Stosur Seeks Path Through Sydney Champ

Samantha Stosur has won all three clashes with Tsvetana Pironkova.

She won’t draw a seed until the next round – if she gets there – but Samantha Stosur has run in to a pair of in-form opponents to start her Australian Open campaign. She got past Hobart finalist Klara Zakopalova in the opening round, but now runs in to Sydney winner Tsvetana Pironkova on Wednesday.

It was a gutsy win on Monday by the Gold Coaster who went down to Zakopalova in the semis in Tasmania, and she fought back from 3-1 down early in the second set to claim a 6-3 6-4 victory. She looks nowhere near her best, but she is certainly striking the ball better than she was during a horror Hopman Cup campaign to start the year.

Pironkova certainly isn’t short of match practice heading in to this match after coming through qualifying to win in Sydney last week. To win a Grand Slam you need to win seven matches; she won eight to collect the first WTA title of her career. In only one of those eight clashes did she start favourite but she dropped just one set along the way and recorded straight-set victories over the likes of Sara Errani, Petra Kvitova and then Angelique Kerber in the decider. She became the first qualifier to win a WTA event in over three years and beat three top-10 players despite sitting outside the top 100, herself, at the time.

Pironkova has never made it past the second round of an Australian Open, but her best results in Slams have come on fast surfaces, and the courts and balls this summer have been noticeably quicker in Australia. She made the semi-finals at Wimbledon in 2010, the quarter-finals there the year after, the fourth round in 2013, while she also made the round of 16 on the fast hardcourts at Flushing Meadows in 2012. She showed a bullet-like double-handed backhand in Sydney but her forehand did break down, at times. With the Bulgarian hitter flatter balls on a slicker surface, Stosur may not be able to dominate rallies with her favoured heavy topspin forehand.

The Australian has won the three previous meetings between the pair, including two on hardcourt. Their last clash was on Pironkova’s home soil in Sofia late last year, with the Australian getting up easily 6-1 6-4. In fact, across their past two meetings, Pironkova has won just nine games.

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