Moscow title gives Kuznetsova the last WTA Finals berth

Winning the Kremlin Cup gave Svetlana Kuznetsova a 95-point advantage over Johanna Konta for the final spot at the WTA Finals.
Winning the Kremlin Cup gave Svetlana Kuznetsova a 95-point advantage over Johanna Konta for the final spot at the WTA Finals.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

MOSCOW • Svetlana Kuznetsova raced to a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Australian Daria Gavrilova to defend her Kremlin Cup title in Moscow yesterday and secure the eighth and final spot at the season-ending WTA Finals.

The Russian was broken in her first service game to fall 2-0 behind but the 31-year-old broke back immediately to claim the first of 10 straight games as she roared to victory in 73 minutes against the world No. 37.

The 22-year-old Moscow-born Gavrilova, who knocked out 2014 champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the quarter-finals, was seeking her first WTA title. Kuznetsova already had won 16.

Kuznetsova had to win to qualify for the WTA Finals and her victory represents heartbreak for Johanna Konta.

The fast-rising British player held the final spot for the Singapore event but will now drop down to first alternate even after taking part in the glitzy draw ceremony on Friday.

Konta narrowly missed becoming the first British woman since Virginia Wade in 1980 to qualify for the season-ending finale under the eight-woman format.

Jo Durie made it in 1984 when it was open to the season's top 16 players.

Wearing a smart black and white dress, Konta sat in the front row of the audience for the draw ceremony alongside Steve Simon, the WTA chief executive, but protocol denied her the opportunity of taking the stage with the seven qualifiers.

"I was trying not to think about Singapore all week," said Kuznetsova.

"I was playing match by match and I'm so happy to win."

The ninth-ranked Kuznetsova, who has two Grand Slam titles,will board a flight to Singapore bruised but buoyed after a hectic week that has brought four wins in as many days and 470 ranking points, enough to edge Konta out of the frame by a 95-point margin.

She will play her first round robin match in the White Group against defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska at the Singapore Indoor Stadium tomorrow.

Czech Karolina Pliskova and Spanish French Open champion Garbine Muguruza are the other two players in the group.

Kuznetsova will be making her sixth appearance at the year-ending tournament and will be looking to advance from the round-robin stage for the first time.

Despite the disappointment of missing out on qualifying for the WTA Finals, Konta picked up the tour's Most Improved Player Award on Friday in recognition of her climb from 147th in the world in mid-2015 to No. 10 in the latest rankings.

The 25-year-old Briton also claimed her maiden WTA Tour title at the Stanford Classic in June.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 23, 2016, with the headline 'Moscow title gives Kuznetsova the last WTA Finals berth'. Print Edition | Subscribe