NEW YORK, NY, USA – Unranked Tsvetana Pironkova continued her startling return to professional tennis with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over No.10 seed Garbiñe Muguruza to progress into the third round of the US Open.
Playing in her first tournament since Wimbledon 2017, after which she temporarily left the Tour to start a family, the Bulgarian dispatched Liudmila Samsonova in straight sets in the opening round but claimed her first Top 20 scalp on a hard court since beating Flavia Pennetta in Sydney back in 2015.
The one-hour 25-minute success was the former WTA World No.31’s 22nd Top 20 win of her career and means that Muguruza has made the third round of the US Open only once in eight visits to Flushing Meadows.
“It was very difficult to get into the match. She was swinging pretty well. It took me time to adjust my game. I was just trying to be there and put the ball in the court. Little by little, I found my rhythm and I started swinging well. I’m very, very happy I won this match,” Pironkova, who won 93% of points when her first serve made its mark, explained.
“I’m not going to hide, I didn’t expect my first tournament to be so good and to play so well. It’s welcome! That’s why I came back, for these matches and these stages.”
And she will have another opportunity to savor this Grand Slam stage, despite making a slow start against the Spaniard, who was featuring in her first post-lockdown tournament.
By contrast, the WTA World No.16 was quickly into her stride, having admitted to being sluggish in her success over Nao Hibino in round one. The ball repeatedly fizzed off her racquet, rendering Pironkova, a noted fast court specialist, powerless to return it.
Indeed, she broke comfortably in the opening game before the 32-year-old’s serve began to heat up, put under pressure only when she successfully salvaged a game from 0-40 down.
The Australian Open runner-up, though, was the dominant player and until she was forced to serve out for the set, there was little hint that she might lose the opening set. Pironkova was gradually finding her eye on her opponent’s serve and, coupled with a couple of kind deflections off the net, successfully forced a rash dropshot from Muguruza on break point that found the net.
After sealing her service game, Pironkova was again on the offensive. Muguruza was forced to save set point with a brave forehand but her opponent continued to press and claimed the opening frame at the third attempt.
The second set followed a similar pattern, with few opportunities throughout.
Pironkova, was virtually flawless on serve, claiming 24 of the last 25 points played on her delivery, not giving Muguruza even the remotest sniff of a break.
Such consistency was exerting unrelenting pressure onto her opponent. The Spaniard fought off five break points in the fourth game, but serving at 3-4 buckled. Pironkova showed admirable defensive qualities to induce a long forehand from Muguruza to bring up a break point, and from there watched her rival double fault.
There were no signs of nerves from the 2010 Wimbledon semifinalist as she served out to seal the match, setting up a third-round meeting with No.18 seed Donna Vekic, who eased past another of the Tour's mothers, Patricia Maria Tig, 6-2, 6-1.