Bulgarian qualifier Tsvetana Pironkova crowned a stunning week of top 10 scalps with a straight sets victory over fifth seed Angelique Kerber in the final of the Sydney International on Friday.
The world No 107 defeated her third top-10 ranked opponent of the week with a 6-4, 6-4 win in 96 minutes.
Pironkova became the first women’s qualifier to win the Sydney International, one of the oldest tournaments in the world, for her maiden WTA title.
She reached her debut WTA final with a last-four win over second seed Petra Kvitova after beating Italian third seed Sara Errani in the quarter-finals.
“Where do I start? Mum, dad, I have a trophy,” the 27-year-old said in an emotional victory speech.
“When I know what I’ve been through, not only last season but throughout my career, it hasn’t been easy for me,” Pironkova said.
“This is something that I’ve been waiting for for so long and something that I’ve missed so much. Now that I finally have it, it’s all surreal. I still cannot believe it, honestly.
“My mum and dad are the people who have always been with me. My dad is also my coach, so obviously he’s very excited too.”
The Bulgarian’s powerful backhand constantly had the German left-hander under pressure and she finished the stronger despite playing her eighth match in eight days.
Pironkova broke Kerber’s service six times and lost her serve four times in a physical contest between two big hitters on the women’s circuit.
It was a draining week for the Bulgarian, who had her right thigh strapped and showing the effects of her heavy schedule as she heads to next week’s Australian Open.
“Since the beginning of the match I was feeling pain, not only in my right thigh, but also in the left one. So I was just praying, please, God, let me finish this match,” she said.
“I guess the adrenaline helps you to pull through it because right now when I walk I feel like my legs are going to fall apart.”
Pironkova will face Spaniard Silvia Soler-Espinosa in the first round of the Open and is in the same half of the draw as top seed Serena Williams.
“I will need some time to recover considering that I have a few problems here and there,” she said.
“I feel amazing, but going to the next tournament my body doesn’t feel the greatest, but I think I have the right mindset and the confidence needed.”