Prior to this week Tsvetana Pironkova had never won a WTA semifinal in seven tries, but at the Apia International Sydney the Bulgarian went through qualifying, then defeated Sorana Cirstea, Varvara Lepchenko and then astonishingly three Top 10 players in a row – world No.7 Sara Errani, No.6 Petra Kvitova and No.9 Angelique Kerber – to clinch nothing less than the Premier-level title which brings 470 ranking points and $120,000. The last qualifier who won a Premier tournament was Ekaterina Makarova in Eastbourne three and a half years ago.
In the title match, Pironkova won just three of 22 points on her second serve, but her winning percentage on first serve was 72 and the six breaks she made (albeit from 21 break points) were enough for her to eliminate Kerber 6-4 6-4 and add this accomplishment to her famous two deep runs at Wimbledon (semifinals in 2010 and quarterfinals in 2011).
Elsewhere, top seed Samantha Stosur lost to seventh seed Klara Zakopalova 6-3 6-2 in the semifinals of the Hobart International (they will meet again in the first round of the Australian Open!). Zakopalova’s opponent in the singles final will be Garbine Muguruza, who took out Estrella Cabeza Candela 6-0 6-1, while she also reached the doubles final with Monica Niculescu and they will play Lisa Raymond and Zhang Shuai. (photo: Jimmie48)