Fresh off hosting the controversial first edition of the European Games, the Azerbaijani capital of Baku is back in the sports spotlight with the fifth annual Baku Cup. At press time, Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is the clear outright favorite at +350, although the top seed needed a third-set tiebreaker to beat fellow Russian Elizaveta Kulichkova (+155) in Tuesday’s opening round.
Pavlyuchenkova’s next opponent is Ukraine’s Kateryna Bondarenko, who went into this tournament as a qualifier, but is the fourth favorite at +800 after her recent win over Venus Williams at the Istanbul Open. Bondarenko breezed into the second round at Baku with a victory over Valentyna Ivakhnenko (+375), a resident of Donetsk who switched flags from Ukraine to Russia in 2014 after the rebel takeover.
Other top Baku Cup favorites remaining in the field at press time include No. 2 seed Karin Knapp (+600) from Italy, Kirsten Flipkens (+700) from Germany, and Margarita Gasparyan (+900) from Russia. Gasparyan could be the value pick here after beating No. 3 seed Dominika Cibulkova (–175) in the opening round. Knapp might be tiring after a deep run to the finals at Bad Gastein, while Flipkens has been dealing with a knee injury.