Gunfire as Zvonareva blasts into tennis semis

World number two Vera Zvonareva brushed off Czech Petra Kvitova 6-2, 6-4 to reach the Australian Open semis on Wednesday and stay on course for her third straight Grand Slam final.

Zvonareva recovered from the distractions of a medical drama in the stands and a thunderous 21-gun salute for Australia Day, a national public holiday, to down Kvitova in just 75 minutes.

The 26-year-old Muscovite was badly put off during the fifth game of the second set, when she was ordered to play on despite a woman spectator needing medical attention and the celebratory artillery fire, and lost her serve.

But Zvonareva came back strongly to set up a last-four clash with either third seed Kim Clijsters or Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska, who play later.

“It was a bit of a difficult moment,” she said. “Someone wasn’t feeling well — it was difficult to play but the chair umpire said we had to go on no matter what.

“No one told me there would be the noise (from the cannons). I was trying to keep my concentration but I was a bit distracted.”

The Russian was playing her third Czech left-hander in a row following wins over Lucie Safarova and Iveta Benesova and she was clearly comfortable against Kvitova as she broke twice to open up a 4-0 lead.

Kvitova got one break back and held to give herself some hope of a comeback, but Zvonareva broke once more to run away with the first set.

Zvonareva two barely made an error in the opening set and she continued that form into the second, in stark contrast to Kvitova, who blasted balls wide or into the net as the pressure built.

Zvonareva broke early and looked headed to an easy win but she was put off in the fifth game when medical staff were called to attend an unwell woman in the stands, in the Russian’s line of sight.

The umpire signalled for play to continue despite Zvonareva wanting to stop, and the second seed was unsettled further by the 21-gun salute nearby, subsequently dropping her serve.

Kvitova held to go ahead in the set but made some poor unforced errors on her next service game to surrender the break. Zvonareva held comfortably then broke again to wrap up the match against a disappointing Kvitova.

“She’s a very good player, Zvonareva said of her opponent. “She took that opportunity, that little chance that I gave her. She used it and got back into the match.

“But I’m really happy the way I handled the situation after, and I was able to come up with some good shots when I needed it and finish in two sets.”

Zvonareva said the key to her success against Pvitova had been her aggression.

“I had to stay aggressive — she’s such an aggressive player herself,” the Russian said. “You don’t want her to just keep going for her shots. I was trying to hang in there and fight for every point.”

Kvitova, who had won nine successive matches before the quarter-final, including her victory at this month’s Brisbane International, said she had simply run out of steam.

“I don’t think I was nervous,” she said. “But I was little tired. It’s 10 matches in a row so it was tough.”