It was a very weary Kuznetsova who eased herself up the platform to address the press on Monday, having flown straight in from Moscow. That win propelled her past Johanna Konta and into the last WTA Finals berth for the first time since 2009.
She said: “I was really tense in Moscow, not because of Singapore, but just because I love to play there and it’s sometimes not easy to deal with all the pressure. Match by match I was getting better and better. Yeah, and then when I won, I thought, It’s cool. I don’t have to go to Zhuhai and I play here. No, I mean, it’s just too long season. That’s it. I don’t mind.
“I really forgot the feeling of Championships. I didn’t expect to be here. It’s like bonus for me for doing great season. I’m just happy and just looking forward to play here.”
Her winning record over the defending champion is impressive – Radwanska’s ‘ninja’ skills seem nullified from Kuznetsova who on her day can scamper around the court with the best of them. That being said, perhaps tennis was the last thing on her mind!
“I just want to go practice a little bit. No, I didn’t [think about the match]. I have still time. I been thinking about tennis all day long last four weeks, so I want to just few hours of rest.”
Kuznetsova acknowledged that this situation leaves her at a disadvantage to those players who have had the time to adjust to the conditions – but the discovery of an opponent the night before is not an issue.
Radwanska said, in her pre-tournament press conference: “I think it doesn’t really matter for me. Of course sometimes you know the opponent just the evening before as another normal tournament. So I think there is no big difference for me. I think it’s bigger difference for the girls still waiting for that spot.”
There is obviously pressure for the defending champion to get off to a good start, but as she pointed out – the Top 5-10 players are typically defending a lot of points any time they step on a court.
She added: “I think I had really great couple of weeks in Asia, so I’m feeling good. I’m pretty confident. I just hope I can keep it up and really play the same good tennis that I was playing especially in the China Open.”
Their last couple of encounters have gone the Russian’s way with Radwanska’s most recent win coming on the clay of Madrid. She will be fresher, and more adjusted to what seems to be generally seen as a slower-paced court.
The final match of the night will be the domain of the big hitters, with US Open finalist Pliskova facing French Open champion Muguruza. Last year the Spaniard had been dominant in the Round Robin stages before finally being checked in the semi-finals.
Both are rangy big hitters of the ball, and Pliskova’s serve is a handy weapon, but she has her winning record over her on hard courts and assessed the match up.
She told reporters before the tournament: “She has similar game as me. It’s possible to lose to her, and to win as well if you play good tennis. I’m really confident about there match and just on the positive from the last meeting what we had in Cincinnati. I was playing really good tennis there.
“For me it’s still the same. I have to serve well and play fast so she doesn’t have time to dictate the game. She has to be the one who’s running and not me. (Smiling.)”
Interestingly while Pliskova batted away speculation that playing in both the singles and the doubles would make the challenge harder, Muguruza admitted that the strain on playing both the singles and the doubles last year.
She said: “I remember last year was an incredible battle. I ended up exhausted and I was playing singles and doubles. I think this year is going to be good for me to concentrate only in singles and just try to win in the round robin all the matches I can to feel good.”
We can expect Muguruza to try come forward a lot, so perhaps Pliskova had better gear herself up for a bit of running.
Prediction: Pliskova in two sets.
Play continues at the WTA Finals at 7:30pm (12:30 BST).
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