Tsvetana Pironkova is enjoying life back on the grass as she booked her place in the quarterfinals at the Aegon Open Nottingham with a strong win over Kurumi Nara 6-3, 6-2.
The former Wimbledon semifinalist recovered from an early break down after a shaky start but was able to work her opponent around the court to finish the set strongly. Pironkova grew stronger in the second set and threatened to take it 6-0, but Nara held on to at least force her opponent to finish off the match on her own serve, a task which the Bulgarian completed.
* Article originally published by me for UBITennis.net *
These two players had met once before on the hard courts of Istanbul back in 2015 and it was the Bulgarian who prevailed 6-3, 1-6, 6-1. Nara had a fine win over third seed Lauren Davis 6-3, 6-3 and the Bulgarian also had a straight sets win in her first round over qualifier Tereza Martincova 6-2, 6-2.
It was the higher-ranked Nara who got off to the better start, bringing up two break points in the third game of the match. Pironkova managed to save both of them but a foray to the net brought up another chance for the Japanese player. She capitalised on this opportunity after hitting a backhand up the line return of serve winner.
The following game was a lengthy battle and after Nara squandered a number of chances to hold her opponent only needed the one chance to break back after the world number 91 went long with her backhand.
In the sixth game Pironkova completed the turnaround, striking a couple of fierce backhand winners down the line to break her opponent to love before moving 5-2 in front. At this point unsurprisingly Nara requested to see her coach, but Pironkova requesting a medical timeout was not expected. The Bulgarian was playing with strapping on her right shoulder but judging by the way she was striking the ball that appeared to be more precautionary rather than an injury. The world number 126 was receiving treatment on her left foot but that did not affect her or stop her closing out the first set 6-3 as she held serve to love, closing with a forehand drop volley winner.
Leading by a set Pironkova was in cruise control and took flight in the next set, swiftly establishing a 3-0 lead with a double break. The Bulgarian out manoeuvred her opponent and used the angles well, closing with her big weapon, the double handed backhand.
Nara looked to be on the verge of going out and being bagelled in the process as she faced break point in the fifth game. Fortunately for her Pironkova netted her return on the second serve and the Japanaese player was able to win her first game of the second set after taking it on her fourth game point.
The world number 91 forced the Bulgarian to serve the match out and she duly obliged, closing with a trademark backhand winner to seal a straight sets victory in one hour and 17 minutes.
Waiting next for the Bulgarian, fifth seed Lucie Safarova.