The climax of the WTA Tournament of Champions in Sofia this weekend could well witness Russia’s dominant double-act face each other at opposite sides of the net after the pair both won their opening games on Wednesday afternoon.
Fresh of their WTA Championships doubles triumph last week, Russian number two Nadia Petrova and number three Maria Kirilenko took to the Sofia court on Wednesday to battle out their singles aspirations for the end-of-season tournament title, and both won with impressive results.
Petrova, top seed in the Group Sredets, looked tired at times but came through her match with sixth-seed Zheng Jie 6-3 6-3. She was right to appear slightly jaded after winning the doubles event in Istanbul only last Sunday and after the game spoke to the media about her game.
“The score may look a little easy, but it didn’t feel easy to me at all,” she told WTAtennis.com. “I started well but I wasn’t feeling great on my serve – I didn’t really feel in control of my game, and she broke my serve three times in the first set alone, which was disappointing.
“But I’m happy with my returning, and I’m hoping to serve better tomorrow.”
Minutes after the victory, Group Sredets second-seed Kirilenko outclassed Tsvetana Pironkova 6-1 6-4. The Russian was clinical in the first set and although 2-0 down at one stage in the second, her resilience in saving two games points to prevent a 3-0 deficit inspired her back into life. Kirilenko, playing against an unknown Pironkova, also looked slightly tired but well up for the fight.
The pair will meet in this round-robin stage on Thursday: a tie that is bound to cause some interest in Sofia. With both players expected to qualify to either side of the semi-finals, there is still a chance they will again meet in the final come Sunday.
If this were to happen, Russia will have witnessed all three of its top female tennis stars make end-of-season singles finals after Maria Sharapova reached the last day of the WTA Championships last week.
Petrova and Kirilenko’s friendship will have to be put on hold for the rest of the week and the double act, who have excelled both together and singularly this season, should put on a real spectacle should they make Sunday’s showdown.