The dust has finally settled on the ladies' side of the draw and only two are left standing: 3-time champ Serena Williams and first time major finalist Vera Zvonareva.
The defending champ fell down an early break with the score at 2-4 in the first set due to stellar serving - particularly the lefty swing out wide on the ad and second delivery - and aggressive playing at the net by Petra Kvitova. But she managed to get back to 4-all with some strong playing of her own and forced a tiebreak which ReRe won 7-6 (5). The second set saw the 3-time champ grab the early break in the second and storm through the remainder of the set to clinch it 6-2 and with it another trip to the ladies' final.
Like Venus Williams before her, Vera Zvonareva fell victim early on to the crafty play of Tsvetana Pironkova. The Bulgarian moved her side to side with a deft mix of forehand slices, off-pace groundies and sneaky blast that kept Bepa off balance. Tsveta grabbed the first set 6-3 and the momentum going into the second. But the Russian kept a clear head and began imposing her aggressive game on her opponent firing groundies into the corners, pouncing on short balls and closing out points successfully at the net (29 of 35 to be exact.) More importantly, Bepa was serving well on both first and second deliveries and saved 3 out of 4 break point chances against her. The 21st seed marched through the final two sets 6-3, 6-2 as Tsveta's game caved under the pressure to reach her first EVAH major final.
This match will be the pair's seventh career meeting with ReRe holding a commanding 5-1 advantage in the H2H, though they've never met on in a grass-court tourney.
Here's what the top seed had to say about facing Bepa again:
Q. What's the biggest danger for you going into the final?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Just putting too much pressure on myself, I think. On paper it looks like I should win. But Vera, I've played her several times; she's beaten some good people. Her last two matches she's been down a set, so she's obviously a fighter. She never gives up. So I think that will be ‑‑ the biggest thing, is for me to stay positive and not put too much pressure on myself.
Q. How would you describe her game? What does she do best?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I don't think she does anything terrible. I think that's the best way to describe her game. She does everything good, so... It's tough playing a player like that who doesn't really have one real weakness and everything pretty much is a strength, from her forehand to her backhand to her movement.
And here's what Bepa said about facing the 12-time Grand Slammer:
Q. Can you get more specific about what the key to you possibly having success would be against her?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Well, I will have to stay aggressive no matter what and not to let her dominate. Because when Serena dominates, she's very difficult to play. So, I don't know. It's too early to say. I will have to sit down and just talk to my coach a little bit and see what the best things to do. But I know that she's a great fighter. When I go on the court I will have to expect a very tough match, I will try to fight for every point, and I think try to make it difficult for her on every point. Try not to give her any points.
Q. How much of an advantage does her serve give her against anybody?
VERA ZVONAREVA: It's a very big advantage, I would say, especially here on the grass. But, uhm, I think if you can find the timing you can return it. You know, it's very difficult when she's serving well, but there are moments where she may not serve as well. You just have to use those chances. You know, if she served well, okay. You go to the other side, try to return the next one. But there will be moments where she doesn't make a first serve. I haven't seen anyone make a hundred percent of first serves. So then you will just have to take your chances then.
Q. Is there anything in your background, in your experience with her, that might give you particular confidence going in against her?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Uhm, I remember I played a very good match against her in Cincinnati one year, and I was able to beat her. It was a very, very tough one, but I think I was able to play the right way against her. So I will just have to try to do it again.
Let's face it - this championship is ReRe's to win or lose for all the obvious reasons like her pedigree, experience in these situations, a record-setting serving prowess, etc. Bepa has a solid game and has been playing the best tennis of her career but if you compare her best to the defending champ's best she loses big time. Plus it's a brand new situation for the 21st seed to be in a Grand Slam final so nerves will certainly play a factor at least early on.
That being said the Russian will make ReRe pay for any lapses in serving and isn't afraid to close points out at the net. She'll be the last one standing if the American has an off day.
And that's a big IF.
[Photo(s): Getty Images]