Serena Williams vs Pironkova French Open tennis preview, head-to-head and predictions

A US Open rematch could be a stern test of Serena Williams’s French Open aspirations despite her unbeaten record against Tsvetana Pironkova.

Serena vs Pironkova is live from Roland Garros on Wednesday 30 September, 1pm local/12pm BST

For the second time in two rounds at Roland Garros, Serena Williams finds herself facing an opponent who pushed her hard at the US Open as she takes on Tsvetana Pironkova on Wednesday.

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Pironkova un-retired after three years away from the sport to make a dazzling run to the US Open quarterfinals, where she pushed Williams to the limit. Will it be another three-set battle between them on the French clay?

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Serena vs Pironkova live

French Open matches including Serena Williams vs Tsvetana Pironkova are streamed live alongside odds and in-play betting at bet365.

1. Click here to go to bet365
2. Sign in or open an account and deposit £5 or more
3. Go to tennis > French Open Women > Williams vs Pironkova

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Williams vs Pironkova: Head-to-head

Serena Williams has an unbeaten 5-0 record against Tsvetana Pironkova, stretching back to their first meeting – and only match on clay – at the French Open in 2007, when Williams won 5-7, 6-1, 6-1.

They played most recently at the US Open when Pironkova led by a set and a break before Williams came back to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Williams vs Pironkova: Preview

This French Open so far really is déjà vu all over again for three-time champion Serena Williams, who had a first-round rematch from New York with Kristie Ahn on Monday and now faces US Open quarterfinal opponent Pironkova.

Williams beat Ahn 7-5, 6-3 at the US Open, but made it a slightly more emphatic 7-6(2), 6-0 victory over her compatriot on the clay despite trailing by a break for most of a very hard-fought first set. It took the sixth seed 74 minutes to win the first set, broken in a marathon nine-deuce third game before getting back on serve in an almost-as-long six-deuce game for 4-4; it was followed by another exchange of breaks before Williams was finally able to dominate the tie-break, and lead from there. She ended the match with 11 aces, 26 winners and 36 unforced errors.

Given the way Williams’s US Open campaign ended – fading physically and struggling with an Achilles injury which saw her withdraw from the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, meaning she comes into the French Open with no clay-court matches – and the very unusual conditions prevailing at Roland Garros this year, it was a very solid start to her campaign. But Pironkova will be a much bigger challenge. Where Ahn hits hard from the baseline, Pironkova adds to her very classic backhand a slice forehand which played havoc with Williams’s footwork and ground game at the US Open, and a nice line in drop shots and net play.

Tsvetana Pironkova (Photo by Xinhua/Sipa USA)

We have tended to think of the Bulgarian as a grass-court specialist – she was a semifinalist at Wimbledon in 2010 and a quarterfinalist in 2011 – but she also made the quarterfinals of the French Open in 2016, another year when conditions were cold and wet in Paris, and she has a 133-102 record on clay.

But then, Pironkova kind of threw conventional wisdom to the wind when she came back at the US Open and made her first hard-court Grand Slam quarterfinal there despite having not played since Wimbledon 2017. The level of tennis she produced to beat Garbine Muguruza in the second round was dazzling and although she faded physically, which was predictable, it was not until after she had really outplayed Williams completely in the first set in New York.

If Williams wants to win this title, she needs short matches, but in this one, survival might be the name of the game. In theory these conditions should favour the American, who can power the ball through the slow courts, but then Pironkova played so well in similar conditions in 2016. Williams can’t rely on the Bulgarian fading physically this time; she needs to impose herself on the match from the beginning. I think we could be looking at another lengthy match.

Williams vs Pironkova: Prediction

Serena Williams targets the fourteenth US Open semifinal of her extraordinary career as she takes on Tsvetana Pironkova, a woman who is having a remarkable tournament herself.

Serena vs Pironkova is live from New York on Wednesday 9 September, 12pm local/5pm BST

After tough tests against Sloane Stephens and Maria Sakkari, both of whom pushed Serena Williams to a third set, is the six-time US Open champion vulnerable or simply being battle-hardened by each challenge she sees off?

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Williams has not lost a US Open quarterfinal since 2007, and she has never lost to Tsvetana Pironkova. The Bulgarian lost all four previous matches against Williams, but her run this fortnight, in her first tournament after retiring in 2017 to have a child, proves that nothing is impossible.

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

How to watch Serena vs Pironkova live

US Open matches including Serena Williams vs Tsvetana Pironkova are streamed live alongside odds and in-play betting at bet365.

1. Click here to go to bet365
2. Sign in or open an account and deposit £5 or more
3. Go to tennis > US Open Women > Serena vs Pironkova

*Geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify

Serena vs Pironkova: Head-to-head

Serena Williams has won all four of her previous matches against Tsvetana Pironkova. Pironkova took sets on grass and clay, but their two most recent matches, which were also their two hard-court matches, saw Williams win all four sets: 6-2, 6-3, 7-5, 6-3.

They last played in Cincinnati in 2015.

Serena vs Pironkova: Preview

Serena Williams has been tested on her way to the quarterfinals, having to rally from a set down against Sloane Stephens before surviving a rematch with Maria Sakkari, who beat her in ‘Cincinnati’ less than two weeks ago.

Sakkari played very well, finding her most attacking tennis against Williams: Undeterred by letting three break points in a row slip past in the first set, or two in the second set, she clinched it in a tie-break and actually led 2-0 against a Serena who was, if not reeling, struggling to find her range on her forehand and a way through Sakkari.

Does battling her way through without being able to consistently find her best tennis bode well for Williams’s chances, or mean that she’s vulnerable? Time will tell, but I incline to the latter. Ultimately, she found her biggest shots when they mattered most against Sakkari, and as importantly, she didn’t appear to be physically struggling through the 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-3 victory, unlike in ‘Cincinnati’ when she cramped in the third set.

Tsvetana Pironkova is 0-4 vs Serena Williams (PA Images)

Williams might have the physical advantage over Pironkova in the quarterfinals, because the Bulgarian definitely looked to be struggling against Alize Cornet. In fact, both women seemed to be struggling physically in a match which nevertheless contained many, many marathon rallies and lasted two hours and 53 minutes, although it would not have had Pironkova been able to serve it out when she had the opportunity in the second set. It was a tremendously watchable match, but it did leave me with the impression that Pironkova, as well as she played and has been playing, is beginning to feel the physical strain of so many matches after so long out of competition.

Apart from that factor, how do these two match up? Williams has won all their matches, and all of their sets on hard courts, although they haven’t met since 2015. Pironkova has a vicious slice forehand which has been most effective on these courts, and can be a good tactic against Williams, as well as a gorgeous backhand, but she’s much, much more about craft than power. Unless she produces a once-in-a-lifetime serving performance, Williams should be able to break her serve without too much trouble and I see a fairly dominant straight-sets win for the American to end the Bulgarian’s memorable run.

Serena vs Pironkova: Prediction