SINGAPORE - Even though she is the last player to qualify and arrive at the WTA Finals Singapore, Svetlana Kuznetsova has become the first player to book her spot in the semi-finals on Wednesday (Oct 26)
The Russian advances into the last four of the season-ending tournament for the first time in seven appearances. At 31, she is the oldest player in the eight-player singles field, and qualified for the event after winning the Kremlin Cup in Moscow last Saturday (Oct 22), just a day before the tournament began.
In her second round-robin group match at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Wednesday, Kuznetsova beat Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (8-6).
And her passage to the semi-finals was sealed just before midnight, after defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland beat last year's semi-finalist Garbine Muguruza 7-6 (7-1), 6-3 in the second White Group match.
Kuznetsova's victory also puts her one match shy of 600 career wins, a milestone that has been reached by just four active players (Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Jelena Jankovic and Maria Sharapova).
The resurgent Russian, a two-time Grand Slam winner who is appearing in her first WTA Finals since 2009, needed four match points to close out a tight contest between two players who each had to come from behind in the third set - even saving a match point - to win their opening group matches on Monday (Oct 24).
When the match went down to the wire on a tie-break, the odds favoured Kuznetsova, who has a WTA Tour-leading 21 three-set match wins of this season.
And she found a way to defuse Pliskova's powerful serve, allowing the Czech to hit only three aces past her throughout the 2hr 17min encounter. Pliskova, 24, has struck a WTA Tour-leading 525 aces this season, more than 200 more than second-placed Serena Williams (324).
Kuznetsova looked on course to register her 45th victory of this year when she raced out to a 4-1 lead in the third set. But just like how Pliskova clawed back from 0-4 down in the third set against Muguruza on Monday, the Czech roared back and broke Kuznetsova to serve for the match at 6-5.
The match took another late twist as Kuznetsova broke a nervous Pliskova to force a tie-break, which she eventually won 8-6.
The winner of the match between Radwanska or Pliskova on Friday will join Kuznetsova in the semi-finals. Muguruza, the French Open champion, cannot progress to the last four.