In 2013, the WTA season witnessed an early breakthrough from Elena Vesnina, winning the Hobart International for her first WTA singles title. She would go on to win again in 2013, at the AEGON International. In the final tune-up week of the 2014 WTA season before the Australian Open, there were two first time WTA singles champions. At the Apia International Sydney, Tsvetana Pironkova became the first qualifier to win a WTA Premier level event since 2010. Fighting her way through qualifying, due to a 2013 season that was so disappointing she considered quitting the tour, Tsvetana had the daunting task of facing world #7 Sara Errani. Tsvetana took her out 7-6 (2) 6-3. Unfortunately, her reward for a top 10 win was a date with another top 10 player in the semifinals, world #6 Petra Kvitova. No problem, Pironkova won 4 and 3. A second straight top 10 victory pushed Tsvetana into a final with a third top 10 player, world #9 Angelique Kerber. Pironkova kept up her high level of play to take the match 4 and 4, capturing her first WTA title.
“Mom, dad, we have a trophy.” – Tsvetana Pironkova
Prior to this breakthrough, Tsvetana was probably best known for twice upsetting Venus Williams at Wimbledon. She had shown great promise in those matches, but that success hadn’t translated into consistent results. Maybe now, after wins against Errani, Kvitova and Kerber, she will have the belief that she can beat anybody. Whatever her future holds, it was great to see her win her first WTA title with her parents in the crowd.
At last year’s Moorilla Hobart International, up and coming Garbine Muguruza of Spain won her first WTA title, a doubles championship with playing partner, Maria Teresa Torro Flor. But coming into 2014, a singles title had yet eluded the 20-year old Muguruza. She would quickly fill that gap in her developing resumé. She didn’t quite have the obstacle course Pironkova had in Sydney, but Garbine did have to vanquish the 2nd seeded world #19 Kirsten Flipkens in the quarters. She also opened by beating another young talent, An-Sophie Mestach, 1 and 1. Garbine closed in the semis and final by dropping a bagel on both opponents. She defeated Klara Zakopalova, 6-4 6-0, to finish her run to the title.
So where does the talented Spaniard go from here? It’s hard to say. There have been so many “up and coming” type players over the decades. Some make it big. Some become journeywomen players. Some make a big splash and fade away. Some don’t pan out at all. Obviously, Garbine has already surpassed that last category. She’s only 20, so there’s no rush to do everything right away. If she’s just competitive the rest of this year and then maybe picks up a title or two in 2015, that would be growth. For now, a title in Hobart is a great start to what could be a successful career.