Tsvetana Pironkova Interview - Wimbledon, June 29Posted on June 29, 2010
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: Well, I received quite a few phone calls. Everyone was so happy and excited. Honestly, I think no one expected me to play semifinal in Wimbledon and to beat Venus Williams like that.
Q. Did you expect yourself to play a semifinal at Wimbledon?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: If I have to be honest, no. Coming here, I really just wanted to play a good game, to maybe win or two rounds.
But semifinal looked to me very far.
Q. How would you describe what your strategy was against Venus and how you executed it?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: Well, I didn't have a particular strategy against her. I just tried to play my game, which is like move her as much as possible. I tried to put my first serve as much as I could in the court.
Yeah, I think I also did a very good defense.
Q. What surprised you about this match?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: Well, I cannot say what surprised me. But I think it was quicker than I thought. Winning 6‑2, 6‑3, it was the biggest surprise for me. I expected like a longer match.
Q. How many grass courts do you have in Bulgaria?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: We have none actually.
Q. You have no grass courts?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: No.
Q. So when was the first occasion in your career you started playing on grass?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: I'm not sure which year it was. I think it was five years ago here at Wimbledon at the qualifyings. I played at Roehampton then. Back then, I thought, Wow, it's impossible. How can I play on this surface?
But with every match that I play on grass I feel better and better.
Q. Did you feel that Venus was losing her way a bit as the match went on? Towards the end she was making more errors.
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: Yeah, maybe. Yeah, I did. I really pushed her a lot. I think, yeah, in the beginning she started very strong, but then I guess I resisted.
In a tennis match, you can never say what happens. You just have to keep playing and playing and see the final result.
Q. She grabbed her back early in the match. The pace of her serve seemed to fall off a little after that. How much did you notice that?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: Actually, I haven't noticed that.
Q. Was her serve what you expected as far as the speed?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: Yeah. I mean, she has the fastest serve. I haven't played against someone who has a faster serve than her. Maybe her first‑serve percentage wasn't very good, I guess. And, yeah.
Q. Of course the wonderful Maleeva sisters are from your country. Could you talk about tennis in Bulgaria and also how you got started in tennis.
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: The most famous players are the Maleevas in our country, around the world. They have lots of achievements in tennis.
Uhm, tennis is a really popular sport in our country. Lots of kids are playing. Lots of kids are trying to, you know, get in the big tennis.
But so far right now the rankings in top hundred is just me. We have a few other players who are around 200. We have one young star, Grigor Dimitrov, he won the boys singles here I think two years ago. Yeah, he has a good future, I think. I really wish him the best.
Q. Are you from Sophia? How did you get started?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: No, I'm not from Sophia; I'm from Plovdiv. That is the second biggest city in our country.
I started ever since I was baby actually, because my father is a tennis coach. Maybe the first time I hit the ball I was around three years old, and later on I started to play more seriously. My first tournament I think I played when I was seven years old or something like that.
Yeah, that's pretty much it. My father is a coach. So I spent, you know, almost the whole of my life on the tennis court.
Q. Do they have academies for kids in your country? How do they develop players there?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: No, we don't have academies. We have tennis clubs where we have coaches. You know, the normal stuff. We don't have like, let's say, in Spain they have lots of academies. We have tennis clubs where kids come and play.
If the kid is good, the coaches start paying a lot of attention to him. That's pretty much it.
Q. Does the country's federation start paying your travel expenses when you're 14, 15, 16 years old?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: Back then, no. Back then the federation wasn't very strong. The people then really didn't care, I think. But right now, ever since few years back now, the people who manage the federation are changed.
We have Stefan Tsvetkov, who is the manager of our federation. He's doing a lot right now for the tennis. He's trying to keep it alive. He's making lots of tournaments, trying to find sponsors for our players, you know, for the federation.
Yeah, I receive help from my federation right now.
Q. What memories do you have of Wimbledon growing up?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: Wimbledon has always been, you know, like a religion to me. And I don't think it's just for me. I think it's for all of the players.
Q. Why do you say that?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: Because Wimbledon is the first tournament. It's the oldest tournament. Growing up, every player is looking at Wimbledon. They say, One day I want to play there. That's like a dream.
Q. So when you think of yourself out there in the women's semifinals on Thursday, what is your reaction?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: Well, you know, honestly I still cannot believe that I reached the semifinals. This is truly like a dream to me, and I will try to enjoy it as much as I can.
Q. Do you think you have more to offer in the semifinal?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: I really hope that I have more to offer. I'll just try to do all the right things: to rest well, to prepare well for the next match. I'll just try to do my best and we'll see what happens.
Q. Why do you think there's an aging trend in women's tennis?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: Sorry. Can you repeat?
Q. You're one of the younger quarterfinalists. Why do you think we're seeing older players that seem to be doing better than younger players?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: I don't know. I guess, you know ‑‑ I really don't know how to answer.
Q. Even people who don't follow tennis have heard of Venus Williams. In the nicest possible way, not many people have heard of you. Are you ready for all the attention that is going to bring?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: Yeah, I can say that I'm ready. You know, I beat Williams once before, at the Australian Open, like five years ago. There was so many attention then. I was shocked, you know.
Next match, I just couldn't focus because of all the attention. Right now I think I've learned my lesson then. I'll just try to focus.
Q. Some people can't clearly cope with it. You seem confident. Is that part of the reason why you've been successful at it?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: Yeah, I can say that I gained my confidence last couple of years. I've learned a lot. I've been through a lot last year. I had a bad season. I learned a lot from that. I think that is one of the things that help me right now.
Q. What else helps you? Is there anything in your family or personal life that keeps you going?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: Yeah, of course it's very important to have support from your family and friends. I'm very happy because almost all of my family's here now. I have also lots of friends who are supporting me.
Q. You said Wimbledon was like a religion. The gods of Wimbledon have not been kind to you for many years.
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: Yeah, that's true.
Q. Now they're very nice. Why do you think the change?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: Well, I guess I wasn't ready back then, you know, to play further in the tournament. Uhm, coming here, I had I think only one match win here.
I think it's because I've played more and more on grass. You know, every year I have at least two tournaments. Right now I guess I was ready for that.
Q. You said to the BBC you had a particularly poor 2009; that you hardly won a game. Was there a reason for that? If not, did you ever think about quitting the game altogether?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: You know, in a tennis career a player goes through a lot of stuff. Sometimes you play really well. On the other hand, other times you play really bad.
In my case, the bad playing was for almost a year. That was really, really hard for me. I just didn't know what to do. I tried a lot of things. I tried different things, but it just didn't happening.
I guess it's because, you know, when you lose one match you get a little bit upset. Then going to the next match, you're just not a hundred percent. And, uhm, yeah, there was at one point I think I lost six or seven times first round. I was like, Okay, what should I do now?
But quitting the game? No. I really love the tennis. I was pretty determined that one day I will get back. I'm very happy that I achieved, you know, today to play the semifinal.
Q. Can you talk about Zvonareva, your semifinalist opponent? Have you played against her very often?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: I played against her once last year in Moscow. It was November, I think. I made a convincing win. I won 6‑2, 6‑Love. I played really well. (Laughter.)
Q. The Williams sisters have had an air of invincibility around this place for many years. Do you think this result can help in that image?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: Do I think what?
Q. The Williams sisters, they've been so dominant in this competition for years. Do you think that dominance might be starting to end now?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: Well, I don't know. They're still doing pretty well. But, you know, at one point maybe it will end. I guess it may be soon.
Q. Do you see signs their strengths are decreasing?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: No, not really. Just because Venus lost from me today doesn't mean that, you know, her career is over or something like that, no.
So I think they're one of the best players in the world, in the tennis history. I think they're still doing very good.
Q. Were there things you learned in that match against Venus that you used today?
TSVETANA PIRONKOVA: Well, that match was a long time ago. It was five years ago. But it really gave me an idea how is she playing and how I am supposed to be playing. And, yeah, maybe it helped me.