WTA Finals 2016

Tennis: Kuznetsova just finds way out

Agnieszka Radwanska (left) shaking hands with her conqueror Svetlana Kuznetsova after their 2hr 48min battle. The Pole rued squandering another match point in her second successive loss to the Russian.
Agnieszka Radwanska (left) shaking hands with her conqueror Svetlana Kuznetsova after their 2hr 48min battle. The Pole rued squandering another match point in her second successive loss to the Russian. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
In a match that stretched beyond midnight, Spain's Garbine Muguruza was still locked in a titanic battle with Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova at press time.
In a match that stretched beyond midnight, Spain's Garbine Muguruza was still locked in a titanic battle with Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova at press time. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Late arrival Kuznetsova digs deep against Radwanska to stretch head-to-head record

Defending WTA Finals champion Agnieszka Radwanska is nicknamed "la profesora" (the teacher) for her crafty, clever shot-making but at the Singapore Indoor Stadium yesterday, it was late qualifier Svetlana Kuznetsova who had all the answers.

Throughout the first match on day two of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, the Russian ran, retrieved and rallied her way to a 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 victory over Radwanska, even as the latter's slick drop-shots and blazing ground strokes sent her opponent scurrying all over the court.

But arriving at the right answers did not come easy for Kuznetsova - the world No. 9 screamed in frustration, slammed her racket against her thigh, and even cut her hair in an attempt to solve the Radwanska riddle over the 2hr 48min match.

Shrugging as she explained that her hair was "bothering (her) a lot" as she hit her forehand, Kuznetsova added: "I thought, 'okay, what's more important now: my hair which I can let grow, or the match?' I thought, 'okay, I have to go for it right now'.

"I was not thinking too much, though. I was just trying to get the best of me, and to take out what was bothering me."

  • KUZNETSOVA V RADWANSKA

  • Match in numbers

    6

    longest game-winning streak, by Radwanska

    3.38

    Total distance run by each player, in kilometres

    26

    Strokes in match's longest rally, won by Radwanska

Kuznetsova had only confirmed her place here after winning the Kremlin Cup in Moscow on Saturday - just a day before the start of the season-ending tournament.

But there was no sign of fatigue from the 31-year-old yesterday, as she rallied to overcome a three- game deficit and take the set 7-5.

Aggressive play from Radwanska in the second set saw the Pole consolidate her two breaks of serve to win the set and force a decider.

  • TODAY’S ORDER OF PLAY

  • 7.30pm

    Angelique Kerber (Ger) vs Simona Halep (Rou)

    Followed by

    Madison Keys (USA) vs Dominika Cibulkova (Svk)

They both struggled to hold serve in the third set, exchanging breaks of serve as they took turns sending each other across the court.

Yesterday's loss meant Radwanska's head-to-head record against Kuznetsova now stands 4-13, and she still has no answers.

Said a subdued Radwanska: "Sveta is one of the players who can do everything on court - she's very solid, very consistent and a very tricky player.

"But at the end of the day, everything is still open. It's just the first day, so we'll see what's going to happen."

Still, the world No. 3 admitted the match was "very disappointing".

She added: "Especially as I had a chance in the first and the third set, then just slipped away.

Radwanska had been up a break in the first set and held match point, only for Kuznetsova to claw her way to victory.

It is the second time in two meetings that Kuznetsova, making her first WTA Finals appearance since 2009, has saved match point en route to victory against the Pole.

She had performed a similar feat at the quarter-finals of last month's Wuhan Open to defeat Radwanska 1-6, 7-6 (11-9), 6-4.

But asked her thoughts on her performance, Kuznetsova only had one answer: "I don't know."

Repeating the statement four times, she added: "I know that I won the last two matches in the last month against Aga while down match point at both matches, so it's very hard to say.

"I'm just trying my best when I play her; she's really tough. She's No. 3 in the world... I mean, we always have tough matches but I guess somebody has to win and I've won more times."

It was the only time last night that she did not have the answer.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2016, with the headline 'She just finds way out'. Print Edition | Subscribe