The Last Word: WTA No. 7, Vera Zvonareva

 

Vera Zvonareva
She didn't snag a Slam, but 2011 was nonetheless a success for Zvonareva. (AP Photo)

The Last Word returns, and each weekday, starting on Monday, December 5, we'll give you our year-end thoughts about tennis' best players—this time focusing on the ATP and WTA Top 10. We'll alternate tours each day; here's who we've looked at so far.

Best of 2011
In Doha, Zvonareva beat former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic and current No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki to win the title. Okay, it was “just” Doha—considered by many as hardly more than an exhibition. But given that the only other place she won the title was at Baku (it’s in Azerbaijan), it’s the logical choice.

Worst of 2011
Given that she was the defending Wimbledon finalist, it had to hurt Zvonareva to go down meekly to Tsvetana Pironkova in the third round this year, 6-2, 6-3.

Year in Review
In general terms, it was a decent year. Zvonareva slipped from her lofty year-end (2010) perch of No. 2, but still played fairly consistent tennis. She got off on the right foot at the Australian Open (l. to eventual champion Kim Clijsters in the semis), but then failed to win the Pattaya City event she all but owns (she was looking to three-peat there). Perhaps that was an omen.

Zvonareva hit turbulence at Indian Wells (l. to Dominika Cibulkova, second round) but had a pair of quality wins in Miami (over Marion Bartoli and Agniezska Radwanska) before she was crushed in the semis by Victoria Azarenka. As it turned out, Azarenka would become this year’s Zvonareva—the game contender who happened to run into all the wrong players on the Grand Slam trail. Agniezska Radwanska, Cibulkova, Sam Stosur (8-2 career head-to-head v. Zvonareva) and Azarenka all had multiple wins over Zvonareva in 2011.

See for Yourself
Wozniacki may be steady, but Zvonareva has highly developed skills, both offensively and defensively. She can use all the space and angles available, as these highlights from her win over the Dane in Doha show.

The Last Word
Zvonareva was in a position to gain ground on the top players in 2011, but she allowed a number of women to take territory from her. This will be a difficult, perhaps grim, year for the woman who somehow always finds a way to make her life more rather than less complicated.

 

—Peter Bodo, tennis.com