Originally written on Tennis Panorama  |  Last updated 11/18/14

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 26: Maria Kirilenko of Russia walks to her chair between games in her quarterfinal match against Jie Zheng of China during day nine of the 2010 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 26, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Maria Kirilenko

This week tournament organizers  of the Tournament of Champions Sofia announced that Russian’s Maria Kirilenko would receive the second available wild card into the eight-woman contest, joining home-grown favorite Tsvetana Pironkova, who enjoys one of the highest profiles of any Bulgarian athlete and whose wild card was allocated earlier in the year.

 

Five-time WTA singles titlist Kirilenko, 25, has enjoyed a career season, reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and winning a bronze medal in doubles at the London Olympics with fellow Russian Nadia Petrova. After finishing runner-up at New Haven in August, Kirilenko moved to a new career high ranking of No.12 and is currently at No.15.

 

“I am really looking forward to playing at the Tournament of Champions in Sofia, and seeing my fans there,” said Kirilenko. “It will be my first visit but I’ve heard great things about the city. I would like to thank BTF President Stefan Tzvetkov for this opportunity to compete – it will be a great way to end the season.”

 

For her part Pironkova, who became the first Bulgarian to reach the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2010, and made the quarters at the All England Club in 2011, will be bidding for her first WTA title in Sofia. This year the 25-year-old has reached three quarterfinals, also posting a strong run to the round of 16 at the US Open – her best result at a Grand Slam away from Wimbledon’s lawns.

 

“I am very proud to have this chance to play at such a prestigious event in front of my home fans,” said Pironkova, who has spent most of the season ranked inside the Top 50. “This is why I play tennis – to compete and give my best on the big stages. I am also looking forward to welcoming some of my WTA colleagues and friends to Bulgaria. I’m sure we will put on a great show!”

Qatar Airways has become the title sponsor for the  Tournament of Champions, to be held at Arena Armeec in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia from October 30–November 4, 2012. Under the terms of the one-year deal, the event will officially be known as the Qatar Airways Tournament of Champions Sofia.

 

“We are thrilled that Qatar Airways has signed up as title sponsor of the Tournament of Champions,” said WTA Chairman & CEO Stacey Allaster. “Qatar Airways is a truly world class airline with a wonderful history of support for professional tennis, including the Qatar Ladies Open, our WTA Premier event in Doha. I congratulate the Bulgarian Tennis Federation for securing such a premium partner for the first staging of this event in Sofia.”

Offering total prize money of $750,000, the Qatar Airways Tournament of Champions is the final event on the 2012 WTA calendar. The tournament brings together the six highest-ranked winners of International series events through the year (not including those who qualify for the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Istanbul), plus two wildcards, initially split into two groups for a round robin competition feeding into the semifinals and final. The complete starting line-up will not be announced until after the final International tournament of the year, the BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open (October 15-21). Sofia is set to host the tournament from 2012-2014 after three years in Bali, where the title was won by Aravane Rezai (2009) and Ana Ivanovic (2010 and 2011).

 

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