Sofia, January 20, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of the Sofia Globe
Bulgaria’s top female tennis player Tsvetana Pironkova made a flying start in the Australian Open, the first tennis Grand Slam of the year, defeating the British number one Heather Watson in straight sets 6-4, 6-0.
Both players came into the match after strong performances in warm-up events – Watson won her second career title in Hobart and Pironkova reached the semi-final of the Sydney International, the tournament she won last year as a qualifier (she started as a qualifier this year too and extended her winning streak in the tournament to 14 matches before falling to Petra Kvitova in the semis).
Pironkova’s task was made easier by the fact that Watson was clearly not at her best, requiring a medical break late in the first set. The Briton’s form dipped even further in the second set, which Pironkova was able to win without too much difficulty.
Pironkova has never advanced past the second round at the Australian Open, which she has reached now for the seventh time, and her task looks unenviable as she will next play last year’s finalist Dominika Cibulkova, seeded 11th, who won her first round match again Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.
Meanwhile, on the second day of the tournament, women’s seeds continued to tumble out with three more players joining the eight ousted on January 19.
Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic, the 15th seed, lost to Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland in straight sets 1-6, 4-6 and joined compatriot Ana Ivanovic – the fifth seed who lost in three sets to Lucie Hradecka (6-1, 3-6, 2-6) a day earlier – in exiting the tournament early.
A number of other Balkan players have also been defeated early, with only Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu, who defeated ninth-seed Angelique Kerber of Germany, and third-seed Simona Halep, one of the favourites to win the tournament, joining Pironkova in the second round.
On the men’s side, six seeded players were ousted in the first round, but none in the top 10, with none of the top seeds meeting much resistance in their opening round matches. Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, a four-time winner and the favourite to lift the trophy again, won in straight sets against Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 on January 20, setting up a second-round match against Andrey Kuznetsov of Russia.
The other two seeded players from the Balkans, Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria (10th) and Ivo Karlovic of Croatia (23rd), won their opening matches on January 19. Dimitrov will play Slovakia’s Lucas Lacko and Karlovic will face local favourite Nick Kyrgios in the second round on January 21.
(Photo: Brad Touesnard/flickr.com)