Tennis: Kremlin Cup finalist Belinda Bencic books last slot for inaugural WTA Finals in Shenzhen

Belinda Bencic of Switzerland in action during her quarter-final match against Kristina Mladenovic of France at the Kremlin Cup tennis tournament in Moscow, Russia, on Oct 19, 2019.
Belinda Bencic of Switzerland in action during her quarter-final match against Kristina Mladenovic of France at the Kremlin Cup tennis tournament in Moscow, Russia, on Oct 19, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MOSCOW (AFP) - World No. 10 Belinda Bencic booked her place at the season-ending WTA Finals in Shenzhen with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Kristina Mladenovic in the Kremlin Cup semi-finals on Saturday (Oct 19).

The 22-year-old Swiss needed to reach the final and outperform Kiki Bertens, who lost to Mladenovic in the quarter-finals, to secure her berth in the singles in Shenzhen, which is hosting the tournament for the next 10 years after taking over from Singapore.

She duly sealed the eighth and final place at the tournament boasting a record US$14 million (S$19.1 million) prize money with a confident performance to see off the French player.

"It's a dream to be competing at the WTA Finals and to be one of the top eight," Bencic said.

"It makes it even more special that I booked my ticket at the last possible minute.

"This match had so much pressure and I was so nervous. Now I'm over the moon to win today and achieve this dream."

It is the first time that Bencic has reached the WTA Finals where she will line up against world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep, Bianca Andreescu, Naomi Osaka, Petra Kvitova and Elina Svitolina.

"All the eight players deserve to be there because it shows we had the most consistent seasons," said Bencic, who reached the semis of the US Open to climb back into the top 10 for the first time since 2015.

She also won the WTA event in Dubai and reached the final at the Mallorca Open.

Bencic will face either Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or Karolina Muchova in Sunday's final in Moscow.