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By Erik Gudris | Thursday, September 3, 2020

 
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Tsvetana Pironkova, playing in her first tournament in three years, upset No. 10 seed Garbine Muguruza to reach the US Open third round for the first time since 2012.

Photo credit: Carmen Mandato/USTA

Tsvetana Pironkova is just the latest player to knock out a women’s seed at this year’s US Open.

The Bulgarian veteran upset No. 10 seed Garbine Muguruza 7-5, 6-3 to reach the third round of the US Open. The upset comes a day after Caroline Garcia bounced top-seeded Karolina Pliskova out of the draw.

Pliskova: I Am Not A Robot

Entering with a special ranking, the 32-year-old Pironkova is playing in her first tournament in three years since starting a family in 2017. She gave birth to son Alexander in March of 2018.

Last March, Pironkova announced her comeback only to see the tournament schedule almost immediately canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though that unexpected turn of events gave Pironkova some doubt, she said the Coronavirus-induced sabbatical was ultimately a silver lining that gave her more time to train for her return.

"Yeah, when I announced I was planning to go back on tour, really the next day almost all the tournaments were starting to get canceled," Pironkova said. "I did have my doubts, like, whether it's the right decision or the right time. But it turned out to be the right decision, I guess, because it actually gave me more time to prepare, like maybe five or six months more to prepare.

"Obviously I had the chance to be straight in the main draw here, which probably I wouldn't have if it wasn't for the pandemic. That is a huge, huge opportunity, I would say."

Known as a fast-court specialist, Pironkova is probably best known for reaching the Wimbledon semifinals in 2010. Along the way, Pironkova handed five-time Wimbledon winner Venus Williams what was her worst Wimbledon loss at the time in becoming the first Bulgarian Grand Slam singles semifinalist.

"It obviously means a lot to me, especially now," Pironkova said. "But in the same time I always knew I had it in me because it's not the first time I win a top player. I been on the tour for almost 15 years, and I had many occasions where I played against the best of the best players.

"I also scored quite a few wins over them. I guess I was mentally prepared. It's not something super new. In the same time I was feeling well, I was moving well, I was hitting the ball well. Why not win?"

Tennis Express

Her flat shots, and easy use of spins on both sides, proved problematic for Muguruza right from the start. Australian Open finalist Muguruza was just playing her second hard court match of the season restart after she missed the Western and Southern Open due to an ankle injury.

"I mean, for sure it was a tricky round," Muguruza said. "I watch her, but long, long time ago. We never played. I think she played very well today. Also a little bit nothing to lose, just go out there and see what happens.

"It was just a mix of everything: having a tricky opponent, justnot feeling that expected, the combination. I feel like I don't quite find my tennis yet in the US Open in the early rounds. Yeah, just going to have to wait a little bit."

Muguruza did manage to find a way to serve for the first set. But Pironkova improved her returns and soon held a break point. Muguruza tried a drop shot to save the point, but instead it found the net.

Pironkova soon held serve and forced Muguruza to serve for a tiebreak. Instead, Pironkova broke serve again to take the set.

Muguruza, after losing the first set 7-5, expressed her frustration by demolishing her racquet.

"It was a tough moment. I guess I'm more stronger now, I don't know," Muguruza said. "I'm not a type of player that does that a lot. I just feel like today out there was a tough first set. I felt I had it in control, then she played very well and took her chances. All of a sudden it was gone.

"But, yeah, it's just emotions."




The second set proved tighter than the score suggests. Pironkova was near perfect in her service games and that kept the pressure on the former Wimbledon and French Open champion Muguruza who has struggled over the years in New York.

Muguruza fought off four break points against her while serving at 2-all. Despite holding in that game, at 3-4, she faced more pressure on her serve. Pironkova would eventually take the break for 5-3 thanks to a Muguruza double fault.






From there, Pironkova served out the convincing straight sets win 7-5, 6-3. She’ll next face No. 18 seed Donna Vekic.

 

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