LONDON: Vera Zvonareva has had to put her studies on hold for a few days as she prepares for her final exam at Wimbledon.
Wimbledon finalist Zvonareva, the Russian 21st seed, has been spending her spare time studying for a master`s degree in international economic relations at the diplomatic academy in Russia and will take her exams when she returns home in a few weeks.
The 25-year-old, who already has a degree in physical education, was keen to keep studying despite the busy nature of her tennis schedule because it gives her something to concentrate on other than the daily grind of life on the women`s tour.
But first she will try to upset defending champion Serena Williams in the final at the All England Club on Saturday.
Zvonareva is playing in her first Grand Slam final after 10 years as a professional and she is desperate to make the most of the opportunity.
That means her education has been put on the back burner since her semi-final victory over unseeded Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova.
Instead of burying her head in text books, Zvonareva has been burning the midnight oil working on a gameplan to defeat Williams, a three-time Wimbledon champion and world number one, in the biggest match of her life.
"I need to keep myself busy. I always love studying," Zvonareva said. "It was always very important for me to keep my head busy with something else.
"Travelling around the world, meeting different people, I just thought that international economic relations is something interesting.
"I have a lot of experience from around the world. Maybe this way I can use it a little bit.
"I was doing a little bit of work with United Nations` cultural body UNESCO back home as well and I think my experience at the academy and what I`m studying helps with that."
Zvonareva would pocket a recession-busting one million pounds (1.5 million dollars) in prize money if she can cause one of the great Wimbledon final shocks against Serena.
But it is the prestige of winning the world`s most famous tennis tournament that will be her driving force rather than the potential boost to her bank balance.
"When you go out there, you want to win not because you will get better prize money, just because you want to win," she said.
"You want to see that hard work paying off. It`s just a joy of winning. That`s the most important part of it."
Zvonareva can expect a congratulatory message from Netherlands forward Robin van Persie if she wins after meeting the Arsenal star while they were both doing injury rehabilitation at the same clinic in Amsterdam.
"I got the chance to meet him in Amsterdam. It was a pleasure just to have a fellow athlete next to you working. I wished him the best at the World Cup," Zvonareva said.
"Sometimes our physio back in Amsterdam will tell me, `Robin said hi or congratulations.` I will send him the same message as well."
BDST: 1149hrs, July 2, 2010