Pironkova's Sydney Breakthrough
Published January 10, 2014 12:15
Not only had Pironkova never won a WTA title before, she had never even been to a WTA final - she was 0-7 in WTA semifinals. But after qualifying and winning her first two matches she was on top of her game, reeling off three straight Top 10 wins - Sara Errani, Petra Kvitova and Kerber - for the title.
Pironkova's 64 64 win in the final certainly had its momentum swings. After winning the first set on a huge backhand return winner, 6-4, Pironkova carved out a 3-1 second set lead - Kerber won three straight games from there to lead 4-3, and then Pironkova won another three of her own to close it out.
"I didn't really do anything that special tonight compared to the previous matches - I just kept the same level," Pironkova said afterwards. "I was just trying to keep the ball in the court as much as possible and as strong as possible, and when I got my chances I was trying to make winners. That's it, really.
"I was nervous but tried my hardest not to show it. I was trying to concentrate so hard that I only saw the ball - I was only watching the ball. I was like, 'Okay, just watch the ball and follow every point.'"
Until this week, Pironkova was best known for a few things - giving the top players trouble, two very deep runs at Wimbledon, a phenomenal backhand - but one thing was missing, and she wanted it.
"When I think about what I've been through, not only last season but throughout my career, it hasn't been easy for me. 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."
Did she ever consider giving up? "Well, I would be lying if I said I never thought about it, especially having such bad results last year. It crossed my mind a few times. But this is something I've chased all my life. One bad season, I said to myself, 'Okay, it sucks, but you have to keep pushing. You have to go forward. Just take all your chances and do what you have to do, and we'll see what happens."
And does the Bulgarian think this is a turning point? "After last year, I discovered you just have to live every moment. Now I won the title. I'm not going to take it for granted. I'm going to be happy for as much as I can. I'm going to enjoy this moment as much as I can and take everything from it that I can.
"It can only give me good things. Now I know that I'm capable of beating everyone.
"I'm just going to try to repeat it."
The last qualifier to win a Premier-level title was Ekaterina Makarova at Eastbourne back in 2010.
Kerber was playing the ninth WTA final of her career and now has a 3-6 record in those.