Svetlana Kuznetsova dug deep into her reserves to overcome Agnieszka Radwanska 7-5 1-6 7-5 in their WTA Finals round robin opener on Monday, the late-arriving Russian upsetting the defending champion in a thrilling encounter.
In the second White Group tie of the day, Czech Karolina Pliskova outlasted Spain’s French Open champion Garbine Muguruza 6-2 6-7(4) 7-5 in another marathon match that finished at 1:21 a.m.
Kuznetsova only qualified for the elite eight-woman tournament on Saturday after winning the Kremlin Cup but she staved off exhaustion and a match point in the deciding set to emerge victorious over the world number three.
“At some point I was ready to just let it go and lie on the court and let them take me out of here but I decided to hang in there,” the two-time grand slam champion said.
The world number nine held a 12-4 record against Radwanska prior to the contest but after traveling from China to Russia to Singapore in consecutive weeks, few gave her a chance of recording an upset victory on Monday.
Both players looked comfortable on serve in the opening exchanges before Radwanska pounced in the fourth game, finding the corners with her backhand against a leaden-footed Kuznetsova to forge 3-1 ahead with the first break of the match.
The Russian was struggling to gauge the pace of the slow hardcourt at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, her shots finding the net with alarming regularity, but she survived another threat in her next service game to stay just one break down.