Friday, January 10, 2014

Dream run no longer a dream--Pironkova wins Sydney title

It's about as good as a tennis story gets: A qualifier who was 0-7 in semifinals in her career knocks off three top-10 players to win her first WTA title--and it's at a premier event. Leave it to Tsvetana Pironkova to pull off something like that. The Bulgarian player, who was ranked number 107 in the world prior to entering qualifying at the Apia Sydney International, beat world number 9 Angelique Kerber 6-4, 6-4 in the final. She had already defeated world number 7 Sara Errani and world number 6 Petra Kvitova.

Pironkova hit 32 winners in the final. Her already weak second serve was practically nonexistent, but she got her first serve in 67% of the time, and converted it into a winning shot 71% of the time. She had 21 chances to break Kerber and converted only six of them, but that was enough.

When Pironkova went down 2-4 in the first set, there was probably a common "ah--here it is" heard all around the women's tennis world. This was it--the point at which Pironkova gave into her considerable nerves and her very tough opponent cleaned up. Only it wasn't. The Bulgarian just kept on going, viewing the break as a mere blip in her week of victory, and the next thing you knew, she was serving for the set, and then the match. She had come this far, and she wasn't going to let a few breaks dismantle her.

Throughout the week, Pironkova's confidence was high. She served extremely well (which, for some reason, shocked commentators--do they even watch women's tennis?), used her backhand convincingly, won a lot of points with her much-maligned forehand, and hit some sweet overheads. Against Kerber especially, the Bulgarian's movement was a delight to watch, and she controlled points by pulling the German around on an invisible string.

In doubles, the unseeded team of Timea Babos and Lucie Safarova upset top seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, 7-5, 3-6, 10-7.

In Hobart, top seed Samantha Stosur lost to Klara Zakopalova in straight sets. Zakopalova's opponent in the final will be Garbine Muguruza, who beat Estrella Cabeza Candela 6-0, 6-1. Zakopalova, with partner Monica Niculescu, will play 2nd seeds Lisa Raymond and Zhang Shuai in the doubles final.

Stosur and Zakopalova will meet again very soon in the first round of the Australian Open.

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