Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It was a battle that pitted experience up against youthful exuberance. A battle of a player ranked number two in the world attempting to subdue the young tyro gunning for her spot.

That player of a towering ranking, Russian, Vera Zvonareva, doing her utmost to give the young Czech, Petra Kvitova, a tennis lesson in their Australian Open quarter-final contest.

And this she most certainly did. While Kvitova was happy to attack from the outset, Zvonareva settled into a more realistic approach; attacking when the opportunity arose, but, making well thought out decisions to defend when necessary.

Quite often her defence would win her points as much as an attacking groundstroke would. For early in the opening exchanges, Kvitova, was intent on attack at all costs, despite looking incapable of performing to optimum level due to out of control nerves. This led to errors on her part and Zvonareva gaining easy points by doing no more than simply making sure the ball was put back into play.

With Kvitova suffering the effects of a lack of self-belief, Zvonareva wasted little time in winning the first four games. She didn’t just feel the need to defend. When the time was right, she would launch into aggressive ground strokes which overpowered the sluggish Kvitova.

Despite the Czech lass closing the gap to 2-4, Zvonareva was able to pursue the taking of the first set with relative ease over the next two games, winning both and the set 6-2.

By this stage one would have thought that Kvitova would have got her game under control. Alas, not. Turns out that it was a case of same old, same old as the Russian took advantage of a high error rate on the part of Kvitova, to race to a 3-0 lead.

Just when it looked like she was going to continue to have a walk in the park, events conspired against Zvonareva that potentially would change the course of the match. First, a spectator fell and injured an ankle directly behind the court. For reasons unbeknown to any rational thinking person, the umpire declared that play should continue despite the fact that the spectator was being attended to directly in the line of sight of a miffed Zvonareva. Then, just when it was safe to assume things were back to normal after the injured woman had been assisted from the stadium, a twenty-one gun salute began as part of Australia Day celebrations.

Zvonareva was clearly unnerved by all the goings on. This was Kvitova’s cue to enter the fray on a serious note and clearly state her intentions to all and sundry. Her nerves appeared to have calmed considerably, the fluency missing early on was now in attendance, and mentally she was hyped. The winners started to flow. All of a sudden Kvitova assumed the role of the Australia Open’s international woman of action. A veritable verb in every sense of the word, she was.

Everything was going her way as she plundered her way to a 4-3 lead. Power shots that were missing earlier in the match had entered the scene. Zvonareva simply could not match Kvitova at her best. Trouble was Kvitova couldn’t maintain the power and precision for any great length of time. No sooner was she dominating than she was back to her bad habits of earlier. Errors started to occur and Zvonareva, not being one to miss a chance, pounced. She quickly finished off the match, winning the last two games to take the match 6-2, 6-4.

Kvitova, on the day, was disappointing in her display. But, youth is on her side and with consistency will no doubt become a top ten player.

For Zvonareva, this was not the tough encounter she would have expected. Not that she will mind as she is now only two matches away from a first grand slam title.

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