Wimbledon's Grand Finale: A Preview

Whatever your beliefs are about destiny, a Grand Slam can make you a believer, or turn you against it. Destiny has a way of taking your hopes, expectations, and predictions about a match and flipping them upside down and inside out. But sometimes, the seemingly unpredictable nature of destiny can be the one thing that gives every player a shot at a Grand Slam title. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Grand Slams, anything is possible.

We now know who is destined to play the ladies’ Wimbledon final: Serena Williams and Vera Zvonareva. Two veterans–one was expected to be in the final, and the other, seeded No. 21, wasn’t expected to make it past the third or fourth round. One has enough Grand Slam trophies to fill up a room, while the other is hoping to get her hands on her first one. Both have brought their A-game to Wimbledon. Serena and Vera have never played each other on grass. In fact, they haven’t battled it out since 2008. Serena holds a 5-1 lead in their head-to-head series.

Serena Goes Solo

Serena Williams will be playing in her sixth Wimbledon final on Saturday (sans her sister, Venus), and could potentially earn her fourth Wimbledon singles title. If this sounds familiar, it’s for good reason. With the exception of 2006, one or both of the Williams sisters have made it to the Wimbledon final each year for the past decade.

During the fortnight, I kept asking myself: Is it possible that Serena Williams has developed even more power in her game? Without a doubt, the 28-year-old isn’t giving her opponents many opportunities to fight back during her service games. In fact, her serve has been “en fuego” at Wimbledon, racking up 80 aces throughout the course of the tournament…a far cry from her sister Venus, who scored only 30 aces. Did I also mention Serena hasn’t dropped a set? She has shown some signs of wear and tear from her serve, with her right shoulder being taped for her quarterfinal doubles match. During her semifinal singles match vs. Petra Kvitova, Serena only scored seven aces–a bit of a change from her usual double-digit ace count in her previous matches.

Serena’s semifinal vs. No. 62 Petra Kvitova wasn’t exactly routine. Kvitova, who beat Dinara Safina at the 2009 US Open, held her own against Serena. She took an early 4-2 lead in the first set, throwing Serena off her game. A19-shot rally ensued, in which both players were stretching for seemingly impossible shots. Kvitova claimed victory over that point, but ultimately, Serena battled back to win the first set in a tiebreaker. There was a clear shift in momentum going into the second set. Kvitova struggled to match Serena’s power. She double faulted on her serve at 4-2, giving Serena a 5-2 lead, and essentially handed her the match, as well as a spot in the final.

Is Vera Zvonareva Ready?

There is a lot riding on the Wimbledon final for Vera Zvonareva. After battling a multitude of injuries and the occasional on-court meltdown, the 25-year-old will be vying for her first Grand Slam title. She finally has a chance to prove that she can keep her emotions in check and beat the best in the world. Zvonareva’s success at Wimbledon also comes at a time when most of her Russian compatriots are either injured, have suffered early round losses at Wimbledon, or have simply fallen by the wayside.

Zvonareva’s best result at Wimbledon was the fourth round in 2004. Her best result at a Grand Slam was the Australian Open semifinal in 2009. Zvonareva, a former No. 5 ranked player, didn’t have an easy draw this year at Wimbledon. She defeated Yanina Wickmayer and Jelena Jankovic, as well as one of the heavy favorites to win, Kim Clijsters. She went on to beat No. 82 Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria in three sets in the semifinals, which earned her a spot in the final. That result will also put Zvonareva back in the top-10 after Wimbledon.

In her six matches at Wimbledon, Zvonareva maintained an incredibly high first serve percentage, averaging in the high 70s, and even had a first serve percentage of 94% in her match against Yanina Wickmayer. Zvonareva moves well, has one of the best backhands on the WTA Tour and has a solid net game. One of the things that could hold Zvonareva back: Double faults. She has the third highest number of double faults for the tournament (22). Serena has just 12.
The question: Is Vera Zvonareva mentally ready? Can she win a match of this magnitude? And, can she do it without breaking a racquet?

Zvonareva needs to have a flawless game and nerves of steel if she wants to win her maiden Grand Slam on Saturday against Serena. She also has to find a way to attack Serena’s serve and not let her dominate. Not an easy task. Zvonareva admitted in her last press conference that Serena’s serve is a big advantage, but if Zvonareva can find the right timing, she can return it. By the way, it’s also worth noting that Vera Zvonareva has also made it to the ladies’ doubles final, with Elena Vesnina.
So who is destined to win it all? I’m going to say Serena has the edge, but destiny might have plans for Vera.



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