Bulgaria’s Pironkova wins in Australian Open first round, women’s seeds tumble

Bulgaria’s top female tennis player Tsvetana Pironkova made a flying start in the Australian Open, the first tennis Grand Slam of the year, defeating the British number one Heather Watson in straight sets 6-4, 6-0.

Both players came into the match after strong performances in warm-up events – Watson won her second career title in Hobart and Pironkova reached the semi-final of the Sydney International, the tournament she won last year as a qualifier (she started as a qualifier this year too and extended her winning streak in the tournament to 14 matches before falling to Petra Kvitova in the semis).

Pironkova’s task was made easier by the fact that Watson was clearly not at her best, requiring a medical break late in the first set. The Briton’s form dipped even further in the second set, which Pironkova was able to win without too much difficulty.

Pironkova has never advanced past the second round at the Australian Open, which she has reached now for the seventh time, and her task looks unenviable as she will next play last year’s finalist Dominika Cibulkova, seeded 11th, who won her first round match again Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.

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(Photo: Brad Touesnard/flickr.com)