The final round robin match of the 2016 WTA Finals in Singapore will be an all top five clash between Agnieszka Radwanska and Karolina Pliskova. Permutations for the white group are quite simple and straightforward… the winner of this match will join Svetlana Kuznetsova in qualifying for Saturday’s semi-finals.
Radwanska rebounded in resilient fashion after a disappointing loss in her first match of the week to Kuznetsova, having served for the match and had a match point. On Wednesday, Radwanska edged Garbiñe Muguruza in a tight two setter, 7-6(1) 6-3. It was a very close opening set and Muguruza had served for the first set at *5-4 having reeled off three games in a row. Muguruza opened the game at *5-4 with an ominous double fault, but it was Radwanska who broke (rather than Muguruza breaking herself) with a drop shot-lob combo and two potent forehands.
Muguruza competed well to force the tiebreak but Radwanska absolutely ran away with it, seven points to one. Muguruza’s tactics seemed confused in this one; she was passive at times, but lacking decisiveness when she tried to step it up and come into the net. Muguruza earnt the first break of the second set but couldn’t hold onto it. She looked in a promising position at 3-2* 30-30* but with two forehand errors wide in that particular game, it all unravelled from there. Radwanska capitalised and sealed an excellent win – it was her first straight sets win over Muguruza since 2014.
Pliskova came out second best in another tight three set duel, this time with the queen of three setters, Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian player has been on a bruising run of matches but continues to soldier on, battling through this match, 3-6 6-2 7-6(6) in two hours and 17 minutes. Pliskova struggled on serve – a low first serve percentage of 44% and winning just 52% of points behind it was a key stat for the Czech player. Despite this, there was just two points separating the pair at the end of the match.
Pliskova fought back from a 1-4 deficit in the decider and was then just two points away from the win at *6-5 *30-0. Kuznetsova began to look especially weary but a sudden avalanche of errors from Pliskova saw the match head to the tiebreak. Pliskova was always playing catch-up from the first point but levelled up at 6-6, saving three match points with some fearless hitting. From there, Kuznetsova took charge with a serve-forehand combo and finished off with a sweeeet backhand winner that sailed down-the-line.
Head-to-head record: Radwanska has won all six previous matches and is yet to drop a set against Pliskova. The Czech player can at least draw some encouragement from their last match in Stuttgart which featured a crazy second set tiebreak that really could have gone either way. Radwanska eventually won the match in straight sets, 6-2 7-6(8).
Interesting stat: Pliskova has won five of her last six matches against top ten players – all the matches came during her amazing run in Cincy and New York. Radwanska has only played eight matches against top ten players prior to Singapore (winning three of them) and will be seeking her first top five win of the year.
Final thoughts: I’m not sure this court suits either player – for Pliskova, Kuznetsova was all over her serve, but she has been battling really hard this week and scrapping from the baseline, trying to come forward and close out points where possible. Radwanska played a decent match against Muguruza and she was effective behind her first serve.
I think this is one of those match-ups… Aga for the win.