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By Alberto Amalfi | Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tsvetana Pironkova

World No. 102 Tsvetana Pironkova surprised second-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, to set up a Roland Garros quarterfinal with Samantha Stosur.

Photo credit: Roland Garros/FFT

They are separated by 100 places in the rankings, but second-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska couldn't shake 102nd-ranked Tsvetana Pironkova's shadow today.

The 28-year-old Pironkova stormed back from a 2-6, 0-3 hole reeling off 10 straight games to stun a shell-shocked Radwanska, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, and become the first Bulgarian in a decade to reach the Roland Garros quarterfinals.

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On a soggy surface, Pironkova often took the first strike in rallies forcing Radwanska to defend in winning 12 of the final 15 games. She defeated the former Wimbledon finalist for just the third time in 12 career meetings.

Pironkova, who had never surpassed the third round in 10 prior Paris appearances, will face 2010 finalist Samantha Stosur for a spot in the final four.

In a clash of former finalists, Stosur unleashed her heavy kick serve and topspin forehand fighting back from 3-5 down to defeat sixth-seeded Simona Halep, 7-6 (0), 6-3. Stosur snapped a four-match losing streak to Halep, including a 6-2, 6-0 thrashing in the Madrid semifinals earlier this month.

The second-seeded Radwanska and Halep join third-seeded Angelique Kerber, fifth-seeded Victoria Azarenka, seventh-seeded Roberta Vinci and 10th-seeded Petra Kvitova in bowing from the draw.

Pironkova joins 108th-ranked American Shelby Rogers, who has taken down three seeds including Kvitova, as one of two women ranked outside the Top 100 into the last eight.

Pironkova, a 2010 Wimbledon semifinalist, is a flat hitter at her best on faster surfaces. But after 48 hours to think about her one-set, one-break deficit to Radwanska, the Bulgarian came out slugging the ball in slow, heavy conditions and hit through Radwanska at times.

Bidding for her second career Roland Garros quarterfinal, Radwanska took treatment for a hand injury during the match.

"It was my hand," Radwanska said afterward. "Well, I had surgery few years ago and I couldn't really play in that conditions. End of story."

Heavy, muddy conditions, Pironkova's flatter, faster strikes and her hand issue all conspired against Radwanska, who was still questioning the sanity of playing in the drizzle twenty minutes after the match ended.

"I mean, I had hand surgery a few years ago, and for me, playing with those balls in that kind of court is pretty much impossible," Radwanska said. "So, I mean, I tried. Maybe I played worse, did worse things other days than when we start to play that match, but it definitely, you know, shouldn't be like this. We shouldn't play in that kind of rain.  Why?  We still have couple of days of tournament. What's the point?"

Radwanska could not effectively combat Pironkova from the baseline and when Radwanska stuck a final forehand into net, it was over.

The 21st-seeded Stosur has won four of five meetings with Pironkova, who claimed their last match on the grass of Eastbourne last June. This will be their first clay-court encounter.

"It's the quarters and she's just had a great win over Aga. I need to think about the matches that we have played, but I don't think we have played for a couple of years," Stosur said. "But I know certain things that are going to work very well against her. She's made quarters of a Grand Slam before and had big wins in her career. Can't take anything lightly. Looks like a good matchup. I need to be just as focused tomorrow whenever I play as what I was all week. Playing a confident player in the quarters of a slam is never easy no matter what your record is."

Stosur, who has won 11 of her last 14 matches, is playing for her fourth career French Open quarterfinal.


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