Fixture: (20) Tsvetana Pironkova vs Kyoka Okamura
Date: 10 January 2021
Tournament: Australian Open 2021 qualifiers
Round: First round
Venue: Dubai, UAE
Category: Grand Slam
Surface: Outdoor Hardcourt
Match timing: Approx. 4 pm local time, 5.30 pm IST
Tsvetana Pironkova vs Kyoka Okamura preview
Tsvetana Pironkova is all set to open her 2021 Australian Open qualifying campaign with a first-round encounter against Japan's Kyoka Okamura.
Pironkova made a comeback to the sport last year after a nearly three-year-long gap. But she staged deep runs at both the US Open and the French Open, and will look to produce a similar result at the first Slam of 2021.
The Bulgarian got back into the top 150 (at No. 136) by the end of last season, but that wasn't enough to secure a direct entry into the main draw in Melbourne. Pironkova will now play the qualifying event as the 20th seed.
Her opponent in the first round, Kyoka Okamura, has been on the tour for quite a few years now. But with career-high ranking of No. 233, the Japanese largely competes on the ITF circuit.
In fact, this will be Okamura's second ever appearance in a Grand Slam draw (qualifying or otherwise) at the senior level.
But despite her lack of experience at the elite level, Okamura does have a few things going for her. For starters, she enjoys playing in the conditions that will be on offer in Dubai, and has reached a total of five ITF finals playing on hardcourt. In addition, Pironkova has never really had much success at the Australian Open, so Okamura will not be completely overawed when she takes the court on Sunday.
Tsvetana Pironkova vs Kyoka Okamura head-to-head
This will be the first career meeting between Tsvetana Pironkova and Kyoka Okamura, so their current head-to-head stands at a 0-0 deadlock.
Tsvetana Pironkova vs Kyka Okamura prediction
Tsvetana Pironkova will be definitive favorite heading into this match. The Bulgarian might not have had a lot of match practice in the last couple of years, but that didn't stop her from scoring wins over some big names in New York.
That said, there are definitely some weaknesses in Pironkova's game, and it will be up to Kyoka Okamura to exploit them. Not feeding Pironkova any pace on the ball, for example, could serve as a good strategy, because the Bulgarian is not the best at creating her own pace.
Pironkova's second serve is another area that Okamura can try to put some pressure on. But whether the 25-year-old Japanese possesses the ability to execute a minutely laid-out plan against a top quality opponent remains to be seen.
As for Pironkova, her surprising lack of rust could hold her in good stead ahead of the new season. If she can find a way to get used to the conditions quickly, she could make things really difficult for all her opponents.
Prediction: Tsvetana Pironkova to win in straight sets.Published 10 Jan 2021, 01:32 IST