US Open: Bulgarian Tsveti Pironkova Outplays Muguruza, Grigor Dimitrov Loses in a 5-Hour Match
WHAT HAPPENED: Tsvetana Pironkova, who used a protected ranking to enter the 2020 US Open and hasn’t played on tour since 2017, came back from a break down in the first set to defeat 2020 Australian Open finalist and No. 10 seed Garbiñe Muguruza, 7-5, 6-3.
At first, the Spaniard appeared to be in complete control of the match, breaking in the first game with a flurry of winners and dominating on her serve, dropping just two points in her first three service games.
But Pironkova, who gave birth to a son in her time away from the sport, was never going to be an easy out. The Bulgarian owns 21 Top 20 wins in her career—including defeating Venus Williams (twice) on the grass at Wimbledon—and she has reached the quarterfinals or better at a Grand Slam three times. Today, she finally broke back while the two-time Grand Slam champion was serving for the set, thanks to some nervy errors from her opponent. Pironkova then held her own serve and earned three set point opportunities in the game. Muguruza was able to save two, the second by winning a long 19-shot rally and picking on Pironkova’s forehand. But Pironkova sealed the third with a backhand winner, and Muguruza hurled her racquet across the court in frustration.
In the second set, Pironkova clearly seemed more comfortable with Muguruza’s shots and began to dominate on her own service games. Muguruza, by contrast, began to miss more as Pironkova found ways to extend rallies. Pironkova earned five break points early in the set, though Muguruza was able to save all five. But Muguruza double-faulted away a service game, serving at 3-4. Pironkova, who has plenty of Grand Slam experience, capably served out the match to love.
WHAT IT MEANS: Playing in just her first tournament in over three years, and her first as a mother, Pironkova is having what can only be described as a dream run. She’s now won both of her 2020 US Open matches in straight sets, one against a multiple Grand Slam winner.
“Coming here [to make the US Open] my first tournament was a bit risky,” she said after the match. “But at the same time, I was really excited and very motivated to play well on this big stage. And I think that motivation kept me pushing…I’m not gonna hide, I didn’t expect in my first tournament to play so well. But it’s welcome! That is what I came back for—for these matches.”
Pironkova next plays 2019 US Open quarterfinalist and No. 18 seed Donna Vekic. The Bulgarian has won all three matches they’ve contested, but the pair has not played since 2016.
MATCH POINT: Pironkova—whose average serve speed was five mph faster than Muguruza’s—won 27 for 29 of her first serve points, a remarkable feat considering the powerful return of her opponent./US Open
After a nearly five-hour battle against No. 14 seed Grigor Dimitrov, Marton Fucsovics of Hungary is moving on to Round 3 at the 2020 US Open. The final score: 6-7, 7-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.
For the first two sets, the players seemed evenly matched, trading sets won in tiebreaks and racking up similar statistics in terms of winners and errors. Indeed, the only obvious difference between the two men was their world rankings: the Hungarian, ranked No. 66 in the world, trails the Bulgarian by more than 30 spots.
Tied at one set apiece, Dimitrov finally started to display the kind of shot-making that has brought him his biggest wins—and by that we mean his upset of Roger Federer in the quarterfinals of the 2019 US Open. The Bulgarian’s return of serve improved, he hit eight winners (to his opponent’s three) and finally made quick work of the third set, 6-3.
The fourth set saw Dimitrov continue to apply pressure to the increasingly error-prone Fucsovics. But then it was Fucsovics’ turn to come from behind, and the lower-ranked player reeled off three fast games to take the set, 6-4.
And so, a fifth set would decide the match between two players who looked remarkably chill—both in temperament and in reaction to the day’s heat and humidity. While Dimitrov played spirited points, he struggled to hold serve and found himself down 1-4. Meanwhile, at the net, his opponent pulled off some highlight-reel-worthy volleys. The match was nearly five hours old when the Hungarian closed out the fifth set, 6-1.
WHAT IT MEANS: There were two notable Bulgarians in Round 2 matches today (03.09.2020). On the women’s side, Tsvetana Pironkova staged a stunning upset of Garbiñe Muguruza, 7-5, 6-3. Pironkova will take on Donna Vekic for a place in the Round of 16. Having defeated the Bulgarian man, Fucsovics will face Frances Tiafoe next, who also survived a five-set match, beating Australian John Millman.
MATCH POINT: We’re guessing Dimitrov will be less and less happy to see the Hungarian’s name in his draw. The two players have only met once before today, but quite recently, at the 2020 Western & Southern Open. In the match played on August 24, Fucsovics also prevailed, winning 7-5, 4-6, 6-2./US Open
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