Davenport Defeats Zvonareva To Reach Family Circle Cup Semis
By Richard Pagliaro
The skid streaks across the clay court in Charleston marked Vera Zvonareva's path of pursuit. Chasing Lindsay Davenport's drives all over the court, Zvonareva changed direction more often than a pedestrian trying to navigate a safe crossing through the middle of a demolition derby.
Despite the 18-year-old Russian's resilience, Davenport's determination to reach her desired destination — the Family Circle Cup semifinals — never wavered as Davenport took the direct route to the final four. Coming forward behind deep approach shots, Davenport won 20 of her 21 well-timed trips to the net to score a 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 victory in today's quarterfinal.
The third-seeded Davenport will meet the winner of tonight's quarterfinal between top-seeded Serena Williams and sixth-seeded Jelena Dokic for a spot in the final. Should the undefeated Williams score her 20th straight win to reach the semis it would mark the first clay-court showdown between the current and former No. 1.
The slow surface might give Davenport a better look at Williams' serve, but it also makes winners harder to hit particularly against Williams, who remains one of the game's fastest players.
"She has a dominant serve so I'm sure she's still gonna serve well," Davenport said of a possible meeting with Williams. "Maybe it (the clay) will afford the opportunities to get a lot of balls back."
Retrieving nearly every ball in reach in today's quarterfinal, Zvonareva showed strong survival skills as she stubbornly refused to retreat against the hard-hitting Davenport.
Both players looked sharp on serve throughout the early stages of the first set. Zvonareva dropped only one point in her first two service games, but Davenport deepened her shots in the fifth game and break serve when Zvonareva slapped a forehand wide. Davenport crushed a crosscourt forehand that eluded a sprinting Zvonareva to consolidate the break and take a 4-2 lead.
Screaming at herself in frustration, Zvonareva settled down and delivered and impressive service game that ended with an ace as she held at love for 3-4. It was the first of three straight games Zvonareva won to erase the deficit and earn a 5-4 first-set lead.
Serving to stay in the set, Davenport repelled a Zvonareva forehand pass with a stunning stab volley off her backhand side that dipped over the net. She held serve at love with a forehand volley to even the set before breaking at love to end a run of eight consecutive points that ended with Davenport holding a 6-5 lead and serving for the set.
Digging down deep, the feisty Russian refused to yield and broke back to force the tiebreaker. At 3-3 in the tiebreaker the pace and depth of Davenport's stinging shots took a toll on Zvonareva, who was forced to go for high-risk winners from defensive positions on the court. Davenport hit a forehand volley winner to go up 5-3 and closed out the tiebreaker when Zvonareva flailed successive backhands wide.
The second set saw Davenport race out to a 3-0 lead, but Zvonareva rallied to even the set at 3-3. It would prove to be the last game the teenager would take in the tournament. Serving for the match at 5-3, Davenport fought off three straight break points with forceful forehand winners. On her third match point, Davenport watched a Zvonareva backhand float wide to bring a high-quality, one hour, 22-minute match to an end.
The French Open is the only Grand Slam Davenport has not won. While she admits clay is her least favorite surface, Davenport's clean, strong ball-striking ability make her a threat on every surface. She's trying to adopt her hard-court aggression mentality to clay and is pleased with the results she's produced this week.
"I've been trying to really go for my shots and I'm trying to take that same approach on the clay," Davenport said. "It's a phenomenal stat (winning 20 of 21 net approaches) and one I have to keep going for."
"You are not judged by the height you have risen, but from the depth you have climbed." Frederick Douglass