Clijsters beaten by Zvonareva at Wimbledon
Vera Zvonareva edged a gruelling Centre Court battle with US Open champion Kim Clijsters today to set up a Wimbledon semi-final against the unseeded Tsvetana Pironkova.
The Russian showed resilience and class to come from behind and claim a 3-6 6-4 6-2 triumph over the eighth seed.
Zvonareva, the 21st seed, has only reached one grand slam semi-final before - at the Australian Open last year - and now has a strong chance of reaching her first final after Pironkova knocked out Venus Williams.
Zvonareva, who briefly made the world's top five in 2009, had never beaten Clijsters in five previous attempts.
But the most recent meeting had been in 2006, the year Clijsters last played at Wimbledon before her temporary retirement.
The 25-year-old matched Clijsters for power and accuracy during numerous long rallies and kept her nerve under pressure in the final set.
The contest was entertaining from the start with the pair trading powerful groundstrokes during a closely-contested first set.
Clijsters came into the net to finish off a long rally to set up three break points in the sixth game but she hit the net three times and Zvonareva convincingly finished off her recovery.
Both players continued to look in control of their play with the Belgian producing some aggressive tennis to save two break points in the seventh game.
Clijsters used her momentum in the next game to put Zvonareva under pressure and a double fault handed her break point, which she won thanks to a powerful forehand, before serving successfully for the set.
But Zvonareva showed no sign of folding as she started the second set with two powerful service games and came close to breaking Clijsters with a backhand lob before the Belgian recovered strongly.
Zvonareva did break in the fourth game, winning four points in a row as she was finally rewarded for her resilience during the multiple lengthy rallies.
Both players continued to bring out the best in each other and Clijsters fought back strongly to prevent her opponent serving for the set.
Zvonareva found herself doing the splits in a vain attempt to reach a backhand, which set up two break points, and Clijsters succeeded at the second attempt when her backhand dropped fortuitously down off the net.
However, she double-faulted twice in the subsequent game to gift Zvonareva the set.
Zvonareva immediately served to love before forcing two break points but Clijsters produced an ace at the perfect moment on her way to holding her serve.
She was not so successful when facing her second break point in her next service game, over-hitting a volley to hand the Russian a 3-1 lead.
Zvonareva continued to hold her serve and forced two match points on Clijsters' serve.
The Belgian saved one after a huge rally but then hit the net in the next to give Zvonareva victory.
The Russian said: "It's definitely one of my dreams to be playing here in the semi-finals. I remember as a kid watching Wimbledon on TV.
"I'm looking forward to the semi-final and really excited about this game.
"It's amazing because I have played her a few times and they were always tough matches, but she was just better than me in those days. I was able to hang in and played good tennis."
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