I realise that this is four weeks late, but I didn't have time to finish it before Wimbledon - and certainly not during!
This is an extract from my Vera Zvonarëva Birmingham-report, which you can read in full by clicking here
DFS CLASSIC (Edgbaston, Birmingham, England; grass; WTA Tier III)
I made emergency arrangements to travel to Birmingham on Thursday when Bepa set up a mouthwatering third-round match against Anna Chakvetadze!
Third round (Thursday 15th June)
+ Vera Zvonarëva d. ANNA CHAKVETADZE , 6-4 6-3
This mouthwatering match was first on Court 3, and I only arrived at the Edgbaston Priory Club in the nick of time after going the wrong way down Sir Harry's Road. I arrived at Court 3 while they were warming up.
It's a shame that this match was watched by only a dozen spectators, as it was a delectable showcase of flairsome groundstrokes by two ultracute Russian girls. If only there were more of this at the very top of women's tennis, instead of those muscular mingers who currently dominate!
Although I had to stand, I find Court 3 to have the best view of all the courts at Birmingham. It was so vivid compared to watching tennis on TV - I got a much better impression of the bounce (which was very low, allowing the players to force errors with sharp crosscourt angles).
Bepa looked much better in the flesh than she had looked in recent photos. She looked beautifully toned, not overweight, and I love her eyes and that distinctive quirky mouth.
It was my first time to see Bepa in person, and I had always imagined that when this day came, she would throw one of her temper-tantrums in front of me!
But she was relatively restrained, just shrugging her shoulders after errors, muttering and at times screaming!
Bepa looked positively cheerful compared to Anna, who was chewing on wasps throughout the match, and looked close to tears on several occasions. In spite of this, Anna made a full contribution to the quality of the tennis, particularly with her one-two punches. It was amazing how someone who looked so miserable could play so well!
Bepa is a member of my Eternal Fanship while Anna is just outside it, but I have tender feelings for Anna even when she's playing Maria Sharapova. My loyalty was with Bepa, but the gap in my favour between the two felt much smaller than the gap between my Eternal Fanship and my demi-fanship (to which Anna currently belongs).
ZVONARËVA __@* * *@* 6
CHAKVETAD *@__* *___ 4
Anna made a good start as Bepa made a bad one to go down 0-2*, with Anna hitting several down-the-line forehand winners.
Bepa took advantage of Anna's errors to fight back to 2-2. With both girls struggling with the low bounce (but hitting lovely flairsome strokes nevertheless), games went with serve until 4-4.
Anna seemed to have found her range as she hit two backhand winners down the line and a deceptive off-forehand winner to go up 40/30 at 4-4, but Anna wasted three game-points - Bepa saved the first by opening up the court for a crosscourt backhand winner, and the third with a wrong-footing forehand winner down the line. Two shots wide from Anna gave Bepa the break for 5-4.
It took five deuces for Bepa to serve out the first set, and she saved three break-points (30/40 and two ads). It was in this game that Bepa hit the shot of the match: a fantastic crosscourt backhand dropshot to save the second break-point. Bepa also went behind Anna with a crosscourt forehand winner on the third deuce. Both girls were making lovely noises, and I think Anna was actually in tears after she hit a forehand long to give Bepa her third set-point.
Anna left the court looking close to tears, wrapped in a towel even though it was quite warm.
ZVONARËVA _* *@* *@ 6
CHAKVETAD * *___*__ 3
Anna looked particularly unhappy, and was moving very gingerly between points. At first I thought it had to do with the patch on her right thigh...
Despite very negative body-language, Anna played a good game to hold to love for 1-0, and had a good go at Bepa's serve in the second game - but Bepa held to 30 after changing her racket. With lovely winners flowing from both girls, games went with serve until 2-2.
Bepa screamed and muttered as she netted two shots to give Anna (serving at 2-2) a 30/0 lead, but Bepa got the better of a series of errors to break for 3-2.
Anna hit two forehand winners to get 0/30 on Bepa's serve at 3-2, as Bepa - the most beautiful volleyer in the game IMO - declined an open invitation to go to the net. But Bepa forced some more errors from Anna to hold for 4-2.
Anna held to love with two aces and a crosscourt forehand winner. The last ace was on the sideline, but Bepa threw her racket, complained to the umpire, and I think she was in tears - for perhaps the only time in the week!
It was at this juncture that Anna called for the trainer, who massaged her neck, and also seemed to be doing something with her right elbow. It seemed to do Anna more harm than good, as she didn't win another game after that.
Bepa held to love with three great serves, including a cunning ace that jumped over Anna's body!
Serving to stay in the match at 3-5, Anna went 40/15 up with two crosscourt forehand winners... then made four errors to seal Bepa's victory.
I don't have statistics to hand, but it did feel like Anna made more winners and errors than Bepa.
Later in the day, I saw Anna walk right past me. She had her hair down (rather than that lovely distinctive ponytail she has on court), and was wearing tracksuit-bottoms, trainers, and a cyan open-shouldered top. I watched her walk into some office. I didn't feel awed by her presence; I just thought how nice it was to see her.
Then a hot blonde girl walked past me from behind. At first I only knew that she was sexy. In her white T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops, she could have been any old spectator... until I saw that she was heading for a players-only area. I went weak at the knees when she turned round and my neural network for face-recognition told me that she was Bepa!!!
Dr. Andrew Broad