Saturday, 11 January 2014

The Ground Underfoot

You may be forgiven for thinking that it's grass season in the WTA at the moment.  There's rain aplenty in the UK and a Grand Slam on the horizon that most people expect Serena Williams to win.  In addition, world number 107, Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova proved herself the unseeded one to watch at the tune-up tournament.

Pironkova at Wimbledon in '13.
However, it's a good 6 months until the green of Wimbledon will be ready for play, and is instead the Aussie swing in the lead up to the first Slam of the year where the Bulgarian has captured her maiden WTA title in a stunning run at the Sydney Premier International tournament.  Amidst a field comprising 6 of the world's top 10 (Radwanska, Kvitova, Errani, Jankovic, Kerber, Wozniacki) it was Pironkova who eventually triumphed at the event, recording back to back wins from QF to Final against 3 of the top 10-ers.

Posting a Serena-like stat of not losing a set over the course of her five matches, Pironkova, entering the main draw via the qualifying rounds brushed past Romania's Sorana Cirstea 64 61 in her opening match before ousting Varvara Lepchenko, again for the loss of only 5 games.  A fleetness of foot characterised her Quarter-Final against Sara Errani, who looks likely to struggle this coming season anywhere other than a clay court. Similarly, a strong and accurate backhand from the Bulgarian was enough to take her through her semi-final against a typically misfiring Petra Kvitova.

Having previously posted a 0 from 7 stat when playing a semi-final, Pironkova was also billed as the underdog in the final against Germany's Angelique Kerber.  However, the left-hander with the solid thumping baseline balls was made to look slow and sluggish by the Bulgarian as the pair traded breaks in the opening set.  It was the Bulgarian who settled into a rhythm quicker and closed out the first set with a cracking backhand winner.

A similarly up and down second set again saw Pironkova take an early lead before Kerber racked up three games in a row to get the advantage in the set.  With her nose ahead, though, she dawdled once again and Pironkova wrapped up the set and the match 64 64, recording her first ever WTA title in her first ever final.

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0
(via Wikipedia: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tsvetana_Pironkova_1,_Wimbledon_2013_-_Diliff.jpg )

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