The WTA Tour 2013 finishes this week with the Garanti Koza WTA Tournament of Champions in Sofia, Bulgaria.
This glorified exhibition has been cobbled together by the WTA to eek out some more end of season money from TV rights, ticket sales, sponsorship, etc by lumping together some of the world’s top-30 or so players and branding it as tournament of ‘champions’.
The qualifying criteria for this event is to have won an International level event this season – apart from Tsvetana Pironkova, who hasn’t won a tour level title ever, but crucially, is Bulgarian and Ana Ivanovic, who’s here because she’s pretty, sells tickets and looks good on TV. She hasn't won a title since 2011, but let's not worry about that.
The format is the same as the WTA Championships (and the overall goal is the same) whereby the eight players are divided into two groups of four and each player has three round robin matches, with the four winners and runners up going forward to the semi finals.
The "Serdika" group contains Simona Halep, Maria Kirilenko, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Alize Cornet, while the "Sredets"group has Ivanovic, Samantha Stosur, Elena Vesnina and Pironkova competing.
Tuesday’s play begins at 3pm UK time with three round robin matches and the event is played on a fairly lively PlayFlex indoor hard court, which at least is in stark contrast to the sandpaper court in Istanbul.
Ana Ivanovic vs Tsvetana Pironkova (BET and WATCH LIVE on Unibet TV from 15.05 GMT)
The opening match sees Ivanovic taking on Pironkova and the Serbian looks very short at 1.10 against the Bulgarian, who did make the semi finals here last year event though she lost two of her three matches.
Pironkova has no form at all to speak of away from her beloved grass, but the speed of the court may well suit her game and she will have the crowd support today. In a meaningless match it might make some difference.
In last year’s tournament here though there were only two underdog winners from the 12 round robin matches and the value here perhaps lies with Pironkova to take a set at 2.85
Maria Kirilenko vs Alize Cornet (BET and WATCH LIVE on Unibet TV from 17.05 GMT)
It’s worth siding with the underdog in this match, with Cornet holding a 3-0 head-to-head advantage over the Russian, who has been in very mediocre form in the latter part of this campaign.
Kirilenko has been struggling with injury for quite a while and she hasn’t made it to the quarter finals of any tournament since before Wimbledon, while Cornet has had a good season and has risen to number 27 in the world after ending last year at 44.
The surface may prove to be too pacy for Cornet overall, but against a Kirilenko lacking in form and confidence she has to be the bet at 2.30
Simona Halep vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (BET and WATCH LIVE on Unibet TV from 18.05 GMT)
The Romanian has been playing some superb tennis this season and I’m surprised with her heavy schedule that she’s been able to continue that form right up until the end of the year.
Halep has won five titles this year after coming into the season with none and she’s risen up to number 14 in the world after ending last year at number 47 and there’s no doubt that apart from Serena Williams she’s the player of the year.
She didn’t drop a single set in winning Moscow on much slower indoor hard two weeks ago and during that run she chalked up her third straight victory over A-Pavs by a dominant scoreline of 6-2, 6-1.
Simona seems to be effective on all surfaces these days and it’s tough to see Pavs turning this one around, but she should be determined and may make a better fist of things than in Moscow.
It’s hard to back against Halep though and especially with someone as inconsistent as the Russian and the 2-0 Halep at 1.85 looks the wager here.
Back Cornet to beat Kirilenko at 2.30