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KONTA & KUZNETSOVA REFLECT ON CRAZY NO.8 IN SINGAPORE

WTA Insider David Kane | The last open spot at the WTA Finals came down to the wire, and both Johanna Konta and Svetlana Kuznetsova reflect on the wild weekend that was.

As play began at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, the once and future RTS No.8s met the press to discuss their sudden shifts in fortune.

Johanna Konta arrived in Singapore early in the week as the presumptive final qualifier for a tournament that would cap a sensational season for the top-ranked Brit.

Pulling out of the Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open with an abdominal strain, whether she joined the Greatest Eight came down to the wiliest of veterans in Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian not only had to win her home title in Moscow, but also defend a singles title for the first time in her enigmatic career. Rather than play through pain, Konta spent a week at home to heal her injury.

"I needed to make a decision in Hong Kong," Konta told WTA Insider on Sunday. "I always put my health first and that will forever stay the same throughout my career. I definitely am very happy with my decision.

"It cleared up very quickly, in three or four days. That's only because I made the decision when I did."

Blitzing through the Kremlin Cup field, Kuznetsova sealed her spot to Singapore; Konta, who'd attended the draw ceremony, was relegated to first alternate.

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"It definitely gave me a new life experience and something that I think I will be able to draw from in the years to come."

Ever the optimist, the winner of the WTA's Most Improved Player Award won't look back in anger at the last-minute bump, and instead opted to give kudos to her Russian rival.

"I can't be too upset about it, I need to be grateful for it. But for now, I will just look to make the most of my week here, make it a good training week, keep myself ready if I need to play, but otherwise enjoy the tennis that the girls are going to play, and also try to explore the city as much as time allows.

"I wasn't actively looking at the results. I wasn't watching the final. But I don't think people quite realize how impressive it is, what Kuznetsova did in Moscow. To go into a tournament knowing what the result could mean, to be able to achieve what she did, honestly, hats off to her."

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Beginning the year ranked just inside the Top 50, Konta made history over and over, becoming the first British woman to reach a Grand Slam semifinal and crack the Top 10, both since Jo Durie in the mid-80s.

Riding a wave of success that dates back to last summer, Konta had never before been in contention for Zhuhai, much less WTA Finals, and it's that positive perspective she plans to take into the off-season.

"I'm really happy to be here, even if it's now as an alternate, I'm still going to absorb as much as I can from this event and try to reuse it, and motivate me to try to make it here as the Top 8 next year.

"I'll be going to Rome for a couple of days - to eat, mainly. I love my gelato, as everyone knows. I will be taking full advantage of that. We'll also go for a few days to Hungary, where my cousins and uncles and aunts live. My cousin had a little girl about a year and a half ago, and I haven't gotten the chance to meet her yet, so I'm looking forward to that."

Where Konta was relaxed, Kuznetsova was restless, having just disembarked from a 12-hour odyssey, one that took her from Moscow to the Singapore Sports Hub. A tough trip for anyone, the 31-year-old has boomeranged from Tianjin to Moscow back to Singapore in the last three weeks, and was grateful to have a day to rest before taking on defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska on Tuesday night.

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"I think my body already adjusted, because from the Tianjin Open I played three sets, and lost to Alison Riske in the semifinals. The same night I jumped on the plane to come to Moscow; I started to practice straightaway and then I played in two days.

"Then the same thing happened here. During the tournament I felt a bit fatigued because I'd been playing long matches, but by the final I was already better. Today I have a day off. It's already like a miracle for me already that I have [a] day off.

"I'm just looking for tomorrow. I don't know. When I go on the court I try not to think about my fatigue and I believe I can put it aside."

Back in her first WTA Finals since 2009, Kuznetsova was confronted with questions concerning her qualification chances throughout the week in Moscow. But conquering the pressure of playing at home was far more in the forefront of her mind ahead of each match, needing three sets to put away Elina Svitolina in the semifinals before cruising past Daria Gavrilova to book her ticket to Singapore.

"I really forgot the feeling of Championships. I didn't expect to be here. It's like a bonus for me for doing a great season. I'm just happy and just looking forward to play here.

"For me it was already huge to defend my title in Moscow. I thought it was a huge deal, you know. I thought, 'I want it, but I got to take step by step, because in every match, I was not playing at my best.'

"I had to fight my way through and spend all my energy and focus on playing match by match."

Asked about Konta's plight in press, Kuznetsova echoed her peers and expressed sympathy, and surprise at being in such a unique situation at this stage of her career.

"I feel sorry for Johanna. It's horrible. It's very strange. It's never happened to me in my life. When I was playing, I definitely was not thinking...of somebody who I can kind of take out. It's very weird."

Some might call what happened over the weekend "weird;" others may use the word Konta herself used to sum up her season:

"Eventful."




 

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