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By Chris Oddo / Saturday, January 11, 2014


Qualifiers Garbine Muguruza and Tsvetana Pironkova had major breakthroughs in Hobart and Sydney this week.

Photo Source: AAP

The week before the Australian Open was all about qualifiers on the WTA Tour.

On Saturday in Sydney, Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, previously known for her giant-killing capacities on grass, notched her first WTA title with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Angelique Kerber in the final of the Apia International in Sydney.

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The victory topped off a stellar run that saw Pironkova, 26, knock off three top 10 players in succession. She started with a 7-6(2), 6-3 triumph over Italian Sara Errani, then reached the final with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over second-seeded Petra Kvitova.

Pironkova had been 0-7 in career semifinals up to that point.

"When I think about what I've been through, not only last season but throughout my career, it hasn't been easy for me,” Pironkova said after Saturday's win over Kerber. “Winning a WTA title is something I've been waiting for so long and something that I've missed so much. Now that I finally have it, it's all surreal. I still cannot believe it, honestly."

In Hobart, 20-year-old Garbine Muguruza also came from qualifying to win the Hobart International.

Muguruza, who is making her comeback from ankle surgery, did not drop a set in Hobart, taking out second-seeded Kirsten Flipkens before dispatching Klara Zakopalova in the final, 6-4, 6-0.

Muguruza will face 24th-seeded Kaia Kanepi in the first round of the Australian Open.

Pironkova will face Silvia Soler-Espinosa in her first-round match.


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