MOSCOW, Russia - Ekaterina Makarova and Flavia Pennetta both lost their openers at the Kremlin Cup, leaving the door wide open for Dominika Cibulkova - if she wins her opener on Thursday, she will become the second alternate at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.
The No.2-seeded Makarova was the first of the two to go out, losing to Irina-Camelia Begu, 6-4, 6-4.
Makarova came out strong, breaking for a 3-1 lead, and she even held six points for a 4-1 lead in a marathon eight-deuce fifth game of the match. But she lost that game and Begu took advantage, sneaking out the first set, and after neither player budged on serve through 4-all in the second set the talented Romanian pounced again, breaking for 5-4 before serving it out after an hour and 48 minutes.
Pennetta, the No.3 seed, followed Makarova to the sidelines in the feature night match, falling to Camila Giorgi, 7-6(4), 6-4. The first set was all about serve - not only did neither player face break point, neither player was even pushed beyond 30 in any of their service games. But Giorgi stormed out to a 4-0 lead in the tie-break and never looked back, pocketing the first set after 46 minutes.
The two continued to hang on tightly to their service games through 2-all in the second but then came the cracks - Giorgi broke, Pennetta broke back, and Giorgi broke again. Unfortunately for Pennetta, Giorgi came out on top in that exchange, and she rode that break to victory over her fellow Italian.
"I'm happy with how I played today," Giorgi said.
"I was solid throughout the whole match and got the breaks at the right moments."
Pennetta is now out of the running in the battle to become second alternate at the WTA Finals.
It all comes down to Thursday night at the Kremlin Cup - if the No.1-seeded Cibulkova wins her match on Center Court against Russian qualifier Vitalia Diatchenko, she will clinch the second alternate position in Singapore. If she loses, Makarova will clinch the second alternate position in Singapore.