By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - Vera Zvonareva was a shock finalist at Wimbledon last year but 12 months on it would be no surprise if the Russian repeated her feat at the All England Club over the next fortnight.
The 26-year-old from Moscow, the world number three, is second seed for the women's singles having built on her run on the London grasscourts last year to become one of the most consistent performers on the WTA tour.
Yet she was once written of as too emotional to achieve her full potential as defeats often used to be accompanied with tears and tantrums and rants at her coaching entourage.
Thankfully, in a game often derided for lacking personalities, she refuses to conform to the poker-faced stereotype of the players being churned out of tennis academies around the world.
Rather than change, she has instead harnessed the nervous energy and emotions that once proved so destructive.
"I really don't care what people say because I always believed in myself," Zvonareva told Reuters at Eastbourne this week where she was beaten in the quarter-finals of the Wimbledon warm-up by Samantha Stosur.
"For me, emotions are part of the game and it's good to have them. They can help you a lot as long as you use them to your advantage. I learned a lot about myself last year and how to use them in a positive way.
"Now I know where I need to push myself and where I need to be gentle with myself and that's the difference to maybe three years ago when I gave myself a tough time."
There were a few tears after she lost to Serena Williams in last year's Wimbledon final but she proved it was no one-off by reaching the U.S. Open final a couple of months later where she was beaten badly by Kim Clijsters.
Zvonareva wrecked a racket and received a code violation in that one-sided Flushing Meadows final but she still went on to end the year as world number two and then made the semi-finals of the Australian Open.
Hardly the form of a player lacking a steely core to go with her piercing green eyes.
"Definitely it was a great year for me last year and the experience of playing in my first grand slam final was very emotional," Zvonareva, who has a passion for Tolstoy and politics, said.
"It was very emotional but that's all in the past now and you have to start all over again come Monday or Tuesday at Wimbledon. I'm looking forward to it.
"But the you have to be prepared to wake up every day and fight in every match because there are a lot of great players who will also believe this could be their year."
Zvonareva opens her ninth consecutive Wimbledon against American Alison Riske and could face Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova in the third round in a repeat of last year's semi-final.
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)