SINGAPORE - Svetlana Kuznetsova produced a stunning comeback to upset defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska in a thrilling round-robin encounter at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.
As the match entered the home straight, Kuznetsova's arduous route to the start line looked to have taken its toll. Yet somehow she willed her ailing limbs back into life, recovering from match point down to win, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5.
Kuznetsova only secured her place in Singapore with victory in Saturday afternoon's Moscow final and for the first 15 minutes she looked off the pace, quickly falling 4-1 behind. Perhaps drawing confidence from her fine record against the Pole, Kuznetsova managed to drag herself level then pinch the set.
Radwanska, though, came roaring back, dominating the second set then moving a break ahead in the decider when Kuznetsova fired long. At the next changeover, the Russian hacked off her ponytail in a stunning move.
The new-look Kuznetsova promptly broke back and while not level for long, she refused to surrender. As she struck the ball with more conviction, Radwanska retreated into her shell, frittering away a match point at 5-4 with a nervous backhand into the net.
Sensing her moment, Kuznetsova continued to probe, restoring parity then moving ahead with a confident hold. A brilliant double-fisted backhand down the line brought the finishing line in sight and as the clock ticked towards the three-hour mark Radwanska found the net to finally surrender.
In Wuhan, she also came from match point down to defeat Radwanska. Talking to the press afterwards, though, she was at a loss to explain the hold she has over the World No.3: "I mean, I don't know. I know that I won last two matches in last month against Aga being match point down both matches, so it's very hard to say.
"I'm just trying my best when I play her. She's really tough. She's No.3 or 4 in the world, so, I mean, you better maybe ask her about it. I don't know. I mean, we always have tough matches, but I guess somebody has to win and more times it's for me."
Kuznetsova has now won 21 three-set matches in 2016 - more than any other player on tour. "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 in her post match press conference. "We came here to fight, let's put everything else to one side."
Appearing in her sixth WTA Finals, Kuznetsova has never been beyond the round-robin stage. Next she will face the winner of Monday's other White Group match between Karolina Pliskova and Garbiñe Muguruza.