Tsvetana Pironkova has been voted Bulgaria's Athlete of the Year as per a nationwide poll. Conducted annually, the honor recognizes the best year-round performances in both individual and team categories.
The poll involves the creation of a shortlist, which is then put to a vote among journalists from over 40 media portals. The shortlist traditionally consists of the year's top 10 performers, but only five players were listed this year because of the shortened sporting season.
Pironkova finished at the top of this year's vote with 732 points, ahead of wrestler Edmond Nazaryan (525), boxer Kubrat Pulev (259), sambist Maria Oryashkova (240) and swimmer Yosif Miladinov (214).
The Plovdiv-born Pironkova, who returned to the sport at the 2020 US Open following an extended maternity leave, surprised everyone with her quarterfinal run in Flushing Meadows. She followed that up with a third round showing at Roland Garros a few weeks later, amassing wins over the likes of Andrea Petkovic, Garbine Muguruza and Donna Vekic during her two impressive runs.
Tsvetana Pironkova is only the second tennis player to have ever won the honor
Tsvetana Pironkova's win marked just the third occasion in the poll's 62-year history that a tennis player has been facilitated with the honor. The two previous honors were won by the same player - Grigor Dimitrov.
The 33-year-old Pironkova was quick to react to the news. She took to her social media handles to thank the sporting federations and media persons who voted for her, writing:
"I am grateful for the great love from all of you, which I have always received and in especially large doses since my return to the court. The feeling is really great."
Meanwhile Pironkova's countryman Grigor Dimitrov, who has twice bagged the Best Athlete title (in 2014 and 2017), was voted the Fan Favorite Player.
The 2017 ATP Finals winner has had a tough year, where he had to battle past a slow start to the season and an unfortunate bout with COVID-19. Dimitrov did manage a full recovery though, and his results began to improve towards the back of the year.
The 29-year-old remains a hugely popular figure in his home country, and this win would come as a big boost to him ahead of the new season.
It was a big night for tennis players overall, as the country's ATP Cup team featuring Dimitrov, Dimitri Kuzmanov, Alexander Lazarov, Alexander Donski and Adrian Andreev was also chosen as the Team of the Year.
All the winners are set to be facilitated at a mega ceremony, which has been postponed keeping in view the COVID-19 situation.