In terms of the round-robin matches we’ve seen so far at the WTA Finals, this one was a cut above the rest. Svetlana Kuznetsova, who managed to qualify for the season-ending championships by virtue of her title in Moscow on Saturday—no other result would do—beat jet lag and world No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska in an instant classic. After two hours and 48 minutes of enthralling play from two of the tour’s top shotmakers, the Russian prevailed, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5. Kuznetsova saved a match point and needed three of her own to take down the Red Group’s top seed.
Kuznetsova left a little bit of herself out on court today. And I mean that quite literally:
Kuznetsova surprised everyone, perhaps even herself, with her strong play from the onset. But in the second set, Radwanska used her slice and all-court guile to its maximum effectiveness and appeared to be running away with the match. After falling behind a break in the third, Kuznetsova, a few strands of hair lighter, elevated her level of play in what may turn out to be the tournament’s best match.
Like the best tennis matches, this one boiled down to a just a few points. Radwanska seemingly had dispelled her opponent's surge when she earned a match point on serve, but Kuznetsova went to a tried-and-true tactic to find new life. She ran around her service return and stuck a forehand, which, after all these years, remains one of the game’s best shots. Kuznetsova hits it with pace, spin and often at sharp angles—but in this case, it was a blast directly at the server that Radwanska couldn’t handle.
The reprieve gave Kuznetsova an opportunity to turn the tables, which she did, earning a match point two games later. As dangerously as Kuznetsova was living while down match point, she managed to do so even while holding a match point, electing to stop play and challenge a call after a Radwanska shot. It was shown to have hit the baseline, and had Kuznetsova lost this match, she’d surely be thinking about that decision.
But it was Kuznetsova who will be able to forget much of the drama from this match because of the final point, which she won in rather undramatic fashion. It followed a second Kuznetsova match point in which she again ran around her return to bludgeon a forehand—which Radwanska promptly deflected back from her trademark crouching position.
But the third time, as they say, was a charm for the charming Kuznetsova:
Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza, also in the White Group, conclude today’s singles play from Singapore.