The end of year madness that is the WTA Championships continued apace on Thursday, with yet more unfathomable results in Sofia.
Flavia Pennetta fans were delighted when the Italian delivered a bagel to Garbiñe Muguruza in the opening set of their round robin match yesterday, but that joy was short lived when the Spaniard came back with a couple of bakery products of her own in the form of two breadsticks.
Overs backers were fuming, as three sets came in at just 20 total games and surely at least part of the reason behind the calamitous scorelines must be that rancid bright pink and blue colour scheme of the playing surface.
It gives me a headache after about five minutes of trying to pick the ball out of the background and who knows what effect it has on the players; judging by the results, not very good.
At least we managed to get Alizé Cornet over the line on Thursday, as the French underdog came good against Kate Makarova, who spent most of the match appearing to stave off tears.
It was later revealed that Makarova had been suffering with a back injury and pulled out of the tournament, leaving alternate Karolina Pliskova to play today against Flavia Pennetta.
All in a days’ work on the WTA Tour and Friday’s play, which begins at 15:45 UK time, sees the last of the round robin matches take place.
It’s a tall order for Pliskova to come in and beat Pennetta with no previous matches under her belt in the strange conditions of the Arena Armeec.
The surface seems to be peculiar, with all sorts of odd bounces and nuances to get used to, and I would expect Pennetta to have a big advantage in that one, plus it’s questionable how much practice Pliskova has put in here.
That’s the 19:00 UK time match and the opener at 15:45 sees Carla Suarez Navarro at a very short-looking 1.30 to heap more misery upon poor Tsvetana Pironkova.
CSN needs a 2-0 win to qualify and that’s a 1.75 shot and fairly likely given that she’s won all three priors against Pironkova and the Bulgarian has lost her last eight matches at this tournament.
Six of those have been in straight sets, including both this year, and the 2-0 to the Spaniard looks likely, although very short.
Alizé Cornet vs Garbiñe Muguruza
The 17:30 UK time match looks the most likely to land us a winner, with Muguruza playing the best tennis here in Sofia this week and appearing to revel in the conditions.
She recovered impressively from that bagel set one loss to Pennetta yesterday and once she found her range she eased past the Italian, who in turn handed out a drubbing to Cornet on match day one.
Cornet wasn’t exactly great against Makarova either and had the Russian’s waywardness to thank for many of the points that the French player won.
The back injury was clearly having a major impact on Makarova, who was also soundly beaten by Muguruza and perhaps it’s not surprising that the 21-year-old has looked the most eager competitor in Sofia this week.
To qualify for the semi finals Cornet must beat Muguruza and then hope that Pliskova beats Pennetta and both of those scenarios look unlikely to me and I would instead favour a fairly comfortable win for Garbi here.
Muguruza needs only a set against Cornet to make the semi finals, but she’ll want to win and Cornet is likely to fade if she loses the opener with qualification then becoming a real uphill battle.
The minus 2.5 games on Muguruza – who won the only prior career meeting between this pair – looks the best bet here at a price of 1.81.
Best Bet: Back Muguruza –2.5 games to beat Cornet at 1.81