Russian fourth seed Vera Zvonareva overpowered Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in straight sets to advance to the final of the Pan Pacific Open on Friday.
Zvonareva overcame a 5-1 deficit to win the first set in a tiebreak and never looked back as Kvitova unraveled, winning 7-6 (7-2) 6-0 at Ariake Colosseum
The 27-year-old reached the final for the first time and will on Saturday take on ninth seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, who beat third-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.
“It is an exciting moment for me,” said Zvonareva. “It is my first time in the final in Tokyo and I really enjoy the atmosphere.”
“I played very good tennis, very consistent. Petra is a tough opponent and we always have tough matches against each other. I think I was a little bit more consistent.”
The Russian avenged her most recent loss to fifth seed Kvitova in Madrid earlier this year to take a 3-2 lead in their head-to-head series. She won both their previous hard court meetings in Indian Wells in 2009 and this year’s Australian Open.
Both players struggled with their service games in bright, blustery conditions on center court and a double fault from Zvonareva handed Kvitova a 4-0 lead.
But Kvitova squandered two set points in the ninth game, double-faulting before allowing Zvonareva to pull it back to 5-4 with a forehand winner.
Both players held serve but Zvonareva produced some excellent shots in the tiebreak and took the first set when Kvitova dumped a routine volley into the net and never recovered in a second set that lasted just 29 minutes.
“I was a little bit off rhythm in the beginning. I wasn’t thinking about the score at all. I was just trying to win one point at a time,” said Zvonareva.
Kvitova, who reached the semifinal after Maria Sharapova retired in the first set of their Wimbledon final rematch with a sprained left ankle on Thursday, was at a loss to explain her meltdown.
“If I knew that I would tell you,” she said with a smile. “I don’t know what happened at 5-1. I didn’t play my game and she came back and played better than me and was the first to go for winners.”
“I had set points (in the ninth game). At 40-15 my serve had to be stronger in this situation. In my head I was still thinking that I could break her back and win the set although it maybe didn’t look like that.”
In the day’s second semi, Radwanska overcame a spirited effort from Azarenka, sealing victory with a blistering backhand down the line after she had squandered three match points.
“It was a really good match from beginning to end and she (Azarenka) fought all the way to the end,” said Radwanska, who smashed a ball high into the air in relief after completing the win in 2 hours, 31 minutes.
Radwanska, who is also in her first Pan Pacific final, is 2-2 against Zvonareva, but has won both of their meetings so far this year at Carlsbad and Toronto.
“I have beaten her (Zvonareva) a couple of times but it doesn’t matter now,” said Radwanska.
“She is a great player and I have to give 100 percent. I just hope I can play as well as I did in today’s match.”