With the Olympics on the horizon, the second edition of the Baku Cup sees a relatively weak field, giving some of the lesser known players an opportunity to challenge for a WTA title. Vera Zvonareva lifted the trophy last year, but does not return to defend her title.
The strong favourite is the Russian, Ksenia Pervak, who lost to Zvonareva in the final of this tournament last year (5/2 Ksenia Pervak to win WTA Baku). The former Australian Open junior champion won her first senior title late last year in Tashkent and will fancy her chances of at least making the final in Baku. She plays the American, Julia Cohen, in the first round in what should be a straight-forward start to her challenge.
Second seed, Alexandra Panova, is having her best season of her career so far. She reached her first career final in Bogota earlier this year and has improved her ranking by almost eighty places. The weak field in Baku this week will give her hope of pushing on and hopefully winning her first career title (7/1 Alexandra Panova to win WTA Baku).
Amongst the other Russian hopefuls, Nina Bratchikova and Alla Kudryavtseva will be hoping to rediscover some form. Bratchikova started the year in great form, reaching the third round of the Australian Open, but has struggled since that run (25/1 Nina Bratchikova to win WTA Baku). Kudryavtseva has also struggled this year, having only passed the first round once.
The older generation are represented here by 35-year old Tamarine Tanasugarn and 32-year old Alberta Brianti. Brianti’s best results have tended to come on the clay, but the former world number 55 is perfectly capable of being a danger on any surface (16/1 Alberta Brianti to win WTA Baku). Tanasugarn has won two titles on hard courts in her long career, the most recent coming in late 2010, where she lifted the trophy in Tokyo.
However, if you fancy the youngsters, Bojana Jovanovski and Caroline Garcia could be the ones to watch.Jovanovski burst onto the scene two years ago, breaking into the top-100 at the age of 18. She has struggled to push on since then, but this could be her chance (10/1 Bojana Jovanovski to win WTA Baku). 18-year old Caroline Garcia is a precociously talented player, having already won main draw matches at both the Australian and the French Open. While this tournament could still be a little too far for her at this stage, she is certainly worth watching.