With three players already having booked their places in the semi-finals of the season-ending WTA Finals, it was a winner-takes-all battle for the final spot when the defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska took on the US Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova in the last round-robin match at Singapore on Friday. The second-seeded Pole raised her level whenever she was expected to and ran away a 7-5, 6-3 winner over the fourth seed – her seventh consecutive win over the Czech.
Radwanska will now meet the top seed and World No. 1 Angelique Kerber in the semis while Svetlana Kuznetsova will face Dominika Cibulkova for a place in the final.
Friday’s other singles match featured the two-time Major winner Kuznetsova and the reigning French Open champion Garbine Muguruza. With two back-to-back losses, the Spaniard was already out of contention but she did put in her very best effort and emerged victorious, 3-6, 6-0, 6-1 over the Russian.
Radwanska passes a test
Pliskova had never beaten Radwanska in six previous meetings. In fact, she never even managed to take a set off the Pole.
Suffice to say, the defending champion was the heavy favourite coming into this match. Despite that, the lanky Czech did show some resistance and succeeded in breaking the Radwanska serve thrice. But each time, she got ahead, she undid her good work with a host of unforced errors.
Even though Pliskova is renowned for her serve, Radwanska was the more consistent and steadier of the two on serve and secured 74% of her first serve points. A calm head kept the Pole in the hunt in spite of the fact that it was the Czech who had the early lead of 4-2 in the first set.
Pliskova made one last-ditch effort when she broke back the Pole in the second set to level matters at 3-3. But she lost the next three games to concede the set as well as the match to Radwanska in 1 hour 18 minutes.
Consolation win for Muguruza
After suffering heartbreak in her earlier two group matches against Radwanska and Pliskova, last year’s semi-finalist Muguruza needed to come up with something special in her final round robin match against Kuznetsova. The pressure of qualifying was not there anymore as the French Open champion was already out and that helped the Spaniard to play freely, exhibiting the attacking tennis that she is known for.
It didn’t happen easily for Muguruza, though. She had to lose the first set following which she finally settled into the groove to blaze through the next two sets. She broke the Russian a total of six times in the last two sets, bringing to an end Kuznetsova’s six-match winning streak and clinched the win in 1 hour 34 minutes.
She admitted after the match that it was her desire and willingness to compete with the very best that helped her to turn the match around.
“At the end, it was about my desire of wanting to be here and competing against the best. It became a challenge for me today to see how I was going to react. I’m very happy of the way I played today, the way I handled the match,” the 23-year-old said.
Team Santina starts on a winning note
Three-time Grand Slam winning team of Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis joined forces after a brief split for the defence of their WTA Finals crown. And it was no less than a victory for the duo, who once used to dominate every tournament.
The second seeds emerged a 7-6(10), 7-5 winner over the Chinese Taipei pair of Hao-Ching Chan and Yung-Jan Chan in 1 hour 54 minutes to set up a semi-final clash with the Olympic champions Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina.
The Russians beat the Czech team of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, 6-2, 7-5 in the day’s other doubles match.