Pironkova into her first final, del Potro advances
Bulgarian qualifier Tsvetana Pironkova reached her first WTA final by beating second-seeded Petra Kvitova 6-4 6-3 in the semifinals of the Sydney International on Thursday.
Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon champion, was broken twice in the first set and four times in the second against Pironkova, who finished last season ranked No 108.
"First time into a WTA final - it's an amazing feeling," said the 26-year-old Pironkova. "I've been waiting for this for a long time."
Pironkova lost to Kvitova in the 2011 quarterfinals at Wimbledon after losing in the semis the year before at the All-England Club.
With qualifiers and main draw, she has now won seven consecutive matches in Sydney and is aiming for No 8 in the final, where she'll meet fifth-seeded Angelique Kerber, who beat American Madison Keys 6-4 6-2 in the other semifinal Thursday.
In the men's tournament, top-seeded Juan Martin del Potro beat Czech veteran Radek Stepanek 6-4 3-6 6-3 to set up a semifinal against Russia's Dmitry Tursunov.
Del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion who finished last season ranked No 5, relied on his strong serve, with 14 aces to three, and saved seven of 10 break points.
Tursunov earned a 7-6 (5) 6-2 win over Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan. Defending champion Bernard Tomic beat Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine 6-4, 6-3 in a night quarterfinal.
In the WTA event at Hobart, top-seeded Sam Stosur reached the semifinals with a 6-3 6-2 win over No. 34-ranked Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia.
"Everything's moving in the right direction, that's for sure, but there's still room for improvement," Stosur said.
The 2011 US Open champion next faces seventh-seeded Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic, who beat American Alison Riske 6-4 7-5.
In the exhibition tournament at Kooyong, the former Australian Open venue in Melbourne, No 7-ranked Tomas Berdych advanced to the final with a 6-4 6-1 win over Kei Nishikori of Japan. Berdych, who opened the tournament with a straight sets win over Fernando Verdasco, will next play the winner of Friday's all-French semifinal between Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon.
No 8-ranked Stanislas Wawrinka withdrew from the eight-man invitational tournament earlier Thursday citing fatigue following his title win at Chennai last week. He was replaced in the draw by Russia's Mikhail Youznhy.