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Wimbledon, Day 12: Ladies Singles Final Preview: Serena Williams Vs Vera Zvonareva

No. 1 Serena Williams (USA) vs. No. 21 Vera Zvonareva (RUS) -- In her third straight Wimbledon final, No. 1 Serena Williams will be vying for her second consecutive and fourth career Wimbledon singles crown, and thirteenth career grand slam singles title, which would put her one ahead of Billie Jean King.  At this point in her legendary career, she's playing against the history books more than any specific contemporary.

Vera Zvonareva, on the other hand, is playing not to move her name up the ranks, but to just get on the list. 

After years and years of the same small group of players meeting in every grand slam final in various permutations, Zvonareva is the fourth first-time grand slam finalist in the last twelve months (Caroline Wozniacki, Francesca Schiavone, Samantha Stosur).  The fact that Schiavone, who has spent most of her career in the same region of the rankings as Zvonareva, could win her first grand slam title late in her career simply by seizing the opportunity she was given, has to inspire Zvonareva.

For all of her amazing records, Serena Williams is only 1-1 in her career in grand slam finals against first-time finalists.  That one loss also came at Wimbledon against a Russian, when No. 13 Maria Sharapova stunned defending champion Serena in straight sets.  Serena is far more familiar with Zvonareva than she was with Sharapova in 2004, though she's likely never faced Zvonareva playing as well as she is now.

Zvonareva has all the shots and physical assets she needs to beat anybody.  She has a solid serve, powerful ground strokes off both sides, and her three grand slam mixed doubles titles (as well as her presence in Sunday's upcoming Ladies' Doubles final) attest to her net skills

The question mark that has plagued Zvonareva over her entire career is her mercurial emotions, which have, on several occasions, caused her to break racquets or openly weep on the court during play.  With the resilience she's shown over this fortnight (twice coming back from a set down in an important match), those days could be behind her for good.  

But if she wins the first with relative ease and then loses a close second, keep your eye out for a spectacular meltdown.

It's tough for me to envision Zvonareva winning this match, but how close it is remains largely within her control.

Prediction: Serena Williams in 2.