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Monday, June 20, 2011

Wimbledon: Zvonareva Survives Riske-y First Round

At the end of the first set, no one expected America's Alison Riske to put up much of a fight against no. 2 seed Vera Zvonareva. The 20-year-old South Carolina native was unable to earn a single game in her first set at this year's Wimbledon, and Zvonareva's game looked spot on. But there's no reward without a little bit of Riske.

Despite a 3-1 lead, Zvonareva started to lose control of the match. Riske fired flat shots like a seasoned pro, using the low bouncing, quick grass surface to her advantage. The tables were turned and the crowd began to support the unlikely American comeback. A huge volley and an even bigger ace gave Riske double set point at 5-3, and despite a double fault, she regrouped to convert on her second try.

Vera burst out of the gates in the final set, breaking and holding to lead 2-0, but Riske still refused to back down. She thrashed Zvonareva's second serve, pressuring the Russian into an immediate break back and then leveled the score at 2-2. A year or so back, this is the time of the match where Zvonareva would crumble. Surely she would sit on crossovers, towel over her head, tears flowing after verbally abusing herself between points. But this is where she has grown. A new mental toughness has creeped into Zvonareva's game, and despite a few self-depricating mutterings here and there, she has learned to reel-in her emotions and focus on her game.

And focus she did. Zvonareva finally began to play like a world no. 3, striking two aces in her final service game to win 6-0, 3-6, 6-3. Riske played an impressive match and has much to be proud of, but she just didn't have the fire power and placement to beat Zvonareva. The biggest story out of this match, however, is that Zvonareva didn't beat herself.

-Kedzie Teller, ITB Senior Editor


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