Kim Clijsters vs Vera Zvonareva Wimbledon preview

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Kim Clijsters vs Vera Zvonareva Wimbledon preview

After winning the battle of the Belgians against Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters has confirmed her place as perhaps the biggest threat to the Williams sisters’ dominance at Wimbledon. But if she’s to challenge for a place in the final, the US Open champion will have to win past Vera Zvonareva in the quarter-finals first.

While Clijsters faced her biggest test so far against Henin, starting slowly - “I was just very overwhelmed in the beginning by the speed of her game,” Clijsters said - before building her dominance over her fellow former world No. 1.

In the end, the eighth seed proved equal to the task and with her heavy ground strokes and improved movement around the grass courts in part two of her career, Clijsters is shaping as a tough prospect for any opponent at the All England Club.

“I've always had a lot of respect and admired Wimbledon as a tournament,” Clijsters said. But personally in the past, I've never had that same comfortable feeling out there as I did, you know, on hard court in America or the US Open.

“I have to say since I've come back, I feel definitely a lot more comfortable moving wise... I definitely feel that I'm more at ease moving from side to side.”

And that’s bad news for Zvonareva, who, in five previous matches against Clijsters, hasn’t notched a victory. It’s a record that includes losses on grass at Eastbourne and the first round at Wimbledon in 2006.

Still, Clijsters’ retirement and subsequent return to the game last summer after more than two years away from the court means that their past record is very much in the past, with their most recent match against one another played in the semi-finals in Hasselt four years ago.

Zvonareva, who has in 2010 reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon for the first time in her career, will take plenty of confidence from the way she played in her fourth-round match against Jelena Jankovic, as she continued to go for her shots against an opponent who was troubled by a back injury that ultimately resulted in her retirement from the match.

“I think I started the tournament pretty slow,” the Russian said after defeating Jankovic. “It was very difficult for me in the first couple of matches. But I really raised the level of my game for the third, and today for the fourth round.

“I always believe in myself. No matter what, I always know that if I can produce good tennis out there, if I can show my best, I can beat anyone on the other side of the net,” said Zvonareva, who, like Clijsters, believes she’s moving better around the court at Wimbledon compared to her last visit to SW19.

The problem for Zvonareva, unlike Clijsters, is that she is prone to the occasional meltdown on court, and if the mum-of-one can put the pressure on the 21st seed from the outset we may get to see some tears and racquet smashing antics on centre court.

However, if things go well for Zvonareva, the match should produce some interesting exchanges of hard-hit ground strokes from the baseline, though if given the opportunity expect Clijsters to be the first to pull the trigger and produce the winner against a slightly more defensive opponent.

Prediction: Clijsters to book a place in the semi-finals.



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