SOFIA, Bulgaria - Nadia Petrova and Roberta Vinci - a pair of WTA veterans who have both made career breakthroughs this season - have qualified for the Qatar Airways Tournament Of Champions Sofia, which is in two weeks.
With the two wildcards already announced last week - Maria Kirilenko and Tsvetana Pironkova - the remaining six spots in the eight-woman tournament are reserved for the six highest-ranked players on the WTA who have captured an International-level title during the year and who aren't playing in Istanbul.
Petrova, currently ranked No.13 in the world, captured her International-level title the week before Wimbledon on the grass courts of 's-Hertogenbosch.
"It's a good achievement to make the Tournament Of Champions - it means it's another year I won a tournament, which qualified me to play in this event," Petrova commented. "I think Sofia will be a good way to finish off the year."
Petrova has enjoyed a career renaissance this year, highlighted by her 11th and 12th WTA titles at 's-Hertogenbosch and Tokyo - the Tokyo title was in fact the biggest title of her career, and she defeated three Top 10 players at the same event for the first time to win it. She also has one semifinal (Carlsbad) and two quarterfinals (Charleston and Estoril) this year and has been one of the top doubles teams with fellow Russian - and fellow Sofia participant - Kirilenko.
"I guess the hard work pays off!" the former World No.3 said. "It's been a long season with lots of things going on, but it's really nice to be playing good tennis at the end of the season and be at the stage I am right now in my career."
Vinci, who currently stands at No.15, also won her International-level title the week before a Grand Slam event - at Dallas, right before the US Open.
"Last year I went to Bali and it was unbelievable, so I am happy to qualify for Sofia this year," Vinci said. "I don't remember ever being to Bulgaria, so I'm very excited to visit for the first time. I hope I can finish the season well."
After a 2011 season that saw her break into the Top 20 for the first time, Vinci has done even better in 2012, breaking into the Top 15 for the first time - her best moments this year came at the end of the summer during a nine-match winning streak, winning her seventh WTA title at Dallas and reaching her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the US Open. She also reached two semifinals (Acapulco and Estoril) and four more quarterfinals (Paris [Indoors], Birmingham, 's-Hertogenbosch and Montréal) and has been part of the world's No.1 doubles team this year, alongside fellow Italian and best friend Sara Errani.
"I'm so happy with my season this year - I played a really good season," Vinci said. "I'm going to do my best in Sofia, and I'm also going to do my best in doubles in Istanbul with Sara - we played an unbelievable year, with victories at Roland Garros and the US Open, so all of this is a dream right now."
Both Petrova and Vinci are making their second appearances at the Tournament Of Champions, having both played it when it was a single elimination event last year - Vinci lost in the quarterfinals, Petrova the semifinals. This year it's a round robin format feeding into the semifinals and final on the weekend.
"It used to be easier in a way with the knock-out format, but now it's guaranteed every player will play three matches, which I'm sure will mean more competition and enjoyment for the crowds," Petrova said. "I'm really looking forward to it!"
The last four spots in the eight-woman field will be known over the next week.