By Ros Satar, in Singapore
- Svetlana Kuznetsova  def. Karolina Pliskova  3-6 6-2 7-6(6)
- Agnieszka Radwanska  def. Garbiñe Muguruza  7-6(1) 6-3
SINGAPORE – Svetlana Kuznetsova kept making the headlines after she fought back to halt Karolina Pliskova, while defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska gave herself a fighting chance to advance.
Svetlana Kuznetsova  def. K Pliskova  3-6 6-2 7-6(6)
Adrenalin, experience and form, and just all round longevity on the tour could not rescue Kuznetsova for dropping her second Round Robin match at the WTA Finals.
The adrenalin of claiming that last gasp spot in Singapore, and the need to hit the ground running on the second day probably carried the Russian through a long match against defending champion Radwanska, but into the middle of the group stages was a different matter.
At the start it was looking like one-way traffic as Pliskova quickly jumped out to a 3-1 lead, but a lapse in her concentration saw Kuznetsova get herself back on terms – even out-acing the big-serving Czech in their early exchanges.
But a quick pep-talk with her coach once Kuznetsova had broken back swiftly put Pliskova back on a focussed path as she wrapped up the first set in a little over half an hour.
Yet as we have come to expect in Singapore, the tide can turn on a sixpence, as it was Kuznetsova who roared ahead after dropping the first game, breaking Pliskova back straight away and then twice more to take it into a decider.
Though fatigue must be a factor by now, you would never think it looking at how Kuznetsova started to move around the court. Pliskova, so often impassive on court, started to unravel just a little with being frustrated at every turn.
Just as it was looking as though Pliskova was about to do one of her legendary match-flips, breaking the veteran to get things back on serve, but some delightful tennis put Kuznetsova right back in the driving seat, breaking for a chance to serve for a 2-0 lead in Round Robin matches.
There was life in the Czech yet – some weary looking shot-making put Pliskova right back in it on serve once more and pushing towards a clinching tie-break.
With Kuznetsova striding out in the lead, there was time for just one more twist, with Pliskova rallying once more to pull up to 6-6 before giving away her mini-break, with Kuznetsova sinking to her knees in triumph as Kuznetsova sealed it with a backhand winner.
Pliskova had to admit that her main weapon, her serve had let her down, certainly in the latter stages of the match after Kuznetsova’s slower start.
She said: “I was just not putting first serve in at all. Not even — I was trying just to put it there somehow. So, I mean, everything through the second serve which was the biggest mistake. She was pushing me, and then in the important moments she played a little bit better than me. She put more first serves in than me, so that was the key of the match.”
She mentioned that she was feeling her shoulder a little – perhaps an ominous sign as she has also qualified for the Doubles with partner Julia Goerges.
She continued: “Definitely here it’s important every game, every set. A little bit disappointed to end this way, but definitely going to just try to take positive from this match and just move forward.
“I have doubles tomorrow and then obviously last match in the group. I’ll just do anything what I can to be ready for those two.”
Kuznetsova (looking understandably a little weary) tried to pinpoint what has kept her going so far.
“I play with my heart. I always did. It’s not like I just remind I have a heart right now and before I just left it home. It’s not like that. (Laughing). But some things just start to work now, start to get together. Maybe I start to believe a little bit more than before.
“I see clearly other things, you know. Some things get together and you get confidence. I see opponents fear me more than before because I win matches, I fight, and I’ll be there. Doesn’t matter if I play like crap and I’m sore, I will just be there.”
A Radwanska  def. Garbiñe Muguruza  7-6(1) 6-3
It was a must-win for both with very different paths both last year and this year. Radwanska was on the wrong end of a battle with the resurgent Kuznetsova while Muguruza lost a golden opportunity to put a dent in Karolina Pliskova’s debut after the Czech rallied to beat her in three sets.
The slowness of the court was always going to be a problem for the Spaniard. It caused her issues when she faced Radwanska in the semi-finals last year, having been dominant in the Round Robin stages, and this match was no exception.
Time and again she was burned by a drop-shot and lob combination that frustrated her more and more as the pair trade six breaks back and forth during the first set before the Pole ran away with the tie-break.
It looked briefly as though Muguruza was going to strike out in the second set, breaking Radwanska at the start, but she lost touch at the tail end of the set, with Radwanska breaking twice to grab her first win, and sending Muguruza out of contention for the semi-finals.
Understandably dejected, she explained: “I think we was just playing pretty good the match, but she got the victory, so I don’t really know what to take. I think I could play a little bit better the important moments, but she was coming with amazing shots, amazing drop-shots. It was kind of difficult for me.
“I think court suits her very well. I think it’s just a tough opponent. Everyone is a tough opponent. Aga here, like I played last year, I felt like especially her was difficult.”
The relief was palpable for Radwanska, who had the benefit of watching how the rest of the Round Robin matches had unfolded for the two groups.
She explained: “I’m just very glad that I could win that match in two sets. I think I was playing solid tennis. I think right shots in important moments. Well, that was a very close one, but I’m just very, very happy that I could win that one.
“When you can see other matches also similar or even worse, then you just telling yourself you’re not the only one. So it’s helping. Of course we can see very tight, long matches here and a lot of up and downs, a lot of match point there and there.
“But of course it’s never easy, especially that you know that you could win. Here that is very important. But as we know after first match it’s never over. Just keep going.”
The Doubles kicks off the days action before the last of the Round Robin matches for the Red Group, starting at 4pm (9am BST).
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