The astonishing US Open run of unranked Tsvetana Pironkova came to an end on Wednesday, with the Bulgarian falling in three sets to six-time champion Serena Williams, though the former world number 31 is understandably taking huge pride in her performances at Flushing Meadows this summer.
“Definitely one of the most special moments in my career,” said Pironkova when asked about her run to the last eight in New York. “It's been amazing. It still is. I just feel privileged to be here and to be able to, you know, play my favorite sport in such a big arena. So it's amazing.”
It was just the fourth Grand Slam quarterfinal of Pironkova’s career, having reached the semifinals of Wimbledon in 2010 and the last eight again the following year as well as the French Open quarterfinals in 2016, with this run coming in her first tournament in three years. The Bulgarian has returned to the sport following the birth of her son, Alexander, in 2018.
One of nine mothers in the singles draw this year, Pironkova created huge headlines when she defeated former world number one and two-time Grand Slam Garbine Muguruza, the tenth seed, in straight sets in the second round. She backed up that win by beating another seed in 18th seed Donna Vekic in the third round before edging out Alize Cornet in three tight sets to reach the quarterfinals. Pironkova provided arguably the biggest test so far to Williams, holding a set and a break lead over the American before the third seed rallied to claim victory,
Today’s defeat signalled the end of an inspiring run that has rightly made headlines over the world and many are now looking to see how the Bulgarian can perform as she continues her return to the sport, having last played at Wimbledon in 2017. Pironkova herself played down any expectation when questioned earlier today.
"Expectations, yeah, that is a special word that I don't really like. So I guess there will be more expectations after this tournament, for sure, but whether I put them on myself or not, I think I will not,” said the Bulgarian, who won her sole career singles title in Sydney six years go. “I will try not to, because I know for sure that's what help me here is just go in the court [sic] and try to enjoy it as much and to play my best tennis carefree. Going to try to keep it that way, I hope.”
Pironkova will likely play in Rome next week before heading to the French Open at the end of September.