Vera with a Z
Vera with a Z
'Sometimes they are killing me and sometimes I'm killing them'
By Matthew Cronin
FROM THE PACIFIC LIFE OPEN IN INDIAN WELLS, CALIF. – One of the most enticing intramural matches you'll ever see was played on Stadium 2 today, with 18-year-old Russian Vera Zvonareva overcoming 17-year-old compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4.
It was a rematch of their Orange Bowl final, with super-determined Vera and her more straight-ahead ground attack against the bullish "Kuzy" and her whiplash forehand. It was neither player serving particularly hard but with fine placement, Kuzy using her superior conditioning in long rallies and Vera occasionally trying to outfox her with high loopers, short slices and deft angles. There were tossed and cracked rackets, screams in both Russian and Spanish (Kuzy has received her training in Spain) and hard stares at the linespersons.
Vera won by a hair, mostly because she finally figured out late in the match that playing consistently rather than going for outright winners early on in points would propel her to victory.
"I was like, 'Okay, what should I do,'" the 5' 8" blonde said. "Try to hit [winners] again or play defense? When I tried to attack, I made mistakes. It was like I didn't know what to do. Then I said, 'OK, I'm going to count five balls in.' It was going well and then I just started to play my game in the third set."
Vera was better than Kuzy this sweltering Saturday. But make no mistake about it, these two are near equal in ability and will surely play a dozen or so more barnburners before they retire.
"Sometimes its really good when you play the Russians because you don't understand what level you are and what level they are," Vera said. "It was important to beat her."
GOT ONE SET OF OFF SERENA IN PARIS
Vera is not a complete unknown to the tennis universe, being the only woman at '02 Roland Garros to take a set off Serena. On that sunny day in the Bull Ring, she screamed winners for a set before she realized where she was and then Serena simply wore her down.
She ended the 2002 ranked No. 45, an excellent rookie season. But whether she is just more than a Top 20 player remains to be seen. She has excellent fundamentals and is a good mover, but she doesn't knock your hat off like the members of the Top 5 do. The jury is still out on whether she'll ever crack the Top 10 but she definitely has the potential to reach the second weeks of the Slams time and time again. In the fourth round here, she'll have a stern test against Meghann Shaughnessy.
"Each day is different," she said, Sometimes the [high-ranked players] just kill me and sometimes I'm killing them."