NEW YORK: Tsvetana Pironkova continued her dream run at the US Open when the Bulgarian beat France's Alize Cornet 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 on Monday (Sep 7) to move into the quarter-finals in New York for the first time in her career.
Playing in her first tournament in three years, the unseeded and unranked Pironkova had beaten Garbine Muguruza and Donna Vekic in straight sets last week, and prevailed over Cornet in a battle of wits in a near-three hour contest.
The 32-year-old Pironkova was at her aggressive best, playing quick points and she fired 46 winners past the Frenchwoman, winning 21 points at the net.
Cornet mounted a comeback in the second set as fatigue started to set in for Pironkova, who failed to serve for the match twice, but she was third time lucky in the final set when she sealed progress without a hitch.
"It's absolutely unreal. I really can't believe it, especially that I pulled through today," Pironkova said. "I was so exhausted by the end. I really didn't believe I had it in me but I kept fighting and it paid off."
Both players traded early breaks in the opening set before Pironkova broke at 4-4, chasing a dropshot on break point to successfully negotiate the ball over the net and past Cornet to serve for the set.
Pironkova continued to dictate play, picking her spots and spraying shots across the court as a frustrated Cornet's screams echoed around the empty stands when she had no answer to her strategy.
The Bulgarian used her powerful forehand shots to push the Frenchwoman deep behind the baseline numerous times before executing finessed dropshots which either won her the point or set her up for a forehand winner.
However, Cornet fought back from 2-0 down in the second to take control, winning eight points in a row at one stage, to take the lead but she was let down by her serve at crucial junctures.
Two double faults in the ninth game gave Pironkova the chance to serve for the match, only for her to drop her serve on 5-4 as fatigue started to set in.
A 40-shot rally before Cornet forced a tiebreak saw Pironkova take a breather courtside and her unforced error count also started to climb as her opponent sealed the set.
But Cornet's double faults came back to haunt her in the third set and when Pironkova broke at 4-4, this time she did not waver when she served for the match.
Pironkova, who secured a place in the draw with a protected ranking given to players who take maternity break, will play third seed Serena Williams in the quarter-finals in what will be a battle between two mothers.