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Zvonareva vs Vekic WTA St. Petersburg Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Can resurgent Zvonareva take down Vekic to reach her first tour-level final since 2011?

Leye Aduloju in WTA Tour 1 Feb 2019
  • Vera Zvonareva vs Donna Vekic is live from St. Petersburg on Saturday, 2 February from 3:30pm local time/ 12:30pm GMT
  • Zvonareva won their only previous meeting at Wimbledon 2014
Vera Zvonareva. (Photo by -/AFP/Getty Images)

Former world No. 2, Vera Zvonareva seeks her first final since October 2011 when she takes on Croatia's Donna Vekic at the St. Petersburg Ladies Open on Saturday.

The resurgent Zvonareva is into her second semi-final of the season, after making the last four in Shenzhen in the opening week of the year, where she unfortunately had to retire against Alison Riske.

Zvonareva was runner-up at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2010, rising to a career-high No. 2 in the rankings in the process, but she has had several long breaks from the tour over the last decade, majorly due to injuries. Her most recent hiatus was between 2015 and 2017, during which she had her baby.

Since her latest comeback in March 2017, the 34-year-old has painstakingly rebuilt her ranking, and had climbed to 109th in the world by the end of 2018. Zvonareva broke back into the top 100 for the first time since January 2013 after that semi-final run in Shenzhen in January, and she is projected to move into the top-70 by virtue of her semi-final run in St. Petersburg.

She began the week by taking down former top-ten player and Grand Slam semi-finalist, Ekaterina Makarova 6-3 6-4, before securing consecutive wins over current top 20 stars, Julia Georges and Daria Kasatkina. She came from a set down to beat Goerges in the second before moving past Kasatkina 6-3 7-6 in Friday's quarter final. After twice failing to close out the match against Kasatkina, the former world No. 2 pulled away in the tie break, winning the last five points to complete another marquee win.

Standing between the home favourite and a spot in the final is Donna Vekic, who recorded a brilliant 6-4 6-1 victory over last year's champion, Petra Kvitova on Friday.


Donna Vekic. (Photo by SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)
The 22-year-old Vekic, who has also made a fine start to the year, is into her second semi-final of the season, adding to her run in Brisbane, where she beat Magdalena Rybarikova, Kiki Bertens and Aliaksandra Sasnovich before falling to Karolina Pliskova in a very productive week. She suffered a surprise second round exit to Kimberly Birrell in Melbourne, but she has hit back strongly in St. Petersburg, taking out Timea Bacsinszky, Veronika Kudermetova and now Kvitova to make the semis.

After exchanging breaks with Kvitova in the opening two games, Vekic was secure on serve for the remainder of the match, facing, and saving just two more break points in the one hour 23-minute victory. She broke in the ninth game of the first set, aided by a flurry of Kvitova errors- before serving out the set, and after Kvitova held to open the second set, Vekic stepped on the gas and ran away with the rest of the match, winning the last six games to record the biggest win of her career in terms of the raning of her opponent.

"My game [plan] was to try to be the first one to be aggressive, to open up the court, and try to make her run and defend, and obviously serve well," Vekic said.

She will now attempt to reach her seventh career final, and her first since Washington in August last year, when she was beaten by Svetlana Kuznetsova. 

Vekic was a teen prodigy who broke into the top 100 at 16, but her development has not been as rapid as anticipated, as she ended 2015 and 2016 outside the top 100. However, the signs from the last couple of years suggest that the 22-year-old is back on the right track. She definitely still has time to fulfill all the promise she showed as a teenager.

"I’ve been working hard, doing the right things," said the Croatian. "When you work hard, it pays off, and you’ll be successful on court, and I think in the last year, it’s all started to come together for me. I started the year well, and hopefully I can continue it well."

Vekic ended 2018 at a career-high ranking 34th, and she has broken into the top 30 at the start of 2019. She will definitely reach a new career ranking after St. Petersburg, as she is projected to be at least inside the top 25. Can she take down the veteran Zvonareva and proceed to the final, and rise even higher?

Both players will be confident after registering some excellent wins this season, but Vekic carries the greater firepower on serve and off the ground, and when she is assured and confident like she has been this week, she really is hard to contain.

Zvonareva won their only previous meeting in straight sets at Wimbledon in 2014, but I suspect the outcome will be different in St. Petersburg on Saturday.

Vera Zvonareva vs Donna Vekic is live from St. Petersburg on Saturday, 2 February from 3:30pm local time/ 12:30pm GMT

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Zvonareva vs Vekic WTA St. Petersburg Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Can resurgent Zvonareva take down Vekic to reach her first tour-level final since 2011?

Vera Zvonareva targets her first tour-level final since October 2011 as she takes on the impressive Donna Vekic in St. Petersburg on Saturday. Read our preview, predictions and stream the match live online.

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