NEW YORK (Reuters) – Tsvetana Pironkova, playing in her first event since 2017, claimed a shock upset at the U.S. Open on Thursday by dispatching double Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza 7-5 6-3 to move into the third round.
After three years away from the WTA Tour following the birth of her son Alexander, the unranked Bulgarian had 10th-seeded Muguruza smashing her racket and mumbling in frustration as the Spaniard’s U.S. Open jinx continued to haunt her.
“Coming from three years of absence on the tour, you always have your doubts,” Pironkova said. “Right now my results actually make me really happy because it shows that I did the right things preparing for this comeback.
“At this point for me the toughest part is the physical condition. I haven’t had a chance to play another tournament before this one. Having a few consecutive matches is really a big challenge for me,” added the 32-year-old.
The tournament has been a stumbling block for the French Open and Wimbledon champion, who this year nearly added to her collection of major trophies when she reached the final in Australia.
In stark contrast to her success at the other slams, Muguruza has struggled to make an impact on the New York hardcourts.
She had made it past the second round once in seven previous visits to Flushing Meadows and saw her bid end there again.
Muguruza had looked in complete control serving at 5-4 in the opener, but the Spaniard then suddenly started to unravel. She lost the next three games, being broken twice including in the last game to hand Pironkova the opening set.
Muguruza furiously smashed her racket onto the court walking to the changeover and was left holding only the handle.
While the Spaniard struggled to regain her composure Pironkova, whose last tournament was the 2017 Wimbledon won by Muguruza, showed the poise of a veteran who had been playing every week.
The Bulgarian secured the decisive break to go up 5-3 in the second set then held serve against the dejected Muguruza to cap a startling victory.
“I don’t know how to really explain it,” said Pironkova. “It’s just great to be playing without that extra pressure that I had on my myself before.
“Before it was like almost a 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.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)