First on court on Monday on the first day of play at the Qatar Airways Tournament of Champions taking place this week in Sofia, Bulgaria, were Italian Roberta Vinci, seeded 4th and ranked at 16; and Daniela Hantuchova, seeded 7th and ranked at 32. Vinci has had a stellar season in both singles and doubles, including winning the singles title at Dallas and reaching the quarters at the US Open in August/September, while Hantuchova’s only shout was winning Pattaya City in February coupled with a string of first round losses. Monday’s match continued this trend, as Vinci took her out easily in just over an hour with a 6-1 6-2 scoreline.
The second match was between Jie Zheng of China, seeded 6th and ranked at a career high 29; and Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova, seeded 8th and ranked at 44. Zheng won Auckland in January but was mostly unsuccessful for the remainder of the season, while home hopeful Pironkova also clocked up a swathe of first round losses before reaching the 4th round at the US Open. This match was far more of a battle, as Zheng took the first set 6-2 before Pironkova raised her game to take the second 6-4 and take a 2-0 lead in the decider. She did not let go of her lead until Zheng managed to get two breaks to level at 5-5. The Chinese player then held for 6-5, forcing the Bulgarian to serve to stay in the match and force a tie breaker, a fitting end to such an exciting tussle, which Pironkova won 7-4 to take game, set and match. End result: 2-6 6-4 7-6 (4).