London: Russian Vera Zvonareva survived an early wobble to book a place in the Wimbledon singles final with a 3-6 6-3 6-2 victory over unseeded Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova in the semi-final on Thursday.
The 21st seed reached her first grand slam final after a slow start against the world number 82, losing the first set before coming through with increasing confidence on a cloudy, breezy day on Court One.
“I’m very excited, I’m not realising it at the moment... It’s one of my dreams to be out there (in the final),” the 25-year-old said in a courtside interview.
“It was very tough out there, she’s a tough opponent and I’m happy with the way I hung in the match and was able to turn it around.”
Fresh from a shock quarter-final victory over five-times champion Venus Williams, Pironkova showed no early nerves in the biggest match of her career, immediately taking charge of the first set by forcing Zvonareva onto the defensive.
Not even a replayed point after a burst ball could put her off her stride, and she went on to engineer the break in the sixth game with some confident groundstrokes and then a lucky drop on the net cord that had Zvonareva desperately scrambling to no avail.
The Bulgarian looked the more confident in the longer rallies and often ran round the backhand to unleash her formidable double-handed weapon to clinch the opening set in 32 minutes.
Zvonareva, who ousted Serb Jelena Jankovic and U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters on her way to the semis, grew in confidence in the second, forcing Pironkova further behind the baseline and onto her weaker forehand.
The Russian, who reached the 2009 Australian Open semi-final and has enjoyed stints inside the world top 10, broke to go 4-2 up and later sealed the set with a lucky net cord of her own.
It was the first set Pironkova had lost in the tournament but unfortunately for her the second was only 38 minutes away after being broken in the opening game of the third.
Pironkova, bidding to be the first unseeded woman to reach the final, survived another two break points in the third game but could not avoid one in the fifth as she went down a double-break at 4-1.
Without a tour victory to her name and not a grasscourt in sight in her homeland, Bulgaria’s first major semi-finalist then let two break points of her own slip away and with it her chance of a spot in the final at the All England Club.
Zvonareva, whose biggest title to date was at Indian Wells in 2009, wrapped up the match with a fierce cross-court forehand that sent her opponent sprawling to win in one hour and 46 minutes.
She will play either American top seed and reigning champion Serena Williams or unseeded Czech Petra Kvitova in Saturday’s final.