Last week, 2011 U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur was among the eight-woman field for the Garanti Koza WTA Tournament of Champions, held in Sofia, Bulgaria, Oct. 29-Nov. 3. Stosur came up just short of the title -- making it all the way to the finals before falling to Simona Halep. Here, Stosur takes us behind the scenes of the tournament.
Sofia, so good!
I arrived in Sofia a few days before matches started and had some time to explore. There are different styles of architecture, nice parks and tree-lined streets, and some interesting statues from the Communist era. One of the things I like about the city is that it’s very walkable -- and it’s easy to pop out for a morning coffee!
Before the start of the tournament, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and I visited the National Tennis Centre for a clinic with about 60 kids aged from 10 to 14. They gave us a bit of a workout! The Tournament of Champions is actually played on an indoor hard court, so it was strange to be back on clay courts at this time of year... early practice for next year’s French Open, I guess!
All glammed up
Here I am at the player party at Esterhasi restaurant with Romania’s Simona Halep, the top seed in Sofia. She’s had a great year, and has won six titles. Unfortunately, two of those were at my expense as Simona beat me in the final at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow a couple of weeks ago, and then again here. But it’s OK, she’s a nice girl and I’ll get my revenge sooner or later -- hopefully sooner!
Before the official draw ceremony on Monday, all eight of us players went to Sofia’s most famous landmark, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, for a group photo. Left to right, it’s Alize Cornet, Tsvetana Pironkova, Elena Vesnina, Maria Kirilenko, Ana Ivanovic, me, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Simona Halep. It’s always tricky knowing what to wear on these occasions but I think everyone looks great! By the end of this event we’ll have won 14 titles this year among us -- not a bad effort.
At the Arena Armeec we all had our own dressing rooms, each of them pretty much big enough to accommodate an entire team! I’m next door to Ana Ivanovic, the former No.1 who won the French Open in 2008. Here was my prediction for our match last Thursday...
...and my thoughts on the actual outcome. I beat Ana in the quarterfinals at Moscow but it just wasn’t my day on Thursday.
Relaxing at the table
The tournament organizers did a great job looking after us and I loved the fact that there was a table tennis table in the players’ lounge so I could relax while sharpening my reflexes before a big match.
It ain’t all glamour
No, I’m not living it up in a Jacuzzi here, but rather taking a much-needed ice bath after my match with local favorite Tsvetana Pironkova. The thermometer said it was a cool 14 degrees Celsius (57 degrees Fahrenheit). A necessary evil for rest and recovery, unfortunately, but I was just happy to be through to the semifinals.
Playing a late match can be lonely, but at least I didn’t have to wait in line for the gym equipment! I wish all gyms on tour could be this well equipped.
It’s always pretty quiet in the players’ lounge on finals day, so I resorted to talking with the fish!
One more to go
Arena Armeec is a huge stadium and is only a couple of years old. We tennis players are following in the footsteps of Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga, who have performed here. Here I am warming up for the final against… who else but Simona. One match to go and it’s a wrap for season 2013!
More silverware for the collection
Well, I got off to a great start but Simona got me again, and she played a great final. Luckily the tournament shipped the trophy for me, as it was a bit too big for hand luggage (not as big as the winner’s trophy though, which is almost as big as Simona!)
Although I didn’t win the Tournament of Champions I’m happy with my week in Sofia, and reaching the finals at my last three events of the season is a great springboard for next year. Now I'm heading back to Australia for a break, and in a few weeks I’ll start training again. I’ll be back soon!