Garbine Muguruza delivers epic racket smash in upset loss against comeback mom Tsvetana Pironkova

Tsvetana Pironkova upset the two-time Grand Slam winner in that unusual US Open 7-5 6-3 in her first event since leaving the match in 2017.

The Bulgarian – once a Wimbledon semi-finalist – gave birth to a son, Alexander, before he felt the urge to join the circuit.

“Once you become a mother, you don’t magically lose your ability to play,” Pironkova rightly pointed out to the WTA. “If you want to do it, I don’t think there is anything that can stop you from doing it.”

But she said becoming a mother changed her perspective.

“Your priorities have nothing to do with what they did before,” she told reporters on Thursday in a Zoom call. “Nothing is really the same. Right now I’m just happy to play. Having the opportunity for him to look at me also makes me very happy.

“It’s just great to play without that extra pressure that I had on myself before. It used to be almost a life and death situation for me to win a game. Right now, it’s not not really like that. “

Pironkova said a rule change that took effect last year also helped her decision to come back. Players who join the tour after becoming a mom can use their latest leaderboard to potentially enter a number of tournaments.

This ranking was 123rd in the world, which would normally have forced the 33-year-old to pass qualifying.

But it was dropped to limit the numbers on the spot as part of the tennis bubble amid the coronavirus pandemic and so Pironkova snuck into the singles draw of 128 players in New York.

There are no junior and mixed doubles events, while the women’s and men’s doubles pitches have been reduced. Fans are also kept away.

READ: Tennis players hit US Open sequel plaza with private observation rooms

Love fast courts

There is, however, something new to the US Open: a hard-surface provider, which has generally had the effect of speeding up the courts considerably. The courts suit Pironkova, whose forehand under faster conditions can wreak real havoc on opponents.

He did so at times as 10th seed Muguruza, although the Spaniard – who pulled out of last week’s warm-up for Western & Southern Open due to an ankle injury – was leading 5 -3 in the first game on another hot and humid day.

After Pironkova rallied to take the first with a backhand winner, Muguruza threw his racket in dismay.

She then picked it up and hit it against the court, which had the effect of breaking the head of the racket and splitting it in half. Muguruza found himself with the grip of the racket in his hand.

“I guess I’m stronger now, I don’t know,” she said with a smile.

“Yeah, I’m not a type of player who does a lot of that. I just feel like today there was a tough first set. I felt I was in control, then she was very well played and took his chances. suddenly he disappeared. “

The Australian Open finalist saved five break points to reach level 2-2 in the second set, which seemed like a turning point.

Muguruza, however, was broken at 3-4 and Pironkova beat the win, sealing the procedure with an ace. She not only served well, but supported her serve, winning 27 of 29 first serve points, to give Muguruza what has become a usual early loss at Flushing Meadows.

Another early loss for Muguruza in New York

Reaching the final of the other three majors, a quarterfinal in New York continues to elude him.

“I made the decision to come to the US Open two days before I got here,” Muguruza said. “It was really just to give me the chance to compete. I really didn’t feel quite prepared.”

Looking forward to Pironkova in her first third round appearance in a Grand Slam since the 2016 French Open, 18th seed Donna Vekic, who escaped in her opener before overtaking a other mom, Patricia Maria Tig, Thursday.

Big day for moms

Nine moms appeared in the draw at the start of the event, the WTA said, with the two most prestigious, Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka still in the running.

Williams, the 23-time Grand Slam champion, qualified in straight sets on Thursday, beating Russian Margarita Gasparyan in straight sets – 6-2 6-4. Meanwhile, Azarenka dismantled Aryna Sabalenka 6-1 6-3 in just an hour and seven minutes.

“My life started when I became a mother. I will say it very openly,” Azarenka told reporters after her match.

“I think to see this rise of women able to make their dreams come true, as well as balance motherhood, I think they’re all heroes.

“I really, really appreciate them all and hope this will continue where women are inspired to do what they love to do, but still able to pursue what they want.

Another Grand Slam-winning mom, Kim Clijsters, fell in the first round to one of tennis’s fittest players before the pandemic, Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Melbourne-dominated Muguruza player Sofia Kenin and Australian Open men’s runner-up Dominic Thiem won in straight sets, as did 2017 champion Sloane Stephens. Stephens will face Williams in the third round.

Elsewhere, returning Andy Murray suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of young Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime. The Scotsman needed hip resurfacing to save his career and was competing in his first Grand Slam in singles since the Australian Open in 2019.

Murray showed flashes of his old self in New York, but Auger-Aliassime dominated the encounter and swept the three-time Grand Slam champion in straight sets – 6-2 6-2 6-4.

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