Tsvetana Pironkova: Fairytale US Open Run Is ‘Very Special’ - UBITENNIS
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Tsvetana Pironkova: Fairytale US Open Run Is ‘Very Special’

After 38 months away, Tsvetana Pironkova has earned a quarter-final meeting with Serena Williams at the 2020 US Open.

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When Tsvetana Pironkova left the WTA tour in July 2017 to give birth to her son Alexander, she did not expect to return to tennis. Now, 38 months later, she is preparing to take on Serena Williams in a Grand Slam quarter-final.

 

“It means a lot to be here after three years of absence,” The Bulgarian said after her fourth-round win. “And this being my first tournament, having this great result, is something very special.”

She continued, “It’s really unbelievable that I took it this far, that I actually managed to win four matches, and especially the last one which lasted I think about three hours.”

It is an amazing story and Pironkova deserves all the praise she receives. It is difficult to perform well at the highest level of any sport under normal circumstances, so to do it after such a long time away is truly remarkable.

The WTA should also be given credit. Their December 2018 rule change that enables mothers to use their previous ranking to enter 12 tournaments over a three-year period has been a huge help to numerous players already. Three of them – Pironkova, Williams and Victoria Azarenka – are in the quarter-finals of the 2020 US Open.

Motherhood changes Pironkova perspective

One of the key reasons for the Bulgarian’s success at Flushing Meadows is her calm demeanour on court. She has been in pressure situations during her matches, particularly during her intense win over Alize Cornet in the last 16, and she has handled all of them with admirable composure.

Pironkova attributes her change in attitude to a new perspective on life provided by motherhood. “Everything changes (when you become a mother),” She said after her second-round win. “Your priorities have nothing to do with what they did before. Nothing is the same really.”

She continued, “I don’t know how to really explain it. It’s just great to be playing without that extra pressure that I had on my myself before. Before it was like almost life-and-death situation for me to win a match. Right now it’s not really like that. It’s before all just enjoyment to be on the court.”

Tsvetana Pironkova (@usopen on Twitter)

While the mental side is obviously vital, it is impossible to win tennis matches if your shots are not at the standard they need to be. Happily for Pironkova, she had extra time to work on her game after the coronavirus pandemic prevented her from returning when she intended to in March.

“When I started playing again, obviously I had like eight months until now,” the Bulgarian said. “I worked on a lot of things. I really worked a lot on my serve. Obviously on my groundstrokes.

She continued, “I think all that work really paid off. I also have a conditioning coach, fitness coach, that I worked a lot with. So I guess that brings results.”

Serena Williams awaits

In the first round, Pironkova beat Liudmila Samsonova 6-2 6-3. Then she stunned World No.16 Garbine Muguruza 7-5 6-3. In the third round, she overcame Donna Vekic 6-4 6-1. And in the fourth round, the Bulgarian battled to a 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 victory over Cornet. These triumphs have brought an intriguing reward: a meeting with the 23-time Grand Slam champion.

“It’s definitely a tough one,” Pironkova said. “I played against Serena a few times. I haven’t won to today. Playing such a champion, such a legend of the game, it’s a tremendous honour, obviously. I’m really looking forward to that match, because I know the feeling is going to be very special. I will try to do my best, and I can’t wait.”

If the Bulgarian manages to beat Williams, the status of her US Open run will be elevated to new heights. But with her new perspective on life and tennis, she will not be too upset if she loses the match. After all, she has already achieved so much.

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Billie Jean King Praises Grand Slam Semi-Finalist Nadia Podoroska For Coming Out

The Argentine recently marked her girlfriend’s birthday with an Instagram post which was also the first time she went public about her personal life.

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Tennis legend Billie Jean King has congratulated Nadia Podoroska on being her authentic self after the tennis star recently confirmed she is in a same-sex relationship with another player. 

 

Podoroska, who shot to the limelight at the 2021 French Open by reaching the semi-finals before being hampered by injury, made a low key coming out on social media. In an Instagram post, the tennis star uploaded a series of photos of her with her girlfriend along with the caption “Today I celebrate you from afar, but I feel you by my side every day of my life.’ The post was done to mark her birthday. 

Fellow player Guillermina Naya is Podoroska’s partner and the two have been in a relationship for some time, according to Women’s Tennis Blog. Naya, who is also from Argentina, is currently ranked 814th in the world but has been as high as 533rd. Although she has not played on the Tour this year. 

Due to injury problems, Podoroska was unable to start her 2022 season until July on the lower-level ITF Tour. Since then she has made steady progress by reaching the final of an ITF W60 event in Gran Canaria and more recently reaching the semi-finals of the Chennai Open in India. 

“I had been suffering from physical discomfort in one leg. I decided to stop in order to recover. Then I had a bone oedema, I couldn’t walk, and I had to wear a boot. Then I got a knee injury in the other leg,” she said of her injury woes during an interview with Clay Tennis.

The 25-year-old credits her girlfriend Naya for the support she received during her 10-month absence from the sport. She is the latest player on the WTA Tour to open up about their sexuality, joining the likes of Daria Kasatkina, Alison Van Uytvanck and Greet Minnen.

“Congratulations to WTA player ⁦⁦Nadia Podoroska ⁩ on her announcement. Living authentically takes such courage, but it is always worth it,” multiple Grand Slam champion King wrote on Twitter. 

In response to the post, the tennis star also paid tribute to King for the impact she has had on the sport. King helped form the WTA Tour and was a key figure in the fight to equal prize money during the early part of the Open Era. She was also one of the first world-class athletes to publicly come out as gay back in 1981. 

Whilst there are various female LGBT players in tennis, there are still no openly gay players on the men’s Tour. 

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ITF Chief Addresses Iga Swiatek’s Concerns Over Unsafe Scheduling

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The head of the International Tennis Federation is ‘sorry’ that Iga Swiatek will not be participating in the Billie Jean Cup and has vowed to work on making improvements to the 2023 schedule. 

 

The women’s world No.1 issued a statement on Monday confirming her withdrawal from the team event after taking a swipe at both the ITF and WTA over their scheduling. Swiatek said she had hoped to represent Poland in the Billie Jean Cup but its proximity to the WTA Tour Finals is problematic. The end-of-season WTA event takes place in Texas and ends a day before the start of the Billie Jean King Cup in Glasgow. 

“I’m disappointed that tennis governing bodies didn’t come to an agreement on something as basic as the calendar of tournaments, giving us only one day to travel through the globe and changing the time zone,” Swiatek said in a statement published on her Instagram account.
“The situation is not safe for our health and could cause injury.
“I’m going to talk to the WTA and ITF in order to change something. This situation is difficult not only for the players like me, but mainly for the tennis fans that support our sport.”

ITF chief executive David Haggerty has insisted that his organization has been working with the WTA but they were unable to find a more suitable date as the venue for the Tour Finals wasn’t confirmed until late in the season. The event is likely to return to China next year. The women’s tennis body has suspended its events in the country amid concerns over the safety of player Peng Shuai who previously accused a senior government official of sexual assault.

“The ITF is sorry that Iga Swiatek is unable to take part… and recognises that the schedule for the two major year-end events presents a challenge for players competing in both events,” Haggerty told the Reuters news agency.
“We have been working with the WTA to try to coordinate suitable dates.
“While we were able to confirm the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Glasgow back in June, the WTA Finals venue in Fort Worth, Texas was confirmed during the U.S. Open and restricted in terms of available dates.”

The tennis official adds that negotiations are ongoing to find a more suitable schedule for 2023 for players to play both events if they wish to do so. 

We are committed to working with the WTA on the 2023 schedule so that we have a better transition between the two competitions,” he said. 

Haggerty states that provisions would have been made for Poland to play their opening match in the 12-team competition as late as possible to accommodate Swiatek’s travel from America if she had wished to play this year. 

The WTA Finals will be held between 31 October – 7 November and the Billie Jean King Cup will take place from 8 November – 13 November. 

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In-Form Liudmila Samsonova Storms To Tokyo Title

Tokyo is the second tournament this year the Russian has won without dropping a set.

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Image via https://twitter.com/WTA_insider

Liudmila Samsonova has continued her rapid surge on the Tour by defeating China’s Qinwen Zheng 7-5, 7-5, to win the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. 

 

The world No.30 dropped serve only once and hit four aces as she edged her way past rising star Zheng who is the first Chinese teenager to reach the final of a Tour-level singles event. Overall, Samsonova won 68% of her service points en route to becoming the first Russian player to win the tournament since Nadia Petrova in 2012. 

“It’s amazing, I don’t have too many words right now. I need a little bit of time,” said Samsonova, who beat Grand Slam champions Elena Rybakina and Garbine Muguruza earlier in the draw. 
“It was a really tough match. She is playing amazing. It was a nervous match, we were fighting every point. It was tough.”

Samsonova is becoming a formidable force in the women’s game and has now won 18 out of her past 19 matches. Last month she also won titles in Washington and Cleveland before reaching the last 16 of the US Open for the first time in her career at the age of 23. She is now 4-0 in tournament finals and didn’t drop a set in Tokyo this week. 

“I played a high level in all my five matches. I am incredibly happy about how I managed it,” she said.

There is also a reason for Zheng to celebrate with her run in Tokyo securing her place in the world’s top 30 for the first time on Monday when the rankings are updated. Making her the first Chinese player to do so as a teenager. She is also only the second teenager to reach the final of a WTA 500 event or higher this season after Coco Gauff at the French Open. 

Samsonova will also rise to a ranking high on Monday to just outside the world’s top 20. 

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