WTA Finals 2016

Tennis: Champion to face top seed in WTA Finals semis

Garbine Muguruza waves to the crowd after beating Svetlana Kuznetsova 3-6, 6-0, 6-1 in her final round-robin match. A semi-finalist last year, the Spaniard is out of this year's competition after two earlier defeats.
Garbine Muguruza waves to the crowd after beating Svetlana Kuznetsova 3-6, 6-0, 6-1 in her final round-robin match. A semi-finalist last year, the Spaniard is out of this year's competition after two earlier defeats.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Radwanska blunts Pliskova's power to set up clash with world No. 1 Kerber in semi-finals

At 6-5 in the first set of the last round-robin match of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global yesterday, a Polish flag was brandished at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, shortly after a Czech flag was raised by fans on the opposite end.

It was a fitting representation of the see-saw match between the Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova and Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska: Each time one of them took the lead, the other would catch up - until Radwanska pulled ahead in both sets to win 7-5, 6-3.

The Pole's win earned her the last semi-final spot of the US$7 million (S$9.75 million) event, where she will face world No. 1 Angelique Kerber today in a bid to retain her title.

"I knew I just had to play my best tennis against her ... I was prepared for her to serve well, and that's what she did," said Radwanska, who hit just eight unforced errors to Pliskova's 29. "Some of the games I was just pretty much watching her serve."

Big-serving Pliskova, who hit six aces yesterday, broke the world No. 3 first to lead 3-2. However, three straight unforced errors and a Radwanska backhand winner down the line allowed the defending champion to tie the score at 4-4.

Although the world No. 5's deep groundstrokes kept Radwanska running from corner to corner, the Pole's steady retrieving and consistent hitting kept her in front.

  • STATS OF THE DAY

    10
    Longest game-winning streak yesterday (Garbine Muguruza)

    530
    Aces Karolina Pliskova had hit this year (Serena Williams has 324)

    399
    Minutes (6hr 39min) in total Svetlana Kuznetsova spent on court in three matches, the most among the eight players at the WTA Finals. Madison Keys spent the least amount of time on court (3hr 15min).

Blasting a forehand winner down the line off Pliskova's serve, Radwanska broke the Czech again to take the first set 7-5.

In the next set, both players exchanged breaks of serve until 3-3, when Radwanska pulled ahead of her error-prone rival to seal the match.

The win extended Radwanska's head-to-head over Pliskova to 7-0, and the Czech said: "She always beats me, so I had to believe that she can miss in the close moments - but she didn't. I think she just controlled the whole match."

Radwanska is in second position in the White Group, behind Svetlana Kuznetsova, who qualified on Wednesday.

The latter lost 6-3, 0-6, 1-6 to last year's semi-finalist Garbine Muguruza in yesterday's earlier match.

The Spaniard, who has moved to No. 7 in the rankings, said: "It was tough because you're coming from two matches that you felt you had your chance but lost.

"At the end, I'm playing to secure my ranking spot and win against these opponents. It's an important match, because she's playing amazing and it's a good way for me to see where I am."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2016, with the headline 'Champion to face top seed'. Print Edition | Subscribe