Today at Wimbledon, Tsvetana Pironkova sped through the first half of her third round match against Petra Martic. Then, with a 6-1, 4-1 lead, the Bulgarian Mystery Woman went all Kvitova and allowed herself to get dragged into a third set. The "real" Pironkova returned for that set, and she won the match 6-1, 4-6, 6-2.
As a result, Pironkova will face 2012 runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska in the round of 16, and it can't be anything Radwanska is looking forward to. I am, though, and I plan to get up at the crack of dawn on Monday to watch the match. (You don't know me, but--trust me--I very rarely get up at the crack of dawn for anything.) The Bulgarian player made it to the semifinals in 2010, and to the quarterfinals in 2011. A good-enough but tame opponent (and that's an issue that really should be discussed) the rest of the year, Pironkova tends to go crazy on everybody at Wimbledon. Ask five-time champion Venus Williams, who lost to Pironkova in straight sets (with the same scoreline) two years in a row.
It's Radwanska's "luck of the draw" that she has to contend with Pironkova in the tricky round of 16. In 2010, when Pironkova played Vera Zvonareva in the semifinals, she took the first set, and at some point in the second--when it looked like the match was on her racket--she realized she she was about to go to the Wimbledon final, and she choked the match away. Pironkova talked about this choke recently, and the fact that it's on her mind means she may have learned from the experience. (Pironkova went on to defeat Zvonareva at Wimbledon the next year.)
Possessed of a big and varied serve, a very useful forehand slice, and a better-than-ever backhand, Pironkova poses a threat to Radwanska. Over at WTA Backspin, the upcoming match is referred to as the "Monster Movie Special"--The Radwanska vs. The Pironkova. This has the potential to be a highly entertaining match, even if you don't like scary movies.
I should add that Radwanska is 7-2 against Pironkova. She's 2-1 against the Bulgarian on grass. Radwanska beat Pironkova at Wimbledon in 2006 and 2007 (before Tsvetana became The Pironkova). Last year. however, Pironkova beat Radwanska in straight sets in Eastbourne.
But let's talk about Radwanska. The 4th seed got put through the ringer today by Madison Keys, who hardly gave Radwanska a chance to breathe during the entire 2-hour-and-22-minute ordeal. And while the Evert-faced Radwanska didn't show any signs of cracking, she did just stand there and shake her head in disbelief at one point. Keys was coming at her, over and over, from both sides, and she was serving unbelievably well, if we just count her first serve. Keys hit 15 aces. She hit 67 winners. And I know that Chris Evert discovered her and trained her so there has to be a huge bias involved, yet I think Evert is right when she implies that Keys is the real "Sloane." (Evert tried to tell us about Keys years ago, but we just had to wait and see for ourselves.)
The interesting point about this story, however, is that Radwanska won. She endured all manner of upstartery from the 18-year-old, but she was able to keep her cool, avoid unforced errors (she made only 10, compared with her opponent's 51), and emerge with a 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 victory.
If Radwanska beats Pironkova, she'll next face either Roberta Vinci or Li Na. And if she wins that match, she is very likely to get another go at Serena Williams in the semifinals.
Li, of course, didn't give herself an easy time of it (when was the last time she did?), but she beat Klara Zakopalova--ahem--4-6, 6-0, 8-6. What kind of crazy score is that, anyway? Zakopalova obviously picked it up in the final set, but then she faded as the situation became more tense.
Did anyone really think that Sam Stosur would beat Sabine Lisicki? Well, maybe if Lisicki had undergone one of her famous medical emergencies, but a finger injury was all that plagued the German today. She defeated Stosur 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, and next plays none other than Serena Williams, who easily defeated Kimiko Date-Krumm today.
As I suspected, Laura Robson had a lot to handle in Marina Erakovic, but she handled it, winning in three sets. This marks the first time in 15 years that a British woman has made it through to the round of 16. Robson is handling the hype quite well, too.
Roberta Vinci had an easy time of it, taking out Dominika Cibulkova, and Kaia Kanepi defeated Alison Riske.
In the "leftover" matches from yesterday, Monica Puig beat Eva Birnerova, Sloane Stephens beat Petra Cetkovska, and the "real" Petra Kivitova defeated Ekaterina Makarova, even though Makarova was up a break in the third when the match was suspended last night. There is now only one person in Kvitova's way, but she's such a tricky opponent; that would be Petra Kvitova. Theoretically, the 2011 champion should cruise (unless Marion Bartoli starts slapping everyone around again) to the final. (Petra, you're only six pineapples away--you can do it.)
Stephens, after getting a bagel in her second set, returned to the court today and won the final set 6-4. But I'm not totally buying the ESPN commentators' take on the matter. According to them, it was Stephens' champion-in-the-making's heart that got her the victory. Well, she certainly overcame a very bad patch and took care of business, but there was also this pesky fact: Cetkovska went to pieces in the third set. It helped Stephens' cause, to be sure.
Players kept slipping on the grass and falling today. Fortunately, most of the tournament's fallen (including Kvitova)--so far--have managed to recover nicely. Azarenka and Wozniacki, however, have some healing to do.
There are three Italian players in the round of 16.