By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of the Sofia Globe
Bulgaria’s top-ranked female tennis player, Tsvetana Pironkova, advanced to the second round of the year’s last Grand Slam, the US Open, with a straight-sets victory over Italy’s Karin Knapp.
Pironkova needed only 77 minutes to defeat Knapp 6-4, 6-3 in a match that saw a total of eight breaks of service, with the Bulgarian nevertheless firmly in control for most of the match.
The win put an end to Pironkova’s string of six consecutive losses that stretched over the entire summer – her previous win was in the first round of the French Open. She will next play Serbian ninth-seed and former world number one Jelena Jankovic, who defeated compatriot Bojana Jovanovski 6-2, 6-3 in the first round.
Last year, Pironkova lost in the first round at Flushing Meadows and, in eight appearances before this year, she progressed past the second round only once, when she reached the last 16 in 2012.
On the men’s side, Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, who is seeded seventh, will play his first-round match against American wild card Ryan Harrison on August 27. The two have met only once before, with Dimitrov winning in straight sets earlier this summer in the first round of Wimbledon on his way to a semi-final appearance.
The other men’s seeds from the Balkan peninsula include world number one, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, who made short work of Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman, winning 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 to set up a second-round clash against France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu.
Croatia’s Marin Cilic, seeded 14th, will play Marcos Baghdatis from Cyprus on August 27, while compatriot Ivo Karlovic, seeded 27th, will play Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen on August 26.
On the women’s side, Romania’s world number two Simona Halep had a difficult first-round match against American Danielle Collins, but prevailed in three sets 6-7, 6-1, 6-2. She will next play Slovakia’s Jana Cepelova.
Serbia’s other former world number one, Ana Ivanovic, who is seeded eighth, will play American Alison Riske in the first round on August 26.
(Photo: Shinya Suzuki/flickr.com)