Commentary

Why Serena and Vera want to win

Updated: July 2, 2010, 8:50 AM ET
By Kamakshi Tandon | Special to ESPN.com

The Wimbledon title will be on the line when Serena Williams and Vera Zvonareva square off in the final on Saturday, and if that wasn't enough, here are a few other things each player has on the line.

Five reasons why Serena Williams wants to win the final

1. Finally beating someone other than Venus to win

Serena has been in the Wimbledon final five times, and each of her three victories has come over older sister Venus -- in 2002, 2003 and last year. Venus did get the better of little sis once, in the 2008 final. In fact, the Williams sisters have won this tournament eight of the past 10 years.

One of the missing years came in 2006, when Serena didn't play, and Amelie Mauresmo defeated Justine Henin in the final. The other, well that was when …

2. Not losing to another unheralded Russian in the final

Maria Sharapova stunned Williams 6-1, 6-4 in the 2004 final, winning the title as a 17-year-old.

So Serena has been here before -- in the Wimbledon final, a heavy favorite against a lesser-known Russian playing her first Grand Slam final.

"The biggest thing is for me to stay positive and not put too much pressure on myself," Serena said. "I've been in this situation before where I did put pressure on myself and actually ended up losing.

"On paper, it looks like I should win. But Vera, I've played her several times -- she's beaten some good people. Her last two matches she's been down a set, so she's obviously a fighter. She never gives up."

Serena owns a 5-1 record head-to-head against Zvonareva, though they haven't played since 2008 and three of the five wins have gone three sets.

3. Overtaking Billie Jean King in the all-time Grand Slam list

With 12 Grand Slam titles, Serena has outstripped the rest of her generation (Venus and Henin are well back with seven each) and is now focused on climbing the all-time list. She's currently in a tie for sixth place with Billie Jean King but would take over sole possession of the spot with a win here.

4. Overtaking Justine Henin for most weeks at No. 1 (probably)

Serena will have notched 109 total weeks at No. 1 by the end of this week, which will put her just 10 behind Justine Henin's mark of 119. If she wins Wimbledon, she'll be all but assured of overtaking her this summer.

5. Restoring sanity to the tournament

What with Roger Federer and Venus Williams exiting in singles and the Williams sisters, the Bryan brothers, and Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic gone in doubles, it's been a bad Wimbledon for the traditional favorites. Serena and Rafael Nadal are two who are still standing, and a Serena victory would at least ensure a logical end to one of the most bizarre women's events in recent memory.

"If I go out, at least I went out with some great champs," Serena joked. "I was in good company."

Five reasons why Vera Zvonareva wants to win the final

1. A Grand Slam title

The closest she's come before is the semifinals of the Australian Open last year, when she lost relatively easily to compatriot Dinara Safina.

"It's one of my dreams to be out there, to be on the Centre Court and play in the final of Wimbledon," Zvonareva said.

2. Two wins over Serena in one tournament

Has anyone ever done that before? Zvonareva, in addition to her run in singles, has also gone deep into the doubles draw with partner Elena Vesnina. The two scored a win over the formidable Williams sisters in the quarterfinals, and now Zvonareva meets Serena in the singles final. Neither can say she hasn't had a chance to scout the other before they meet on Saturday.

3. Convincing the world she's really changed

Zvonareva came from a set down in her quarterfinal against Kim Clijsters (as the underdog) and in her semifinal against Tsvetana Pironkova (as the favorite). Each time, Zvonareva remained calm and collected, adjusting her game when behind and closing out the victory without flinching.

Is this the same player who, 10 months ago, was tearing the tape on her knees, swearing at the umpire, screaming at herself and sitting on court smacking her legs in frustration? It'll take her a long time to live down that epic meltdown against Flavia Pennetta at the U.S. Open last year -- just one in a long series of such episodes -- but these past two weeks have shown that she's now also capable of holding her emotions in check.

4. Russia will finally notice she exists

Zvonareva first broke into the top 10 in 2004, the same year that Anastasia Myskina, Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova won Grand Slams, and Elena Dementieva reached two major finals. "I'm ranked in the top 10, and I feel like nothing because I'm No. 6 in Russia," said Zvonareva, who couldn't even make her country's Fed Cup team that year.

Now, her compatriots are flailing, and there is only one Russian ranked in the top 10, meaning that Zvonareva has grabbed the limelight at home with her run to the Wimbledon final. If she wins, she'll be close to becoming the Russian No. 1 for the first time in her career.

5. Continuing the chaos

There has been little rhyme or reason to the results on the WTA Tour since the spring, with unexpected names like Samantha Stosur, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, Aravane Rezai and Francesca Schiavone all grabbing big clay-court titles.

Can Zvonareva extend that trend to the year's grass-court major? She'd better try -- given the unpredictability that takes place in the women's draw these days, who knows when a chance like this will come along again.

Kamakshi Tandon is a freelance tennis writer for ESPN.com.