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Tsvetana Pironkova

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Country (sports)  Bulgaria
Career titles  1 WTA, 6 ITF
Weight  66 kg
Career record  341–251 (57.6%)
Height  1.8 m

Prize money  $ 3,579,196
Role  Tennis player
Residence  Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Name  Tsvetana Pironkova
Turned pro  2002
Tsvetana Pironkova Bulgaria39s Tsvetana Pironkova to Face Serena Williams in
Born  13 September 1987 (age 28) Plovdiv, Bulgaria (1987-09-13)
Plays  Right-handed (two-handed backhand)
Parents  Kiril Enchev Pironkov, Radosveta Chinkova Nikolova
Siblings  Elisaveta Pironkova, Encho Pironkov
Similar People  Elena Vesnina, Dominika Cibulkova, Alisa Kleybanova, Samantha Stosur, Angelique Kerber
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Tsvetana Kirilova Pironkova (Bulgarian: Цветана Кирилова Пиронкова [tsvɛˈtana pirɔnˈkɔva]) (born 13 September 1987) is a Bulgarian professional tennis player and the current no. 1 Bulgarian in the WTA rankings. She is right-handed and plays with a two-handed backhand. Born in Plovdiv, Pironkova started playing tennis at the age of four on being introduced to the sport by her father, who later coached her. After playing at a junior level and winning the Atlantic Cup, she made her senior international debut in 2002 at International Tennis Federation tournaments. Early in her career, Pironkova won six international singles titles at the ITF circuit.

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Pironkova made her WTA tour debut at the İstanbul Cup in 2005, and achieved moderate success earlier in her career. That changed in 2010, when she entered Wimbledon with a 1–4 career record at the event, and went on reach the semifinals of the tournament, becoming just the second Bulgarian tennis player in history to reach the semifinal stage of a Grand Slam in singles. She garnered wide recognition for her performance, and after her semifinal finish reached her highest WTA Singles ranking at no. 31 in September 2010. Pironkova followed it up with a quarterfinal run at the event the following year, earning her the nickname "The Wimbledon Darkhorse". Described as a dramatic ranking phenomenon, she is known for upstaging higher ranked opponents at Grand slam tournaments.

Tsvetana Pironkova Tsvetana Pironkova Flickr Photo Sharing

Pironkova won her first WTA title at the 2014 Apia International, defeating three top-10 ranked players in a row. She defeated the world no. 2 Radwańska in the fourth round of the 2016 French Open, reaching her first quarterfinal at a Grand Slam other than Wimbledon. In addition to this, Pironkova has a total of twelve wins over other top-10 ranked players to her name. She also holds the second longest active streak of the most consecutive Grand Slam appearances at 47, only behind Jelena Janković. Pironkova has been recognized by The New York Times for her "cerebral" grass-court abilities and has been named one of the most beautiful women in sports by MSN.

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Personal life

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Pironkova was born on September 13, 1987 in Plovdiv, Bulgaria to athlete parents; her father Kiril Enchev Pironkov is a former canoeing champion, and her mother Radosveta Chinkova Nikolova is a former swimmer. She started playing tennis at the age of 4, when her father introduced her to the game. When Pironkova decided to play professionally, he became her coach. She has one brother, Encho and one sister, Elisaveta.

Tsvetana Pironkova Tsvetana Pironkova Latest Photos CelebMafia

Pironkova won the 2001 Atlantic Cup International Junior Tournament held in Bulgaria, and her career-high in juniors was world no. 227 in March 2002. She has named German Steffi Graff and the Williams sisters as her inspiration during her formative years. Pironkova married her long-time boyfriend Mikhail Mirchev, a former Bulgarian Football player, in July 2016. She had earlier announced her engagement at the 2015 WTA Elite Trophy, but had said, "this is not a news".

Early career 2002–2006

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Pironkova played her first professional match at a 2002 International Tennis Federation tournament in Bucharest, Romania, at the age of 14. She won three matches in the qualifying draw, before reaching the final in the main draw, where she lost to Monica Niculescu of Romania. In September 2002, Pironkova played in the ITF event in Volos, Greece, where she lost only one set playing through the qualifying and main draw. She defeated Tina Schmassmann of Switzerland to win her first professional ITF event. In 2003, Pironkova won three ITF singles titles, one in Orestiada and two in Istanbul.

At the age of 17, Pironkova played in her first WTA tournament, the Tier III event in Istanbul, Turkey. After winning two qualifying matches, she won three matches in the main draw, before losing out in the semifinals to Venus Williams.

Pironkova garnered widespread media attention by defeating Venus again in the first round of the 2006 Australian Open. Pironkova was ranked 94th in the world. However, in the next round, she lost to Laura Granville. In the first round of 2006 Wimbledon Championships, Pironkova came from a set down to defeat then-top-20 player Anna-Lena Grönefeld. However, in the second round, she lost to Agnieszka Radwańska in straight sets. On 16 November 2006, Pironkova reached a career-high singles ranking of 62.

2007–2009: Top-50 debut

In 2007, Pironkova lost in the first rounds of the Australian Open, French Open, and Wimbledon. She played in qualifying rounds for the US Open and beat Zuzana Ondrášková, Marta Domachowska, and Stéphanie Dubois to reach the main draw, and drew Olga Puchkova from Russia in the first round, and won that match to set up a clash with world no. 1, Justine Henin in the second round. Pironkova lost to Henin in straight sets. After the US Open in September, Pironkova played in one of the biggest Challenger events of the year in Bordeaux, winning the tournament with straight-set victories over Mathilde Johansson, Tatjana Malek and Alizé Cornet.

Pironkova made a solid start to 2008, winning two qualifying matches at the Tier II event in Sydney before bowing out in three sets to Dominika Cibulková. She reached the second round of the Australian Open, losing to second-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets. Pironkova caused another upset at the 2008 Rome Masters, when as a qualifier, she beat top seed and world no. 3 Ana Ivanovic in the second round for the biggest victory of her career at that time. Pironkova advanced to the quarterfinals, her first ever at a Tier I event, when Victoria Azarenka retired during their third round match with Pironkova leading, but, was defeated in three sets by Anna Chakvetadze. In September, Pironkova reached the final in an ITF event in Sofia, where she lost to Nuria Llagostera Vives. Pironkova ended the year ranked no. 46 in the world, marking her first ever Top-50 season.

Pironkova kicked off her 2009 season playing at Brisbane where she lost in second round to Italy's Sara Errani, she made the quarterfinals at the 2009 Moorilla Hobart International before she lost to Virginie Razzano. En route, she defeated then world no. 15 Patty Schnyder. It was her fifth top 20 win in her career.

At the Australian Open Pironkova defeated Karolina Šprem in the first round before losing to 16th seeded Marion Bartoli. Playing at the Dubai Open Pironkova reached the second round of the tournament losing out to 12th seed Dominika Cibulková. Seeded No. 8 at the first Andalucia Tennis Experience, Pironkova lost in the first round to Roberta Vinci.

Pironkova won 4 matches at Stuttgart (3 in qualifying) but lost to Agnieszka Radwańska in the Round of 16. She also lost in the first rounds of the French Open and Wimbledon, both times to Jill Craybas in straight sets. Pironkova played her last tournament of the season Kremlin Cup, Moscow where she came up with better performance reaching the Quarter-Finals defeating top seeded Vera Zvonareva in Round of 16 before losing out to Alona Bondarenko. She also reached two ITF quarter-finals at Sofia and Athens.

2010: First Grand Slam semifinal

Pironkova bowed out of the 2010 Australian Open with a straight sets second-round loss to the world no. 28 Shahar Pe'er of Israel, after having beaten Kazakhstan's Galina Voskoboeva in the opening match.

She made her first ITF Tour appearance of the year in the Fort Walton Beach tournament, where she reached the semifinals. In Warsaw she reached her first quarterfinal of the year after defeating Elena Dementieva. She then lost to the defending and eventual champion Alexandra Dulgheru. At the French Open, Pironkova lost to four-time tournament champion Justine Henin in the first round.

Entering Wimbledon with a 1–4 career record at the event, Pironkova went beyond the second round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time and become the first Bulgarian to reach a semifinal of a Grand Slam tournament since Manuela Maleeva at the US Open in 1992 and 1993. Pironkova beat five-time champion Venus Williams in the quarterfinals. She then lost her first Grand Slam semifinal to Vera Zvonareva in three sets.

En route to her maiden semifinal appearance Pironkova beat three Russian players Anna Lapushchenkova, Vera Dushevina, and Regina Kulikova all in straight sets in the first three rounds and then upstaged Frenchwoman and 11th seed Marion Bartoli in the fourth round before taking out Williams.

Pironkova reached the second round in Palermo, beating Italian Anna Floris, before losing to Jill Craybas. In July, she scored a straight-set victory over Tatjana Malek in Istanbul. However, she then recorded three consecutive losses, two of which were to Anastasia Rodionova and one to Anna Lapushchenkova.

At the US Open, Pironkova lost in the second round to qualifier Mandy Minella. At the 2011 Toray Pan Pacific Open, she beat Japanese qualifier Ayumi Morita, before losing to qualifier Roberta Vinci in the second round. In her last tournament of the year, the 2010 Kremlin Cup, Pironkova lost in the second round to Dominika Cibulková, and ended the year ranked no. 35 in the world.

2011: Wimbledon quarterfinal

In the Australian Open, Pironkova fell in the second round to Monica Niculescu, having beaten Pauline Parmentier in the first round.

Pironkova fell in the second round at the 2011 BNP Paribas Open to 16th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in a tight three setter. She was seeded 32nd at the French Open and beat Casey Dellacqua in the first round, but yet again failed to cross the second-round hurdle as she lost to Gisela Dulko in straight sets.

Pironkova entered Wimbledon as the 32nd seed. In the third round, she defeated world no. 3 and second seed Vera Zvonareva in straight sets, thus avenging her loss in the semifinals the previous year. In the fourth round, she went on to defeat former champion Venus Williams for the second year straight at The Championships, then lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Petra Kvitová.

In July, Pironkova competed in the Internazionali Femminili Di Palermo tournament, where she defeated Anna Tatishvili in the first round and Sorana Cîrstea in the second, before losing to Flavia Pennetta in the quarterfinals.

At the 2011 US Open, Pironkova defeated Virginie Razzano in the first round, but lost to world no. 13 Peng Shuai in the second. She teamed with Chanelle Scheepers in the doubles tournament, but they were defeated by Arantxa Parra Santonja and Nuria Llagostera Vives.

At the 2011 Toray Pan Pacific Open, Pironkova beat Gisela Dulko in the first round, but then lost to Vera Zvonareva in the second. At the 2011 Kremlin Cup, Pironkova beat Petra Martić, after Martić retired due to injury. She then lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second round and ended the year at no. 46 in the world.

2012: US Open fourth round

Pironkova began 2012 representing Bulgaria at the 2012 Hopman Cup losing to Petra Kvitová. Pironkova and her partner Grigor Dimitrov defeated Tomáš Berdych and Kvitová in doubles. Despite their win, the team of Bulgaria lost to the Czech Republic (1–2), after Pironkova and Dimitrov lost their singles matches. Afterward, their team was victorious against Denmark 2–1. They scored a victory over the United States, but finished second in Group A and didn't qualify for the final.

At the Australian Open, Pironkova defeated Sania Mirza in the first round, before losing to Galina Voskoboeva in the second. She again represented Bulgaria in the Fed Cup, alongside Elitsa Kostova, Dia Evtimova, and Isabella Shinikova. They scored their first victory, beating Estonia (3–0). Later, the team lost to Austria, then lost again to Portugal and finished in seventh place in the group.

Pironkova competed in the 2012 Qatar Total Open, recording a victory over Angelique Kerber in the second round, but losing to Marion Bartoli in the third. She reached the second round of the 2012 Sony Ericsson Open, losing to Roberta Vinci. At the Brussels Open, Pironkova reached the quarterfinals, falling to Kaia Kanepi. She then reached the second round of the French Open, losing to former champion Francesca Schiavone.

At the 2012 Aegon International, Pironkova reached her second quarterfinal of the season after defeating no. 1 seeded Agnieszka Radwańska and qualifier Stéphanie Dubois, losing to eventual champion Tamira Paszek. At the 2012 Wimbledon Championships, Pironkova lost a second-round match to Maria Sharapova in three sets. She reached the quarterfinals of the 2012 Swedish Open, losing to Polona Hercog.

At the 2012 US Open, Pironkova reached the third round of a Grand Slam besides Wimbledon for the first time. She defeated Camila Giorgi in the first round, Ayumi Morita in the second, and Silvia Soler Espinosa in the third. In the fourth round, with a first US Open quarterfinal in sight, she was upset by former world no. 1 Ana Ivanovic. Her last tournament of the year was the 2012 Qatar Airways Tournament of Champions, where she entered with a wild card. She lost to Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinals.

2013: Wimbledon fourth round

Pironkova reached the quarterfinals of the 2013 Moorilla Hobart International in Australia, where she lost to the defending champion Mona Barthel. She had beaten Irina-Camelia Begu and third seed Klára Koukalová in the round of 16. She was eliminated in the first round of the Australian Open by Romina Oprandi.

In February, Pironkova took part in the Fed Cup tie Bulgaria vs. Netherlands, defeating Arantxa Rus in straight sets, helping Bulgaria win the tie. She later helped Bulgaria win the tie against Luxembourg with a victory over veteran Anne Kremer. On 9 February, she played in the tie against Slovenia, and beat Tjasa Srimpf after Srimpf retired after losing the first game of the match, which advanced Bulgaria to the promotion playoffs. In the playoff tie against Great Britain on 10 February, Pironkova lost against Heather Watson in three sets, meaning that Bulgaria lost the tie and remained in the Fed Cup Europe/Africa Group I.

Following a string of first-round losses, Pironkova beat Karolína Plíšková in Marrakesh, but then lost in three sets to Lourdes Domínguez Lino, who went on to reach the final. She then lost a series of first-round matches throughout the remainder of the clay-court season, culminating with an early exit at the French Open.

On her preferred surface of grass, Pironkova snapped her losing streak at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham, defeating Lauren Davis in the opening round. She dropped her second-round match to Sorana Cîrstea. She went on to play in 's-Hertogenbosch, where she beat Kristina Mladenovic and Irina-Camelia Begu, marking the first time since January that she reached the quarterfinals of a WTA event. She then lost to Carla Suárez Navarro in three sets.

At the 2013 Wimbledon Championships, she won against 21st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the opening match and then went on to beat Barbora Strýcová and Petra Martić in the next two rounds. She came close to causing another huge upset at the tournament when she was up a set against fourth seed Agnieszka Radwańska, but eventually lost in three sets to the former finalist.

2014: First WTA title

Pironkova started the 2014 season ranked outside the top 100, at No. 107. She made it through the qualifying draw at the 2014 Apia International Sydney tournament. In the main draw, she defeated world no. 7 Sara Errani in the quarterfinals and world no. 6 Petra Kvitová in the semifinals, both in straight sets. She then defeated 9th ranked Angelique Kerber to win her first WTA Tour title. Pironkova was the first qualifier to win a WTA Premier event in three and a half years, moved up 50 places in the world rankings, and was the first Bulgarian to win a WTA event in over 10 years (after Magdalena Maleeva at the 2003 DFS Classic). Pironkova's run in Australia ended at the Australian Open with a second-round straight-set loss to Samantha Stosur, managing to win just two games. After the Australian Open, she reached a ranking of No. 52.

Next, in February, Pironkova played in Qatar, where she made it through the qualifying rounds. She beat veteran 11th seed and world No. 14 Roberta Vinci in the first round, losing just six games. However, Pironkova's good run ended in the second round, where she lost to youngster No. 55 Annika Beck, after winning the first set on a tie-break. After Qatar, she played in Dubai. In the first round of qualifying, she beat world No. 487 Vitalia Diatchenko in a long and hard match (over 2 and a half hours), losing the first set on a tiebreak, saving a match point in the 10th game of the second set, then winning the second set again on a tiebreak, and was leading in the third set when her opponent retired. However, in what was her second loss against the Canadian out of two matches, she lost in the second qualifying round to youngster No. 19 Eugenie Bouchard.

Next, in March, Pironkova played at the Indian Wells hard-court event, where she started in the main draw. She lost in straight sets to No. 38 Madison Keys in the first round. She then played in Miami, where she beat Galina Voskoboeva and 25th seed Sorana Cîrstea without losing a set, but then lost in the third round to 5th seed Angelique Kerber, who went on to reach the quarterfinals. Pironkova moved five places up the rankings after Miami, to No. 42.

In April, she played at the indoor hard-court event in Katowice, where she was seeded eighth. In the first round, Pironkova beat Andrea Hlaváčková, after losing the first set. In round two, in what was her fifthloss against the Israeli out of eight matches, she lost to world No. 90 Shahar Pe'er, whom she also lost to in this same event in 2013. Pironkova then played in the qualifying for the indoor clay court event in Stuttgart, where she was the top seed and the top-ranked player at No. 40. In the first round of qualifying, she beat local teenager Tayisiya Morderger, but then lost to No. 221 Gioia Barbieri in the second qualifying round.

Next, in May, she played in Madrid, where she started in the main draw and lost to wildcard No. 145 Lara Arruabarrena in round one. Pironkova then played in Rome, where she lost to qualifier No. 69 Petra Cetkovská in round one, despite easily winning the first set.

She then played at Roland Garros. In round one, she beat No. 49 Annika Beck (after losing the first on a tie-break), whom she had never beaten before. Pironkova then faced a major test in round two, in what was her fifth loss out of five matches, despite being a break up in the first set, to seventh seed No. 8 Maria Sharapova, who went on to win the tournament.

Pironkova's first tournament for the grass court season was the 2014 Aegon International, where in round one she lost to local wildcard No. 70 Heather Watson, who went on to reach the semifinals.

Pironkova then played Wimbledon, where she faced no. 57 Varvara Lepchenko in the first round and lost in a match that was played over two days.

Next, in July, she playеd at the Istanbul hard-court event, where she was unseeded. In what was the second match between the two and second loss for Pironkova, she lost to no. 72 Stefanie Vögele in the first round. Pironkova played in Cincinnati, where she lost in the first round to Carla Suárez Navarro. Then she fell in New Haven in the qualifying draw.

In August, at the US Open, she reached the second round, where in what was her sixth loss to the Serb out of six matches, she lost to ninth seed Jelena Janković.

In September, Pironkova played in Wuhan, where she lost in the qualifying draw. Her second tournament in September was the China Open, where she lost in the second round to world No. 1 Serena Williams. Next, she reached the quarterfinals in Linz, before losing to Karin Knapp. The next week. she reached her second quarterfinal of the month in Moscow, where she fell to eventual finalist Irina-Camelia Begu. Pironkova was awarded a wild card for the final tournament of the year, the Tournament of Champions. She lost all her matches in the round-robin stage and finished fourth in her group.

2015

Pironkova started the year ranked no. 50. She began the season at the 2015 Brisbane International and lost her first-round match to seventh seed Carla Suárez Navarro. Then she returned to Sydney to play the 2015 Aipa International as the defending champion and once again had to go through qualifying, as she was not given a wildcard entry. At the time, Pironkova was ranked no. 67 and lost the points from her title. She beat eighth seed Flavia Pennetta in the first round in straight sets, then overcoming unseeded Madison Keys and Barbora Záhlavová-Strýcová both in straight sets, but then lost in the semifinals to second seed and eventual champion Petra Kvitová in a repeat of the 2014 semifinals. With this defeat, she ended her 14-match winning streak at the tournament.

Pironkova then played at the Australian Open, where she beat unseeded Heather Watson in the first round, but then in what was her eighth loss against the Slovak out of nine matches, lost to 11th seed Dominika Cibulková in the second round, again in straight sets. Pironkova reached the third round of the 2015 Dubai Tennis Championships, where she beat Klára Koukalová and Peng Shuai, before losing to top seed world no. 2 Simona Halep in straight sets. At Indian Wells, she lost in the first round, reached the second round in Miami, losing to 15th seed Flavia Pennetta in three tight sets. She reached second rounds in both Prague and Madrid, losing to top seeds Karolína Plíšková and Lucie Šafářová, respectively. She suffered a first-round defeat in Rome.

At the 2015 French Open, Pironkova reached the third round, where she upset 25th seed Barbora Strýcová and then took out another Czech player Denisa Allertová, both in straight sets, before losing to American Sloane Stephens. The third-round appearance at the Roland Garros was her best to date.

Pironkova started her grass season at the 2015 Aegon Classic Birmingham, where in the first round she beat Brit Katie Stan, but came short against German fourth seed Angelique Kerber, losing in three sets. She then reached her second premier-level event quarterfinal in 2015 in Eastbourne at the 2015 Aegon International, where she beat Marina Erakovic in the first round, 16th seed Samantha Stosur, and former Grand Slam finalist Dominika Cibulková, before being beaten by eventual finalist Agnieszka Radwańska. At the 2015 Wimbledon Championships, she lost to 30th seed and Aegon International winner Belinda Bencic in three sets.

She then entered the 2015 İstanbul Cup as the eighth seed and reached her third quarterfinal of the year. She beat Margarita Gasparyan and Kurumi Nara, both in three sets, but lost to Urszula Radwańska in three sets in a tie-break in the final set.

2016: Roland Garros quarterfinal

Pironkova started her 2016 season with a loss to Samantha Crawford in 2016 Brisbane qualifying. Pironkova played the 2016 Apia International Sydney, where she received a wild card to the main draw and reached the second round, beating Lesia Tsurenko before losing to No.8 seed Belinda Bencic. Her next tournament was the Australian Open where she lost in the first round to Yaroslava Shvedova. After the Australian swing, her next tournament was the Dubai Tennis Championships, where she entered the main draw after beating Kristyna Pliskova, Kateryna Bondarenko and Anna-Lena Friedsam in the qualifying. She lost to eventual finalist Barbora Strycova in the first round.

At Roland Garros, the 102nd ranked Pironkova upset 16th seed Sara Errani in the first round and 19th seed Sloane Stephens in the third round, both in straight sets. In the fourth round against World No.2 Agnieszka Radwańska, after Pironkova was a set and 3 games down, the match was cancelled due to rain and resumed after 2 days. The Bulgarian took advantage of the situation, dominating the rest of the match after the pause by winning 12 out of 15 games, thus eventually reaching the quarterfinals and becoming the first Bulgarian since Sesil Karatantcheva in 2005 to reach this stage of the tournament. Pironkova's run at Roland Garros ended with a loss to Samantha Stosur.

In June, Pironkova's good performance continued on grass court. She passed through the qualification rounds of the Birmingham event, and then in the second round the Bulgarian beat No.26 Irina-Camelia Begu to reach the quarterfinals, where she was eliminated by Barbora Strýcová. Pironkova then exited the 2016 Wimbledon in the first round after losing to 7th seed Belinda Bencic in two tight sets.

In August Pironkova participated in the 2016 Summer Olympics, She lost in the opening round to German Laura Siegemund. She next played the Cincinnati Masters making her way to the second qualifying round by beating Kateryna Kozlova, she then lost to Annika Beck of Germany, but was allowed into the main draw as a lucky loser. In the first round she faced Daria Kasatkina overcoming her in straight sets. In the next round she lost to World Number 8 Roberta Vinci. Towards the end of the month she lost in the first round of qualifying in New Haven in straight sets.

Pironkova reached the second round of the US Open but was beaten by Johanna Konta in three sets. She then lost in the first round of both tournaments that she played in after the US Open. She finished the year ranked 64th.

2017

Pironkova began her 2017 campaign with a second round appearance at the Shenzhen Open, where lost to the eight seed and eventual finalist Alison Riske, having beaten Galina Voskoboeva in her opening match. She next played in the qualifying rounds at the 2017 Apia International Sydney. She defeated Patricia Maria Tig in the first round, only to retire in her next match against Maria Sakkari. Pironkova entered the 2017 Australian Open as the 64th ranked player in the world. She drew the third seeded Agnieszka Radwańska as her first round opponent, she lost in 3 sets after her superior opponent raised her level. The tournament marked Pironkova's 45th consecutive Grand Slam apppeance, the second longest active streak on the WTA tour only behind Jelena Janković's 51. Pironkova's first tournament after the Australian Open was the Qatar Open. She competed in the qualifying competition. She breezed through the first two rounds with straight set wins over Vania King and Evgeniya Rodina. However, in the final round of qualifying, she lost to former world number one Jelena Janković in three hard fought sets.

After having lost six consecutive first round matches, which included defeats in round of 128 at the 2017 BNP Paribas Open and 2017 Miami Open and two losses in the qualifying rounds at the 2017 Italian Open and 2017 Mutua Madrid Open, Pironkova broke her losing streak with a straight-set victory over Mona Barthel in the first round of 2017 French Open. She was en-route for another big upset having led with one set in the second round encounter against one the tournament favourites Elina Svitolina, who was the no. 1 ranked player in the WTA Race to Singapore Standings, but eventually lost in three sets.

Pironkova began her grass court season with a straight-set victory over tournament qualifier, Tereza Martincov in the first round of the 2017 Aegon Open Nottingham. She next beat Kurumi Nara, also in straight sets, to reach the quarterfinals, where she lost to the fifth seed Lucie Šafářová, after having won the second set 6-0. She entered the qualifying round of the 2017 Aegon International Eastbourne, where she comfortably got better of the 10th seed Markéta Vondroušová in the opening round. Pironkova failed to reach the main draw of the tournament as she suffered a tough three-set defeat in the final qualifying round, losing out to the 3rd seed Lara Arruabarrena. However, she was awarded entry into the main draw as a lucky loser. Pironkova defeated Monica Niculescu in straight sets in her first match in the main draw, and then faced 2nd seed Simona Halep in the next round. Pironkova won the first set in a tie-break and was leading 2-1 (40-30), when the match was suspended due to rain. When play resumed the next day, she went on lose the match in three tight sets in over two hours and forty minutes.

Pironkova entered the 2017 Wimbledon Championships next, drawing the former world no. 5 Sara Errani in the first round, a match that she eventually won comfortably in just over an hour, with the loss of just five games. Pironkova was dubbed as the darkhorse and one of most dangerous unseeded player in draw by WTA insider David Kane prior to the tournament, and her potential second round encounter with former world no. 1 Caroline Wozniacki was variously dubbed one of most anticipated matches in the early rounds. With heavy strapping on her left thigh, Pironkova lost a closely contested two set match against Wozniacki. The former played erratically, with both winners and unforced errors flowing from her racket incongruously.

Pironkova was sidelined from the US Open Series with a persistent shoulder injury. She was unable to participate at the 2017 US Open, and it marked the end of her run of 49 Grand Slam appearances in a row.

Playing style

Pironkova plays right-handed, and uses a double-handed backhand. She prefers fast surfaces, with grass being her favourite. She has had some of her best results on grass, a Wimbledon semi-final and quarter-final, which earned her the nickname "The Wimbledon Darkhorse". Although she has a powerful first serve that consistently measures up to 180kmph or 110 mph, she has a relatively weaker second serve. Pironkova is noted for her powerful backhand, with the down-the-line backhand being one of her best shots. However, her forehand–albeit reliable, has been variously described as "bizarre" and "clever", owing to the unusual amount of spin and/or slice on the shot. The Daily Telegraph commentator Emily Benammar noted in 2010 that if Pironkova's, "forehand comes up to scratch, she's in with a chance of beating the best".

Overall Pironkova does not rely heavily upon her groundstrokes, but is instead noted for her stroke-play, variety of shots and intelligent use of the court and its geometry. She is also known for her squash-shot forehand and for incorporating flat and slice shots into rallies from her forehand and backhand sides. Pironkova varies the length of her shots and often draws her opponent forward with short balls to set up passing shots. She also makes her opponents more around the court by making use of deep cross-court groundstrokes to keep them off balance. Pironkova admittedly prefers shorter rallies, and looks for winners early in the point which at times leads to unforced errors. She told the freelance tennis writer Matt Trollope that she played mostly on clay courts early in her career and that the aggressive style developed "pretty naturally" during her formative years.

Pironkova's style of play has drawn comparisons with such players as Belgian Justine Henin. Sports columnist Simon Briggs elaborated on the similarity in the styles noting that Pironkova's court craft and tactical nous made her capable of "reflecting the Williams sisters' own power back against them". Pironkova is also credited for her great movement on the tennis court by such commentators as Briggs, who was appreciative of her "nimble" footwork at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships. Pironkova thought of her movement on the grass courts as her among all the surfaces. She also ascribed the optimum ball bounce on the grass as it is, "probably just perfect for [her] timing". Having been praised for her range of shots and strokeplay, Pironkova said that she developed a spontaneous approach towards her shot selection and overall game as she matured.

Honors

Best progressing player of the year in Bulgaria – 2005.

Singles performance timeline

Current through the 2017 Wimbledon Championships.

Doubles performance timeline

Current through the 2014 US Open.

References

Tsvetana Pironkova Wikipedia


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