Post-Wimbledon Vera: 'I Haven't Changed'

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61472576FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. — Reaching her first Grand Slam fi

nal apparently wasn’t enough to change Vera Zvonareva. The No. 7-ranked Russian, who stormed to the Wimbledon final in July, eventually falling to Serena Williams, says she’s the same player she always was.

“Nothing changed for me,” said Zvonareva, a 6-1, 7-6(5) winner over Germany’s Sabine Lisicki on Thursday. “I always believed in myself. I always believed that I can be up there, and I still believe that if I’m able to produce my best tennis, I can beat anyone on the other side of the net. That’s about it. I think it was a great experience for me to be in the final of a Grand Slam. It was a great run. I was able to play seven matches in a row. That’s good enough. I’m just looking forward. I’m not thinking about that. For me, Wimbledon is already in the past.”

Zvonareva is in an interesting quarter of the U.S. Open draw. Should the seeding hold up, she’ll face Agnieszka Radwanska in the fourth round, and either Jelena Jankovic or Yanina Wickmayer in the quarterfinals. She defeated Radwanksa in their only career head-to-head; has beaten Jankovic in their last three meetings, including in the Round of 16 at Wimbledon; and is unbeaten against Wickmayer. But even in a Serena-less draw, the 25-year-old Muscovite isn’t looking too far ahead.

“It doesn’t matter who is in the draw,” she said. “Obviously, it’s bad to lose one of the top players, and it’s great that Serena is No. 1, that she’s got so many titles. But you can look at the field, and it’s still so tough. There are so many great opponents. You cannot underestimate anyone. You cannot just say, ‘Serena is not playing, so I’m going to win.’ That’s not how it works. You have to work hard. You have to make your way up there. You have to fight against everybody. Nobody’s going to give it to you.”

Her next test will be the 25th-seeded Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru, who on Thursday defeated Sweden’s Sofia Arvidsson 7-6(5), 2-1.

While she insists she’s the same person, all you have to do is turn back the clock to the ’09 U.S. Open and her fourth-round match against Italy’s Flavia Pennetta, in which she became more than unglued and lost 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-0, to see a difference. The more she keeps her composure, the more she remains focused on the point-by-point task at hand, the more she wins.

“I’m a much more mature and experienced player,” she explained. “I’ve been in a lot of situations. I’ve played a lot of matches. I think I’m maybe concentrating and preparing myself for the Grand Slams better.”

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