Little known Bulgarian Tsvetena Pironkova has created history, becoming the first qualifier to progress through to the final of the Sydney International.
The world No. 107 shocked tournament No. 2 seed Petra Kvitova in a straight-sets victory on Ken Rosewall Arena on Thursday afternoon, setting up a final against German Angelique Kerber on Friday night.
Kerber, the tournament's fifth seed and World No. 9, was too strong for American Madison Keys, breezing past her opponent with a 6-4, 6-2 victory on centre court. But it's the 26-year-old Pironkova, who last year dropped out of the top 100 for the first time since 2004, who has created the headlines knocking over Kvitova and No. 3 seed Sara Errani in successive matches to book her first WTA finals berth.
"It's definitely a milestone," Pironkova said. "This is something I've been dreaming about for a long time now and something that I've been missing, to go to the final or even have a title. So you can only imagine how I will feel tomorrow on the court.
"For me this tournament has always been one of the greatest . . . I've been here a few times before. I have been playing qualifying here, and I actually never imagined going to the finals here. It was in my mind that this is such a huge tournament, so doing that, you can imagine how I feel right now."
Following reigning champion Agnieszka Radwanska's shock exit in the second round, Kvitova was the strong favourite to take out the title leading into the Australian Open. However, she said Pironkova played the better tennis in the 6-4, 6-3 semi-final loss.
"She moved well on the court and every ball was in the court," Kvitova said. "It was tough for me to make winners because she moved in the baseline very well. This was hard for me to have short rallies. She served well, so she helped a lot with the serve. Actually she was returning my serve pretty well. It wasn't that great, my serve, as previous matches."
Pironkova's career high ranking was No.31 in the world in September, 2010.
Her ranking has hovered between the top 100 and the top 30 for the most part of a decade and says consistency prevented her from cracking the top 10.
"No injuries whatsoever, I'm very grateful for that actually, that I've been healthy," she said. "It's just that I guess in every player's or in every sportsman's career there are times when you are up and down. For me especially. I guess it's just my personality. It's a bit difficult for me to get motivated all the time. But I've been working very hard on that. I really hope that this season I could be more consistent."
Pironkova has played against Kerber twice, and honours were shared.
"She's definitely a very tough opponent," Pironkova said. "I kind of know what to expect knowing her game. But, you know, it's a new day. You just go on the court, and the best thing is to forget all the previous matches and to concentrate on the moment, and make the right decisions."
The story Sydney International: Bulgarian Tsvetena Pironkova in history books after racing to final spot first appeared on WA Today.