Bulgaria’s top female tennis player Tsvetana Pironkova won her first career WTA Tour title at the Apia International in Sydney on January 10, defeating Germany’s Angelique Kerber in the final 6-4, 6-4.
Ranking 107th in the world after a disappointing 2013, Pironkova had to go through qualifying even to get into the main draw, meaning that she won eight matches to lift her first WTA trophy. Even more impressive was the fact that she did not drop a single set during her run that included victories over three top-10 ranked players in the final three rounds.
Both players sported bandaged legs, but Pironkova repeatedly pushed her opponent to the brink, with Kerber facing a total of 21 break points during the match, including eight in a single game early in the second set.
Despite that, it was an even match, with Pironkova taking more risks and dominating on first service (winning 33 of 46 points), but faring much worse on second (three-ofr-22). But with so many opportunities on Kerber’s serve and Pironkova on top of her game, it seemed like only a matter of time before the Bulgarian capped her unstoppable march in Sydney with a trophy.
Kerber did not go down without a fight, winning three straight games (breaking Pironkova twice in the process) in the second set to take a 4-3 lead, but Pironkova upped her game again to take the last three games to end the match.
Pironkova’s first career title will erase most of the ground she lost in 2013 and vault her back into the top 60 when the Australian Open begins next week. Pironkova faces Silvia Soler-Espinosa in the first round, with a possible date against local favourite Samantha Stosur awaiting in the second.
(Tsvetana Pironkova celebrates winning against Zheng Jie at the WTA Tournament of Champions in Sofia in 2012. Photo: sofia-tennis.bg)