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Karolina Pliskova vs Svetlana Kuznetsova WTA Finals Singapore tennis live: Will Pliskova’s winning Singapore debut continue?

Hannah Wilks in News 25 Oct 2016
  • Karolina Pliskova faces Svetlana Kuznetsova in round-robin play at the WTA Finals Singapore on Wednesday
  • Pliskova vs Kuznetsova WTA Finals tennis is live from Singapore on Wednesday at 7.30pm local/12.30pm BST
Karolina Pliskova (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

US Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova and last-minute WTA Finals Singapore qualifier Svetlana Kuznetsova face off to see who will go top of the White Group. 

After scintillating wins left them atop the White Group after the first day’s play, Karolina Pliskova and Svetlana Kuznetsova will face off on Wednesday at the WTA Finals Singapore.

The first day of play at the WTA Finals Singapore saw a match that was a strong contender for instant classic as Angelique Kerber bested Dominika Cibulkova in three grueling sets – but the second day, as the White Group took to the courts at the season-ending championships, topped it with two. First Svetlana Kuznetsova, returning to the WTA Finals for the first time since 2009 after a last-minute qualification and dash from Moscow to Singapore, saved match point to defeat defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska, and then Karolina Pliskova, making her debut at the year-end championships, did the same thing to beat French Open champion Garbine Muguruza in a match that finished around 1am in Singapore.

First, the qualification scenarios. Neither Kuznetsova nor Pliskova can secure a place in the semifinals purely by their own efforts on Wednesday. If Kuznetsova wins against Pliskova and Radwanska beats Muguruza, Kuznetsova will qualify for the semifinals and the winless Muguruza will be eliminated; if Pliskova wins against Kuznetsova and Muguruza beats Radwanska, Pliskova will qualify for the semifinals and Radwanska will be eliminated. (For the record, Muguruza leads the head-to-head 4-3 with Radwanska but is in much poorer form.)

Obviously, both women will give themselves the best possible chance of qualifying for the semifinals by winning their match on Wednesday and, as always with round-robin, not only match wins but sets and games won and lost can be vital, so there is plenty to play for in this clash.

Once again, the question of Kuznetsova’s physical condition will take centre stage in considering how this match with Pliskova might unfold. After the Russian veteran played four solid weeks in order to qualify for Singapore, she had less than 48 hours to get from Moscow – where she had finally clinched qualification by defending her Kremlin Cup title – and take the court against Radwanska. It certainly showed; Kuznetsova was visibly stiff for the first five games of the match, during which she fell behind 1-4 to the Pole, before a fine rally during a lengthy hold for 2-4 seemed to loosen her up. Kuznetsova promptly climbed on top, breaking back with a fabulous backhand passing shot winner at 3-4. She played virtually the same shot to once more punish Radwanska for attacking the net, breaking to lead 6-5 and serving out the first set in nearly eight minutes. 

Radwanska roared back in the second set which she thoroughly dominated 6-1, playing some of her most attacking tennis and breaking to lead 1-0 in the third. When Kuznetsova got on board at 1-2, she had won only two of the last ten games – but then things took a turn. After surprisingly chopping off a decent chunk of the end of her plait (she said afterwards it was getting in her eyes when she hit her forehand), Kuznetsova broke back to 2-2, then recovered another break to 4-4 despite looking so exhausted she was in tears at the change of ends at one point. Radwanska came up with something big and uncharacteristic – a backhand down the line winner to end a baseline exchange – to break for 5-4 and serve for the match, but at the crucial moment she retreated into her shell again and it was Kuznetsova who came up with the goods, improving her head-to-head to Radwanska to 13-4 with a 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 win. 

‘Sometimes it's not easy, and sometimes you're pulling through. I put aside that I'm tired, put aside the emotions, the jet lag - I didn't want to think about it,’ Kuznetsova said afterwards. ‘We came here to fight, let's put everything else to one side.’

For Pliskova, meanwhile, the big question was how she would handle the nerves – the Czech, after all, had rather surprisingly surged into qualification for her first WTA Finals Singapore after her superb spell of tennis in August and September when she won the Cincinnati title and beat both Williams sisters to finish runner-up at the US Open, and had really barely won a match since. Pliskova, however, couldn’t have looked more at home as she dominated the first set against Muguruza – who was on even worse form coming in – 6-2. Muguruza changed tactics in the second set as she found herself 0-3 down, putting a lot more height on her forehand, and started to play much better as Pliskova’s level remained more or less constant and the Spanish player levelled up in a tie break, going on to lead 5-2 in the third set. Then Muguruza’s level dropped as dramatically as it had risen and Pliskova’s composure proved in the end to be the better approach as the Czech reeled off the last five games, and 15 of the last 19 points, to win 6-2, 6-7(4), 7-5.

‘Inside I'm still in shock that I won this one. Inside I still believed that I could win, but she was playing so well in the second and third sets,’ Pliskova said. ‘There's always a chance in tennis until it's done, so I'm really happy with the win today.’

Both women can take a lot of confidence from their wins, but Kuznetsova has a lot more physically to bounce back from. The two have met once before, in Cincinnati when Pliskova won in three sets 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 on her way to the title. It will be a completely different challenge for Kuznetsova to take on the Czech, a powerful aggressive player after her own heart, while Pliskova’s match against the streaky Muguruza should have warmed her up nicely to face Kuznetsova. To my mind, Kuznetsova must serve much, much better than she did against Radwanska to have the advantage in this match – and her fatigue militates against the fact that she is a far superior mover and athlete to Pliskova. Kuznetsova’s fighting spirit has been indomitable in 2016 – she has won more three-set matches than anybody else – but she has to run out of steam at some point and Pliskova is a formidable challenge. I could see the Czech moving to an unlikely 2-0 record in the White Group on Wednesday.

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

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Karolina Pliskova vs Svetlana Kuznetsova WTA Finals Singapore tennis live: Will Pliskova’s winning Singapore debut continue?

Pliskova vs Kuznetsova WTA Finals Singapore tennis live: Pliskova impressed on debut and could go top of White Group with Kuznetsova win

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