One of the main stories of the US Open 2020 was the performance of three tennis moms, namely Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, and Tsvetana Pironkova. Serena’s Grand Slam record bid grabs attention at every Major tournament. However, Pironkova’s form in her first event in over three years was a major talking point.
The two players face each other in the second round of the French Open 2020 on Wednesday. It is a rematch of their quarter-final clash from just three weeks ago at the US Open.
Pironkova was having a dream run at the US Open. In her first tournament since childbirth, Pironkova looked like she was never away in the first place as she won her first three matches in straight sets. Pironkova then saw through a tough challenge in the fourth round. Despite eventually losing to Williams, Pironkova gave her a run for her money.
Pironkova’s game is based on a solid serve and powerful groundstrokes and is better suited for faster courts. However, she does have the game to be a strong contender on clay as well, as evidenced by a quarter-final run at Roland Garros in 2016. And now, her first-round win against Andrea Petkovic has confirmed she has the game to excel this year in Paris.
Her slice forehand can be very handy on the Parisian clay courts and she does not shy away from longer rallies. To further aid her, court conditions are a lot different this year in Paris. Players have also suggested that the courts are faster than usual.
Serena Williams, on the other hand, had a topsy-turvy start to her campaign. She was down a break twice in the first set on Monday against Kristie Ahn, who served for the set at one point. However, once Williams found her feet, there was no stopping her.
The 39-year-old won the first-set tiebreaker, after which she swept six games in a row to hand Ahn a bagel and win the match. Clay might be Williams’ least favored surface, but she is a three-time French Open champion.
After her opening match, Williams said the new conditions do not disturb her, and she is ready for anything that comes her way.
Williams’s three-set win over Pironkova at the US Open took her lead in their head-to-head record to 5-0.
Williams will need a much better start against Pironkova. The Bulgarian player will play aggressively from the outset, something that had worked for her at the US Open against Williams. Williams needs to beat Pironkova at her own game and a stronger start on serve is the best way to do that.
Longer rallies could be a feature as the match goes on. Williams will need to be ferocious with her one-two serve-forehand punch on key points. Pironkova’s drop shot abilities could also come in handy, and she can use that shot more effectively to wear down Williams on clay.
Just as it did at the US Open, experience will hold the key eventually. Couple that with Williams’ burning desire to finally win another Major, and the American superstar might just see off another challenge.
Prediction: Serena Williams to win in three sets.