SW19 Diary: Pironkova finds there is room at the top - Tennis - Sport - The Independent

SW19 Diary: Pironkova finds there is room at the top

So she can pack her bags at last. Perhaps only one person was more surprised than Venus Williams, her quarter-final victim, to see her still here yesterday. And that, charmingly, was Tsvetana Pironkova herself.

The shock semi-finalist had booked a hotel room only until last Thursday, and could not find a billet anywhere. "I was really worried," she said. "No one had rooms. Then I called the president of our tennis federation, and he called the embassy here. They were really kind, and gave us an apartment in a beautiful area – South Kensington, I think it's called."

Her adventure has evidently been big news back in Sofia. There are no grass courts in Bulgaria, and the family who put the country on the tennis map did so against all odds. Magdalena, Katerina and Manuela Meleeva became the first sisters to make the top 10 but only after their mother, Yulia, wrote to Chris Evert, who sent them some proper rackets.

The ambassador, Lyubomir Nedkov Kyuchukov, ensured that Pironkova was treated like royalty, and came to see her beat Williams. Next year, even so, she vows to book a hotel for the full fortnight.

Sisters' vow of silence

Plenty have been rendered speechless by some of the results here this year, but the players themselves are not supposed to be among them. Venus and Serena Williams will duly be fined for failing to attend a press conference after their quarter-final defeat in the ladies' doubles on Wednesday evening.

Under the terms of their participation, players are required to face the press if requested. Needless to say, plenty of scribes were eager to hear how the world looked to Venus, already dumped out of the singles. Their absence was itself instructive, of course, but it guaranteed a penalty. It can only be assumed that they reckon it a small price to pay.

Plate of emergency

A coded staff announcement here yesterday drew attention to an unspecified "incident" on the grounds – and a second one confirmed all was well. It evoked memories of a notorious episode in the early 1990s, when a sniffer dog went berserk outside a locker. Everyone was kept off the grounds until 1pm, when the source of his agitation was discovered to be a sandwich.

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