French Open: Tsvetana Pironkova upsets 16th seed Sara Errani

French Open: Tsvetana Pironkova upsets 16th seed Sara Errani

Tsevetana Pironkova was one of the big winners of the day as she ousted 2012 French Open runner-up and world number 18, Italian clay court specialist Sara Errani in emphatic fashion.

Pan Mich

In the second day of this year's French Open, which began quite rainy, Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, who has not succeeded a lot on the clay before, pulled off a remarkable upset ousting number 16 seed Sara Errani, one of the best clay court players on tour, and a player who loves the courts in Paris. Pironkova played a great match, while for another day this year Errani was not herself on court. Now, Errani is winless on the red clay this year and a streak of four consecutive quarterfinal or better appearances in the French slam has ended for the Italian, who's season has started taking a major decline. From the other side, it was a great, much-needed win for Pironkova, whose ranking has fallen considerably.

Tsvetana Pironkova powers through the first set

Tsvetana Pironkova during last year's French Open. Photo: Getty Images/Clive Brunskill
Tsvetana Pironkova during last year's French Open. Photo: Getty Images/Clive Brunskill

The Bulgarian got off to a rocket start winning the first three games, two holds and a break to love, to lead 3-0. She was really overpowering Errani who had entered the match too passive and she was not doing anything but returning the ball. Also, some errors were apparent in her game. Before starting to lose track of the match she held for 3-1. From there, both were holding rather comfortably until the Bulgarian took advantage of the early break and without looking back, she closed the game on her serve at 6-3. Errani tried to place her serves a little bit better and use her variety to stay in as many rallies as possible, and especially make that last game really long, forcing her opponent to have four set points before she closed it. Pironkova, though, was on a good day and was striking the ball confidently, something that is rare to see from her on clay. So, like this, we were under upset alert on Court 10.

Pironkova completes her triumph as she wins the second

The second set started actually really strangely with five consecutive breaks, as both started returning better. Pironkova was trying once again to make the best of her counterpart's weak serve and as Errani was getting broken, she was fighting hard in the next games to keep in touch with the score and as one can imagine for a while, there were really long games. The second and the third games were real marathons and it was evident that the players were fighting like crazy out there for a much needed win. In the fifth game, Pironkova broke and then she held for the first time--in what agonizingly felt like years--to love. This time, the Italian could not respond and she got broken again to let Pironkova serve for the match. The final game was another marathon with the 2012 runner-up fighting to stay in the match until the last ball was struck. But in the end, the Bulgarian was just too good for the person Errani had brought onto the court today. The Bulgarian played an amazing match, but the Italian did not have the fire and the intensity that characterizes her in the most critical moments that led to mental gaps, which at their turn, led to her defeat.

Sara Errani during last year's French Open. Photo: Getty Images/Dan Istitene
Sara Errani during last year's French Open. Photo: Getty Images/Dan Istitene

The toll of this match for the two players

This must be one of the most painful loses in Errani's career. She ended the season without winning a single match on her favorite European red clay, losing most of the time to opponents who don't succeed on clay as well. Also, as it was aforementioned she dropped a streak of consecutive quarterfinal or better appearances since 2012. Moreover, failing to defend her quarterfinal points will be a disaster for her ranking. 

From the other side, Pironkova needed this win a lot, as she has fallen out of the top 100 and here she is defending third round points, which date to the great run she had last year, which ended at the hands of Sloane Stephens. She needs those points as one of her favorite tournaments, Wimbledon, is coming up and she needs a better ranking and for sure, some confidence.

A brief look at the statistics

The statistics show how well Pironkova played today as she hit 28 winners compared to 18 unforced errors, while Errani had the same number of errors but with 13 less winners. It seems that the Italian succeeded on the net, which is always a strong part of her game, considering she used to be the doubles number one. However, from the other side of the net, the Bulgarian was really solid behind her first serve, which is a key to paralyze the Italian's return.

Tsvetana Pironkova will now face Johanna Larsson in a winnable match for a place in the third round.