Russian 21st seed Vera Zvonareva reached the women's singles final at Wimbledon with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over unseeded Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova on Thursday.
Zvonareva fought back from a set down to subdue Pironkova in a hard-fought semi-final on Centre Court and will face defending champion Serena Williams or unseeded Czech Petra Kvitova in the first grand slam final of her career.
Since turning professional 10 years ago, Zvonareva has been dogged by doubts about her temperament as she failed to fulfil her undoubted potential.
She was perceived as a choker who would crumble at the most important moments.
Injuries have also blighted her career, but the 25-year-old has become a more confident, mature player in the last year and had already served notice of her improved mindset by reaching the Australian Open semi-finals 18 months ago.
At Wimbledon she knocked out three seeds en route to the last four, with Jelana Jankovic and Kim Clijsters among her scalps, and she was able to summon up the will-power to halt Pironkova's fairytale run as well.
Pironkova's expectations were so low heading into Wimbledon that she only arranged for accommodation for the first week of the tournament.
The 22-year-old's apartment booking ran out before the semi-final so the Bulgarian embassy had to find her emergency accommodation.
Yet, with her confidence sky-high after stunning wins over Venus Williams and Marion Bartoli in previous rounds, Pironkova continued to play with intelligence and freedom in the first set.
She was going for her shots right from the start against Zvonareva and made enough of them to break for a 4-2 lead when a fortunate net cord went in her favour.
Pironkova had no trouble closing out the first set and looked well on top at that stage. Zvonareva needed to dig deep now to keep her challenge alive.
She had come from behind to defeat US Open champion Clijsters in the last round and did just that again.
Zvonareva has always had the intelligence to play at the highest level, after all she is currently studying for her second degree was playing with more composure now, and she worked out a route back into the match.
In the sixth game of the second set, Pironkova faltered on serve and the Russian went for the kill, breaking with a perfectly-placed volley.
She easily held serve to take the set and level the match.
It was the first set Pironkova had dropped at the Championships this year and she looked flustered.
Zvonareva was able to take full advantage as she broke in the first game of the final set when the Bulgarian sent a forehand long.
When Zvonareva held serve moments later, she had won six of the last seven games and the momentum would remain with her for the rest of the match.
Zvonareva broke again when Pironkova missed a forehand and then saved two break points before serving out the most important win of her life.