VERA ZVONAREVA: Obviously, you know, Yanina is a tough opponent, and I'm happy to win, and to win in two sets. Especially since last year, if I remember, last years I had to withdraw in my third round. I'm happy I was able to play today. I played I think pretty good match.
Q. What do you think you did overall that was so good today?
VERA ZVONAREVA: I think there were moments you know, you could always say that maybe I double faulted a little bit too many times today. But I did serve well when I needed it. I think that was good.
Also, I was able to, you know, return well, I think, today. Even sometimes I had some mistakes, but I kept doing what I had to do, and eventually paid off. I was able to break a couple times.
I think I was able to put a good intensity and go for my shots a little bit better, not to hesitate. Yeah, that's pretty much it.
Q. Are you healthy enough now and motivated enough and strong enough to get back to the level where you were before you had the injury?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Yeah, you know, finally I think I feel good. Couple of minor things, but every single tennis player experiences those. But I can say finally I'm healthy and finally I can put up a good work.
You know, I'm looking forward to improve my game and get back to that level where I was before.
Q. How long have you felt that way? Because your results since the spring have not been that great. Roland Garros was not as good as you can play, and Eastbourne.
VERA ZVONAREVA: Uh huh, well, Eastbourne was a tough match. Maria Jose is very tough on the grass; it was very close match. That was actually one of the good matches, I think. Yeah, I could have used couple of opportunities, but it's minor things. I think I was already able to put a better level than the whole clay court season.
Yeah, you're right, clay court season wasn't great for me. I think it was mentally tough for me playing on the clay, and I think I can realize it better now than I was there.
Now at least I know what I have to work on for the next year for the clay court season and how I have to prepare myself.
Q. You probably heard this from some of your compatriots, but two years ago there were six Russian women in the top 10; now there's only one, Elena. Is it because of age or injuries? Why do you think that's happening?
VERA ZVONAREVA: You know, you cannot be on top of your game and play the best tennis the whole career. It happened that all of us were playing very good tennis at the same time and get into the top 10. It's not easy. It's very, very hard.
Now it seems like quite a few players got injured, like you can see with Dinara was struggling a lot, I was struggling, and other players as well. You know, injuries, they always put you back a little bit, and it's tough to recover.
I think one of the best players who can do it very well is Serena, because she's not able to play for a long time due to injuries and then come back and still play very strong.
But, um, otherwise, injuries always tough to recover from. It seems like we all got even Elena, you know, she couldn't come here and play here. She had to withdraw in a semifinal of a Grand Slam.
So I think it's just a coincidence of everything together: everyone being in the great form and then everyone suddenly getting injured at the same time. It's a little bit downhill, maybe.
But I'm sure all of us, we're good players, and I'm sure we will get back to that level.
Q. There was also a time when you would have three players and you would have a couple more come up and replace them. You'd have someone that was 21, 22, 23. Now you have Kleybanova, Pavlyuchenkova maybe coming up to the level of top 20, top 10. Do you see them as being real elite players, or do we still have to wait and see on them?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Well, think they're coming close to that. You can also see I think Anastasia, I think, she beat Venus back to back last year. Two great wins is not easy, so being definitely see the potential out there.
And Alisa, she already has a lot of top 10 wins under her belt. So I think they are up there. It's just a very thin line between the players becoming one of the top 10 players and maybe being ranked 30. Maybe they will need just a little bit more experience. But both of them are very good players.
Q. Looking at your balance and your movements, the way you do splits quite elegantly, is this something you trained for particularly? Do you have a past as a gymnast or a dancer?
VERA ZVONAREVA: No, just actually happens naturally. I never train. I think I'm pretty flexible. I always work on my flexibility since I was a kid.
Then I think tennis is getting quicker and quicker. Sometimes when you try to chase the balls, it just comes naturally. I don't really train it.
Q. Mentally you seemed to manage the match very well. Can you talk about what you were feeling inside?
VERA ZVONAREVA: You know, I was just trying to play one point at a time. I was not looking around. I was trying to stay concentrated, keep my concentration on all the time, trying to think what I will do in my next point. That's about it.
Nothing else was bothering me around. I wasn't noticing anything around. I think that helped me a lot, because I was able to play pretty good tennis from the beginning till the end. You know, there is a couple unforced errors there and there, but I managed to, yeah, overall to play pretty even from the beginning till the end.
Q. Why were you able to do that today when maybe earlier in your career you might not have?
VERA ZVONAREVA: I don't know. I think it comes with experience. You grow up. You're more mature. You know you've been in different situations and you know how to manage them better. You know that it is important just to forget what was before and try to concentrate on the next point.
I think, uhm, right now I have learned a lot from the past, and I can do it much better now.
Q. What do you know about your semifinal opponent? Must be rather a surprise that you're not playing Venus, that you're playing Pironkova.
VERA ZVONAREVA: You know, obviously Venus is going to be always one of the favorite players here at Wimbledon. But if Tsvetana beat her today, she deserves to be in the semifinals. She played great tennis.
I played her in Moscow last year and I lost to her. I will try to remember that match. I know I was not playing my best tennis over there. I will just have to, you know, think about it a little bit and prepare myself the best I can.
I'm gonna try my best over there, just the way I was trying today, and then we will see what's going to happen.
Q. What were her strengths when you played her in Moscow?
VERA ZVONAREVA: I think she's all‑over‑the‑court player. You know, it's hard to predict what she's doing on the court. Sometimes she can slice; sometimes she can hit the ball; sometimes she can play slow; sometimes she can play fast. You never know what to expect, so you lose your rhythm. Then you start thinking maybe too much on the court.
I just know that in that match I will have to concentrate on myself and execute my game no matter what the score, no matter what she's trying to do. Just try not to look on the other side and try to concentrate on myself.
Q. You had some really strong results a while back in your career, then there were some tough results and your injury. What was it like when you were really struggling, trying to get over your injury? Did you imagine relatively quickly you'd reach the Wimbledon semifinal?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Well, you always dream about it. You always want to be there. Like I always say, I always believe in myself and I believe I can be here.
But obviously when you go through a lot of injuries in your career, it sort of puts a lot of doubts in your head. It is very difficult to come back after an injury. You lose a lot of confidence.
But, uhm, I think, I don't know, I always believed in myself. I always believed I could do it. I was just maybe frustrated that my injuries are not going away. But I know as soon as I feel hundred percent, I will be able to play good tennis again. It's just matter of time.
Because I can work hard. I can work hard every day. I believe that, you know, if you work hard, you will achieve.
Q. This was your first victory against Kim Clijsters today. What made the difference today?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Uhm, I think I was able to play one point at a time today. I was able to keep my concentration from the beginning till the end of the match. Also I'm much more experienced right now, much more mature. I think I played tactically better, and I was able to hang in there, not to pay attention to what was going on around.
Even after I lost the first set, maybe there were a couple unforced errors that could have put me back, but I was trying not to think about it. I was trying to think about what I have to do next to win the next point.
I think it helped me a lot.
Q. You are a promoter of gender equality. What have you achieved, and what are your goals with that job?
VERA ZVONAREVA: It is very important to give the same opportunities to everyone in the world. If we are lucky here, in Russia, there are so many countries, where girls, they don't have the possibilities to achieve their dreams.
And I think, uhm, us tennis players, we could be role models for the girls. No matter what they want to do in their lives, they should believe in themselves. They should believe they can achieve great things.
It's not more about of gender equality, it's more about equality for opportunities for everybody, so everyone has the same opportunities. I think our examples, where we are, we should be able to make, you know, a lot of girls around the world to believe in themselves more.
Q. You spoke about concentration. You always had your towel over your head. Is that one part of your concentration? For instance, did you see what the score was between Pironkova and Venus?
VERA ZVONAREVA: No. Like I said, nothing matters on the court besides thinking of what you're going to do next.
I think, yeah, I put the towel because it just helps me to relax and not to see what is going on around. Because in my game, I think I'm capable to do a lot of different things. For me, it's very important that my head is relaxed because then I know what I want to do in the next point.
And if you see all the things around, noticing all the scores, it just takes your concentration a little bit away, and then maybe you will make a wrong decision on the court.
And for me, if I know what I want to do, I think I'm capable of, you know, beating anyone on the other side. So for me it's very important just to keep my concentration.
Q. So you didn't know about Venus?
VERA ZVONAREVA: No.
Q. Pironkova is one of the younger players left here. Why do you think we're not seeing more teenagers breaking through at these big tournaments?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Well, to break through as a teenager, it's very difficult. There were some great examples in the past.
But I think to be able to reach this stage of a Grand Slam, you need an experience. You need the maturity. It comes with years on the tour.
I think it is very difficult to play unbelievable tennis and reach the Grand Slam semifinal, final very early. Only few girls were able to do it. Uhm, those girls became great players.
But, yeah, I think you need that experience to be here.
Q. What does this mean to you and what does it feel like?
VERA ZVONAREVA: You know, I'm very excited. I think I haven't realized it yet that I will be playing in the final.
But, yeah, it's one of my dreams to be out there, to be on the Centre Court, and play in the finals of Wimbledon.
So at the moment, you know, I think I'm thinking too much about my final. But I'm sure when the tournament finishes, finally I will realize that it's, you know, one of my dreams came true and I was able to make it to the final.
Q. If it is Serena Williams as your opponent, how would you describe the challenge before you?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Well, it's going to be a tough challenge, for sure. Serena is great player, defending champion, and very tough to play against.
But, you know, I always believe in myself. I think I will just have to go out there and try to play my best, like I did in previous matches. We will see what's going to happen then.
Q. You've been a very good player for a long time. You've been working towards this moment for a long time. What in particular in these last two weeks has worked so well for you?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Uhm, I don't know. It's hard to say. I think I'm more experienced right now, even though I had a couple bad losses, you know, at the French Open and then Eastbourne I lost first round. But I thought I was playing already much better tennis much, and I knew I just had to keep working hard.
I knew few things that I have to improve. I was trying to go on the court and try to bring it out of myself. And if it wouldn't work that day, it wouldn't work. But I just knew I had to keep going for my shots and play the way I play.
Q. Have you worked with a professional on the mental side of your game? Is that just poise and maturity, or have you worked with a sports psychologist or performance coach?
VERA ZVONAREVA: I always believe in myself. I always know that, you know, I can do anything. For me, I think it came with an experience and I know better how to handle different situations.
But, uhm, I don't care what people say around. And when they do, I can get ‑‑ I can break the racquet, but it doesn't mean I'm not there in the match. I'm trying all the time.
But I think right now experience helps me a lot. I've been in a lot of different situations in the past of my career, and I think I know how to turn the matches around much better now.
Even if something is not working, I think I know in my head that I just have to take it one point at a time and just keep trying. In the end, we will see what's going to happen.
Q. Do you think the injuries might have been almost like a disguised blessing, that it gave you time to reassess?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Injuries are never good. You never want them. But I think definitely, you know, when you have bad injuries, you appreciate the opportunity to play out there on the court. You really appreciate that you're able to do this.
Even if you have bad losses, I think you're able to bounce back quicker because you know, you know, you're still healthy, you're still playing. You get the chance to go out there and play better.
If you're injured, you're not able to do it. So I think, yeah, maybe in a way it helped. But I don't wish anyone to get injured (smiling).
Q. Can you describe how you felt emotionally today versus how you felt when you played Dinara in Australia in the semifinals and didn't play your best.
VERA ZVONAREVA: Well, it's two totally different matches. It's very tough to compare those. I think Dinara played really good tennis that day. Maybe I did not expect something from her.
But today I think I was prepared better. I knew what to expect against Tsvetana. I think in the beginning was very difficult because she's very difficult opponent, especially here on the grass. But I managed to turn it around.
That match with Dinara, I think she was just too good that day for me. It was very difficult for me to turn it around.
Q. You spoke earlier about how tough a challenge Serena Williams would be. Can you get more specific about what the key to you possibly having success would be against her?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Well, I will have to stay aggressive no matter what and not to let her dominate. Because when Serena dominates, she's very difficult to play.
So, I don't know. It's too early to say. I will have to sit down and just talk to my coach a little bit and see what the best things to do.
But I know that she's a great fighter. When I go on the court I will have to expect a very tough match, I will try to fight for every point, and I think try to make it difficult for her on every point. Try not to give her any points.
Q. How much of an advantage does her serve give her against anybody?
VERA ZVONAREVA: It's a very big advantage, I would say, especially here on the grass. But, uhm, I think if you can find the timing you can return it.
You know, it's very difficult when she's serving well, but there are moments where she may not serve as well. You just have to use those chances. You know, if she served well, okay. You go to the other side, try to return the next one.
But there will be moments where she doesn't make a first serve. I haven't seen anyone make a hundred percent of first serves. So then you will just have to take your chances then.
Q. Is there anything in your background, in your experience with her, that might give you particular confidence going in against her?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Uhm, I remember I played a very good match against her in Cincinnati one year, and I was able to beat her. It was a very, very tough one, but I think I was able to play the right way against her.
So I will just have to try to do it again.
Q. You've had three coaches now in the last eight months. Can you talk about that. Was it difficult for you? Can you talk about your new relationship with Sergei, who has just come on the scene.
VERA ZVONAREVA: Like you said, yeah, I changed three ‑‑ I don't think three coaches. I actually just worked with one coach. I think it was Antonio in the beginning of the year.
VERA ZVONAREVA: Yeah. Well, Sam was able to help me out during Charleston because Vika was injured. Thanks a lot for that. But after that, I just started working with Sergei right away. So I didn't really change that many people.
I've known Sergei for many, many years. We actually won mixed doubles Russian championships one year. I think he was a good player. He stopped playing himself like a year ago, and I think he really enjoys coaching.
He's also the one who can hit with me on the court, so I don't really need to find hitting partners. It's very helpful.
So for me it's always a tough challenge against him. He's playing good tennis. So, yeah, so far, you know, it's working quite good.
Q. Are you still a student?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Yes, I am.
Q. What are you studying?
VERA ZVONAREVA: I'm studying international economic relations at the diplomatic academy back home in Russia.
Q. Do you do it online?
VERA ZVONAREVA: No, I have to take classes over there and I have to take my exams when I'm coming back there.
Q. Why did you choose that subject to study?
VERA ZVONAREVA: I don't know. My first degree is in physical education. You know, I need to keep myself busy. I always love studying. It was always very important for me to keep my head busy with something else.
And traveling around the world, meeting different people, I just thought that international economic relations is something interesting, something, you know, close. I have a lot of experience from around the world. Maybe this way, you know, I can use it a little bit.
Q. What will you get? Is it a full degree? What is it called?
VERA ZVONAREVA: It's going to be like, I don't know, master's degree. I don't know how you call it. Yeah, diplomatic academy, it's the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Russia. It focuses a lot on international affairs, as well.
So I was doing a little bit of work with UNESCO back home. I think my experience at the academy, what I'm studying, helps with that.
Q. So how is the economy looking?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Well, I don't think I have enough experience and knowledge yet to tell you what's going on (smiling). I don't know. Maybe when I graduate I will be able to answer that better.
Q. I saw you on the BBC talking about Robin Van Persie, the Dutch football player. Did you meet him in Amsterdam somewhere during rehab?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Yeah. We were actually doing the rehab together. I got the surgery, and then he got injured and he got his surgery, as well. So we were at the same place doing rehab. Yeah, in Amsterdam. I got the chance to meet him.
He was working very hard. I was working very hard out there. He was working very hard. It was a pleasure, you know, just to have a fellow athlete next to you working. You know, I wish him the best at the World Cup.
Q. Are you still in touch with him somehow?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Well, sometimes, you know, our physio back in Amsterdam will tell me, Robin said hi; congratulations. I will sort of send him message this way, as well.
But when I was back there in Amsterdam for regular checkup, I saw him, as well. It was a couple months ago. He was there. But, uhm, yeah, other than that, we are not really in touch.
Q. Are you going to watch the game tomorrow?
VERA ZVONAREVA: I might.
Q. He'll be playing tomorrow.
VERA ZVONAREVA: Yeah.
Q. Studying economics, how much of tennis is a business and a job for you and how much of it is just love for the sport?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Uhm, I think it is both. It is very difficult to say because our job, tennis, is our life. You cannot, like, separate it. But when we go on the court, when we practice, it's more a love of tennis. You don't think about any other things.
When you go out there, you play your matches. You want to win not because you will get better prize money, just because you want to win. You want to see that hard work paying off. It's just a joy of winning. That's the most important part of it.
I think everyone works very, very hard. When you go out there and you see the result of it, that you're able to win and you're able to play good tennis, you can really enjoy, you really don't care about anything else.
Q. At this point Serena Williams is considered maybe the biggest favorite to win the title in the last 10 years, maybe in history. When you think of the possibility of an upset, you against her, what goes through your mind?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Uhm, you know, I always believe in myself. I don't care about what everyone says. I'll just have to go out there on the court and try to play my best tennis.
I know if I play my best tennis I can beat anyone on the other side of the net. That's what I'm gonna try to do on Saturday. I never look at any odds or comparisons. It's not important to me.