Monday, March 4, 2019 - Vera Zvonereva plays Irina Khromacheva during a qualifying match at the the BNP Paribas Open in Stadium 3 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Jared Wickerham/BNP Paribas Open)
There’s something about the desert that just clicks with Vera Zvonareva.
Nearly a decade ago in next-to-unplayable conditions on a blustery afternoon final, the Russian played a tactically masterful BNP Paribas Open final against defending champ Ana Ivanovic to claim what remains the biggest title of her career.
Fast forward to today: after years of injury, motherhood and patient slogging at the lower tiers of the professional circuit, Zvonareva finds herself back inside the Top 100 and competing for her spot on the biggest stages.
And what better place to do it than at the site of your greatest success?
In the first round of BNP Paribas Open qualifying today, though far less windy, the 34 year old from Moscow was as tactically precise as she was 10 years ago, pulling fellow Russian Irina Khromacheva around the court and pushing her beyond the baseline with heavy groundstrokes to secure a straightforward 6-2, 6-3 victory.
The first set featured several breaks of serve before Zvonareva, seeded fourth in the qualifying draw, was finally able to consolidate for 5-2, which she followed up with a third break of 23-year-old Khromacheva’s lefty delivery to earn an early set advantage after just over half an hour of play.
Both players tightened up their serves the second set, with the former world No. 2 saving two break points in the third game before what would end up being a decisive break in the penultimate game. After one hour, 11 minutes and little fuss, Zvonareva was through.
She’ll face either Christina McHale or Fanny Stollar for a spot in her twelfth BNP Paribas Open main draw.