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Agnieszka Radwanska vs Svetlana Kuznetsova WTA Finals Singapore tennis live: Is Kuznetsova fit to play after last-minute qualification?

Hannah Wilks in News 23 Oct 2016
  • Agnieszka Radwanska faces Svetlana Kuznetsova at the WTA Finals Singapore on Monday
  • Radwanska vs Kuznetsova WTA Finals tennis is live from Singapore on Monday at 7.30pm local/12.30pm BST
Agnieszka Radwanska (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images for WTA)

Defending WTA Finals Singapore champion Agnieszka Radwanska has the opportunity to grab a rare win against nemesis Svetlana Kuznetsova as White Group action begins on Monday. 

Agnieszka Radwanska begins her WTA Finals Singapore title defense with a crucial clash against last-minute qualifier Svetlana Kuznetsova on Monday.

The news that Kuznetsova had successfully qualified for the WTA Finals Singapore at the very last second – winning the Kremlin Cup title in Moscow on Saturday to knock out Johanna Konta, who was already in Singapore and had been at the draw ceremony – was, potentially, calamitous for Radwanska. 

The Pole, who won the biggest title of her career so far in Singapore 12 months ago when she defeated Petra Kvitova in the final, certainly looked to be in the much easier group when the draw took place on Friday. With world no. 1 Angelique Kerber, 2014 runner-up Simona Halep, the dangerous Madison Keys and the in-form Dominika Cibulkova in the Red Group, Radwanska’s White Group contained two players – Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova – in no kind of form at all, one of whom she had never lost to (Pliskova) and Konta, a first-timer in Singapore whom Radwanska was 2-0 against. 

Radwanska was 11-4 against her opponents in the White Group when it included Konta, with the ‘4’ all victories for Muguruza who is struggling for any kind of wins at the moment. But when Kuznetsova displaced Konta, Radwanska became 13-16 against her White Group opponents – a significant shift thanks to Kuznetsova’s 12-4 record against the Pole. Radwanska now has a losing record against two of the three players in her group – although that might not bother her overly, given that when she won the title in 2015 she had only won one match in the group stages.

Kuznetsova really has been a nightmare opponent for Radwanska, as we saw most recently in Wuhan when Radwanska led by a set and a break and served for the match before Kuznetsova came back, edging her 9-7 in the second-set tie break and coming back from a break down in the third set to win 1-6, 7-6(9), 6-4. While Kuznetsova is as erratic as she is powerful, she is an enormously talented and versatile player who marries baseline power with underrated athleticism and movement around the court, and surprising finesse; a better mover than many players we think of as powerhouses, she neutralizes some of Radwanska’s strengths and retains her own in this match-up.

The big question, however, is what kind of shape Kuznetsova will be in to play Radwanska on Monday. It’s been a fantastic season for Kuznetsova, as evidenced by the fact that she’s made the season-ending championships for the first time since 2009, and she’s played some fantastic tennis, most notably in winning the title at the Apia International Sydney and finishing runner-up in Miami. But in order to secure her qualification for Singapore, Kuznetsova – not the youngest and far from the least injury-prone player on the WTA Tour – has played 15 matches in the past four weeks on two continents: Making the semifinals in Wuhan with wins over Venus Williams and Radwanska, the third round in Beijing and the semifinals in Tianjin, where rain congested the schedule, Kuznetsova took a late wildcard into Moscow where she played another five matches, including two grueling three-set contests against Timea Babos and Elina Svitolina, to capture the title.

Kuznetsova had less than 48 hours – and that includes the nearly 11-hour flight, plus media obligations at both ends – between winning the title in Moscow and playing her first match in Singapore, a frankly ridiculous turnaround which includes adjusting to the timezone and conditions in Singapore where she is playing for the first time. She looked absolutely dead on her feet in Moscow at times last week and I find it very difficult to believe she’s going to be in any real shape to compete – meaning that Radwanska will get to play her first match, and possibly the most crucial one of the group stages for the Pole, against an exhausted opponent.

While Kuznetsova’s head-to-head against Radwanska is a dominant 12-4 as aforementioned – the last time Radwanska beat the Russian on a hard court was back in 2008 at the WTA Finals, then in Qatar – six of the seven matches they have played since 2010 have gone to three sets, often featuring tie breaks, and a key component of Kuznetsova’s dominance in the head-to-head has been her willingness to run and run with Radwanska, something she’s unlikely to have the legs to be able to do on Monday. Simply blasting past Radwanska is very difficult to do (especially on this court), although it is within Kuznetsova’s capabilities. 

Am I underestimating Kuznetsova’s chances? She will always have a chance to work her way back into the match even if she goes down a set and a break, as we know, and maybe it will take her that long to loosen up her legs and get used to the court. Unless it’s a superlative performance from Radwanska, the match will always to some degree be on Kuznetsova’s racquet. But it’s whether there’s anything left in her legs that is the real question coming into this Singapore contest. 

Radwanska vs Kuznetsova is scheduled on Centre Court in Singapore at 7.30pm local/12.30pm BST 

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Agnieszka Radwanska vs Svetlana Kuznetsova WTA Finals Singapore tennis live: Is Kuznetsova fit to play after last-minute qualification?

Radwanska vs Kuznetsova WTA Finals Singapore tennis live: Radwanska poised for rare win over nemesis Kuznetsova in Singapore

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