Tennis: Surprise finalists Agnieszka Radwanska and Petra Kvitova in WTA Finals Singapore

Petra Kvitova, the 2011 WTA Finals champion, shrieking with joy after beating Maria Sharapova.
Petra Kvitova, the 2011 WTA Finals champion, shrieking with joy after beating Maria Sharapova. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Agnieszka Radwanska, with a strapped right thigh, receiving treatment during her win over Garbine Muguruza.
Agnieszka Radwanska, with a strapped right thigh, receiving treatment during her win over Garbine Muguruza.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Radwanska, Kvitova upset favourites in semis after enduring tough times in run-up to Finals

Both players featuring in the last match of the tour's season finale have pined all week for the final prize of the year. But in truth, neither expected to make it this far.

On one end: the clever, crafty and creative Agnieszka Radwanska who, despite nicknames like ninja, magician and la profesora - Spanish for "the teacher" - has found herself depleted of both spark and spunk for much of the season.

Across the net: Czech Petra Kvitova, who packs a powerful punch in her flat ground strokes but has spent the last few months crippled by energy-sapping mononucleosis. After notching just one win in the round-robin stage, her first reaction upon getting a spot in the semi-finals was simply a tweet that read "Omg".

Radwanska, in earning a first final in seven tries, is the first Pole to make this stage of this event.

But after her 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 7-5 win over Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, it was not the completion of this milestone that led to a rare show of emotion as she teared on court, but simply relief and reassurance that she has done what she knew all along she was capable of.

Truth be told, if not for two titles picked up on the Asian swing, Radwanska might not have made it to Singapore at all.

"I was already almost home after those first two matches," the world No. 6 said, referring to her two losses in the round-robin stage. "I didn't really expect to be in the semi-finals... and now it's the final. A lot of emotion during that match.

"The first couple months (after a first-round loss at Roland Garros) were really tough, and definitely didn't expect to be sitting right here now before the final," she added.

World No. 5 Kvitova, on the other hand, has lived for months on a string of mediocre results and dependent on blood test readings.

I'M THE UNDERDOG

Doesn't really matter who I'm going to face. Really I have nothing to lose.

AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA on her opponent

But the only figures that mattered yesterday were the ones on the scoreboard, after her 6-3, 7-6(7-3) win over Maria Sharapova.

Perhaps more impressive than the straight-sets victory was how Kvitova, down 1-5 in the second set, fought back and reeled off the next five games to force the tie-break.

Said the 2011 champion: "I just think every match that I'm playing here is getting better. That's a good sign. I couldn't really believe that I (was) going to play in the semi-final, now I'm in the final."

Surprises aside, the clash between Radwanska and Kvitova this evening will hardly be between two reluctant warriors.

If anything, in going against the script yesterday to take out the two tournament favourites - and only ones to have been unbeaten in the round-robin stage - both have shown they deserve to be the last two standing.

Numbers will suggest that Radwanska, not for the first time this tournament, will again look like a lamb to the slaughter with a 2-6 head-to-head against Kvitova. Interestingly, four of those meetings have come at this event, with both players splitting the spoils.

But Radwanska said: "I just hope I can play the same great tennis I was playing today."

Should she keep her end of the bargain, it would likely mean a long-drawn battle awaits Kvitova today. But the two-time Wimbledon champion, relaxed and humorous post-match, will at least be in a comfortable place.

She said: "I don't really like the beginning of the tournaments for sure. Finally I see the final line, so that's good.

"Both of us will leave everything out there tomorrow... It's going to be last match here, and I will do everything to win that battle."

SINGLES FINAL

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 01, 2015, with the headline 'A final that few expected'. Print Edition | Subscribe