bad, either.
Zvonareva put herself into this position with a 6-2, 6-4 win over 2010 Wimbledon semifinalist Petra Kvitova. The two have similar games in that they both hit big, but each is prone to extended patches of errors. Kvitova demonstrated the latter early on, digging herself an 0-4 hole in the opening set. She made a brief run to get to 2-4, 30-30, but her next shot, a hard service return, landed an inch wide. Zvonareva would go on to take the set; Kvitova would keep on trying to paint the lines with picture-perfect shots.
ESPN2 commentator Pam Shriver scolded the strategy in the second set; on the very next point, Kvitova struck another zooming return wide, giving Zvonareva a 3-0 cushion. Shriver sighed. But the Czech lefty would eventually be rewarded for her aggressiveness.
In the midst of a crying baby, a fallen patron (who was being attended to by medical staff and security, mid-match) and cannons signifying Australia Day, Kvitova broke Zvonareva and even took a 4-3 lead. Now her shots were landing in, and it was Zvonareva's turn to hit a slick patch.
Yet, in spite of all this distraction and disintegration, Zvonareva didn't cave and give the set away. She stayed calm, continued to go for her shots, and soon broke back. Her strategy worked, too. And it's been working for a long time.