• What the Deuce

Sofia a sad sojourn after Turkish delight

Jo Carter October 30, 2012
The WTA Championships in Istanbul brought down the curtain on the 2012 season © Getty Images

After what has been, in many people's eyes, the best season in women's tennis for a many a year, Serena Williams ended 2012 as the world's best player in all but ranking.

Williams defeated Maria Sharapova 6-4 6-3 to claim the WTA Championships crown for a third time to add to the two grand slam titles and Olympic gold medal she won earlier this summer.

The return to form of Williams and Sharapova, combined with a breakthrough season for world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka has made for an intriguing season on the women's tour.

But after the glitz and glamour of the WTA Championships in Istanbul, comes the deceptively grandiose Tournament of Champions.

No disrespect for the eight ladies in Sofia this week, but they are not the players who come to mind for what is essentially the grand finale of the WTA season.

Former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki provides a bit of much-needed glamour to the $750,000 event, but Venus Williams will not be in Bulgaria - she will be touring Nigeria and South Africa with her sister Serena.

The five other qualifiers are Roberta Vinci, Nadia Petrova, Hsieh Su-Wei, Zheng Jie and Daniela Hantuchova, while the two wildcard spots went to Maria Kirilenko and Tsvetana Pironkova - neither of whom have won a singles title this season. So how can they be playing at the so-called Tournament of Champions?

To be fair, Russia's Kirilenko has arguably enjoyed her best season to date, reaching a career high of No. 12 in the rankings earlier this year, while Pironkova will be a popular inclusion in her native Bulgaria. But as with the misleadingly-named Grand Slam of Golf, the Tournament of Champions fails to live up to its title.

It is as much about poor scheduling than anything else. After a hugely successful WTA Championships in Istanbul last week - a buzzing atmosphere in the packed Sinan Erdem Dome - with nearly $5 million in prize money up for grabs, Sofia seems like a bit of an afterthought.

The nomadic nature of the event - last year it was held in Bali, this year Sofia - it will move on again in 2015 - means the WTA can expand its global appeal.

By all means keep the event, but don't allow it to bring down the curtain on the tennis calendar - let the WTA Championships see out the season in style. And please, please, can we rename it to something more suitable? A spade's a spade, for goodness sake.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Jo Carter Close
Jo Carter is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk