WTA Finals Round Robin preview: Agnieszka Radwanska vs Svetlana Kuznetsova

Defending WTA Finals champion Agnieszka Radwanska returns to Singapore looking to retain her title from 12 months ago and she will take on two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova who qualified for the WTA Finals at the last minute by virtue of retaining her title in Moscow.

WTA Finals Round Robin preview: Agnieszka Radwanska vs Svetlana Kuznetsova
Radwanska and Kuznetsova holding their respective trophies at the China Open in 2009 (Photo by Feng Li / Getty Images)

Second seed Agnieszka Radwanska will be competing at the WTA Finals in Singapore for the sixth consecutive year as the reigning champion.

Whilst Radwanska had her qualification secured a few weeks ago, the defending champion's first opponent at the WTA Finals will be eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova.

The two-time Grand Slam champion's efforts at her home event in Moscow at the Kremlin Cup were incredible, and the Russian had to deal with the pressure on the court both mentally and physically.

However, it was a sheer determination that got Kuznetsova over the line at the expense of the WTA's Most Improved Player of the Year, Johanna Konta.

World number one Serena Williams' withdrawal from the tournament also was a reprieve for the Russian, as she would have become the first alternate had the American not withdrawn from the tournament for the second consecutive year.

This will be the 17th competitive meeting between the 2012 Wimbledon finalist and eighth-seeded Russian with Kuznetsova having a commanding 12-4 lead over the Pole.

Both players are in the White Group which is a tough group that involves reigning French Open champion Garbiñe Muguruza and this year's US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova.

Radwanska's notable results leading up to Singapore

Radwanska comes into the WTA Finals with a 51-16 win-loss record in 2016, and she is one of three players along with Serena Williams and Carla Suarez Navarro to have reached the second week of all four Grand Slams this year.

Following a disappointing fourth round exit at Flushing Meadows at the hands of 18-year-old Ana Konjuh, the Pole returned to Asia, where she has had plenty of success over the years.

She began her Asian swing campaign at the Toray Pan Pacific Open registering wins over Barbora Strycova and Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig but fell to eventual champion Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinals, their first of three consecutive matches in Asia.

The Pole reached the quarterfinals in Wuhan, receiving another bye and defeated two-time Grand Slam semifinalist Ekaterina Makarova in the second round, gained her revenge in straight sets against Wozniacki in the third round but fell to Kuznetsova in three sets despite holding a match point.

Radwanska won her third title of the year at the China Open in Beijing and it was a flawless week for the second seed as she did not surrender a set throughout her title triumph.

In the Chinese capital, she defeated Qiang Wang, Makarova, Wozniacki, Yaroslava Shvedova, Elina Svitolina and Konta in the final to claim her 20th WTA title.

However, she withdrew from the Tianjin Open before her quarterfinal match with eventual champion Shuai Peng, citing a right thigh injury, as she didn't want to aggrevate the injury, in order to rest for Singapore.

Radwanska holding the Billie Jean Trophy following her victory over 2011 champion Petra Kvitova in last year's final (Photo by Clive Brunskill / Getty Images)
Radwanska holding the Billie Jean Trophy following her victory over 2011 champion Petra Kvitova in last year's final (Photo by Clive Brunskill / Getty Images)

Kuznetsova's notable results leading up to Singapore

Kuznetsova returns to the WTA Finals for the first time since 2009 and it will be her sixth time competing at the end of the year Championships.

The 31-year-old has never advanced from the Round Robin stage of WTA Finals before, however, she is a player known for endurance, but she may be fatigued due to a long 10 and a half hour flight from Moscow to Singapore.

However, this is Kuznetsova's passion and she will be motivated to perform at the best of her abilities with a high amount of professionalism.

Following a second round exit at the hands of a resurgent Wozniacki at the US Open which was deemed as an upset at the time, due to the former world number one's struggles, Kuznetsova has gone on a good run.

The veteran reached the semifinals in Wuhan, defeating Belinda Bencic, Madison Brengle, ousting the defending champion Venus Williams and Radwanska but lost to former Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova in a three-set tussle.

Kuznetsova's qualification for Singapore was hanging in the balance as she lost to Madison Keys in the third round of Beijing, and was upset by Alison Riske in the semifinals in Tianjin.

The scenario was clear for the two-time Slam champion in Moscow and she entered the tournament with a wildcard, dealing with the pressure immensely well and defeated Alize Cornet, Timea Babos, Svitolina and Daria Gavrilova in the final.

Kuznetsova kissing the Kremlin Cup trophy (Source : Google Images)
Kuznetsova kissing the Kremlin Cup trophy (Source : Google Images)

Their history

The duo have met on 16 occasions and Kuznetsova has a commanding 12-4 record in their series.

They are tied at 1-1 on grass, Kuznetsova leads 9-2 on hard and 2-1 on clay courts.

Kuznetsova won their first meeting in the third round of Wimbledon in 2007 with a straightforward 6-2, 6-3 victory, however, Radwanska gained her first win over the Russian at the Australian Open in the following year.

The Pole followed this up with another Slam victory over Kuznetsova at Wimbledon in 2008 in three sets and a straight sets win at the WTA Finals in the same year.

However, at the French Open in 2009, Kuznetsova got the better of Radwanska en route to claiming her second Slam title.

Kuznetsova defeated Radwanska at the French Open once again in 2012 in the third round easily with a 6-1, 6-2 scoreline.

Radwanska's last victory over Kuznetsova was in Madrid back in 2014 in three sets.

Who wins?

Both players are in a rich vein of form at the moment, and both enter the WTA Finals with a title under their belt, however, although Radwanska trails their head-to-head, she is the slight favourite in this encounter.

The reason being is that Kuznetsova has had to endure a long flight to Singapore, therefore, she will need to adjust to the conditions indoor and the time difference.

Radwanska will need to move the Russian around the court with her handy skills by mixing up play by throwing in a drop shot and not allowing the Russian to dictate play from the baseline, however, Kuznetsova has the endurance to track down balls as she is very athletic.

Kuznetsova will need to utilise her serve well and keeping the points short in her favour and not allowing Radwanska to have any rhythm whatsoever.

Radwanska also lacks the firepower that Kuznetsova possesses which is why the Pole has historically struggled against the two-time Slam champion.

It is vital that both players win their first match and it will be the first match scheduled at 7:30pm local time on Centre Court.

Prediction: Radwanska in straight sets