SYDNEY (AP) — 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 U.S. 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.
John Isner reached the semifinals of the ATP's Heineken Open in Auckland, New Zealand after a 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) win over fifth-seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber in a match between former champions.
The quarterfinal match between third-seeded Isner, the 2010 Auckland champion, and No. 22-ranked Kohlschreiber, the 2008 winner and beaten finalist last year, lasted 2 hours, 24 minutes and contained no breaks of serve.
Playing on an injured ankle, Isner finally clinched the match with a vital point against serve in the third-set tiebreak.