When Serena Williams was asked about facing Tsvetana Pironkova ahead of the pair’s third-round meeting at the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne, she told reporters, “It’s important for me just to see what she did and what I did and what we can both do better.”
At last year’s US Open, Pironkova made a stunning run to the quarterfinals in her first tournament appearance since 2017 Wimbledon. Her dream return came to an end at the hands of Serena, but not before winning the first set of their enthralling clash in Queens.
On Wednesday, Serena ensured there was no playing catch up on this occasion. The No. 5 seed was locked in from the start, never allowing Pironkova to gain momentum in advancing, 6-1, 6-4, and remaining unbeaten in their series (6-0). The 39-year-old struck 25 winners to 15 unforced errors and wasn’t required to stare down a break point.
Beyond a less-than-ideal first-serve percentage, there wasn’t much Serena could have done better in set one. Ten winners to just five unforced errors and the conversion of three breaks from four chances led the 23-time major champion to claim 26 of 38 points.
There was this early point, where she pulled Pironkova off the court by curling a backhand to set up a forehand finish.
Her backhand was a nightmare for the Bulgarian from start to finish. Any second serves that were left hanging were severely punished.