SINGAPORE: Newly crowned world number one Angelique Kerber crushed the defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2 6-1 on Saturday to advance to the final of the WTA s end-of-season championship against Slovakia s Dominika Cibulkova.
A surprise finalist, Cibulkova booked her spot in the title match when she fought back from the brink of defeat to overhaul a weary Svetlana Kuznetsova 1-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 in a thriller at Singapore s Indoor Stadium.
Cibulkova lost to Kerber in the round-robin phase last Sunday and will have her work cut out for her beating the German in Sunday s final after she produced another clinical display against Radwanska.
Kerber dominated Radwanska from the outset, giving the Pole few chances to play her own game as she took control of the baseline rallies and cruised to victory in an hour and a quarter.
“She had an answer for everything. She s not giving anything for free,” Radwanska said. “That s what makes her one of the best players in the world and the best this year.”
Unbeaten in four matches this week, Kerber will go into Sunday s final as a strong favourite as she seeks to add the WTA Finals title to her Australian Open and US Open crowns.
The pair have played each other nine times, with Cibulkova winning the first four and Kerber the last five meetings.
“It s a little bit weird to play against one opponent twice in one tournament,” Kerber said.
“This never happened before for me but I m looking forward to play against her.
“The first match here was really tight and close, and she has a lot of confidence from the last two matches she won.”
Voted the WTA s comeback player of the year after slumping to 66th in the world rankings in February, Cibulkova earned her place in the final the hard way.
She won this month s Linz Open in Austria to qualify for the elite eight-player event then snuck into the semis on a countback after losing her first two round-robin matches, thanks in part to Kerber who beat Madison Keys in straight sets to allow Cibulkova to go through to the last four.
“There s a lot of positive emotions,” Cibulkova said after beating Kuznetsova in a match that began slowly but escalated into a nail biter.
“The match wasn t going my way all the time but I managed to win it, even (when) I was down, even (when) she was playing really good tennis.”
There were some anxious moments for the 27-year-old Cibulkova when she lost four games in a row to trail 4-2 in the deciding set but she rediscovered her form at the perfect time and reeled off the last four games on the trot to seal victory and end Kuznetsova s own fairytale run.
The oldest woman in the tournament at 31, Kuznetsova had to win the Kremlin Cup in Moscow last week just to qualify for the $7 million event and then won two gruelling three-set encounters to reach the semis.
Battling exhaustion, she lost her final round-robin match against French Open champion Garbine Muguruza on Friday before finally running out of gas against Cibulkova.
“It s not worth thinking about if I m tired, if I m fatigued,” Kuznetsova said. “Whatever it is, I m not going to make any excuses. I just did all I could and I was a little bit short in the end.”