Svetlana Kuznetsova went from winning the Kremlin Cup on Saturaday to qualify for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, to hopping on a 10.5 hour flight to Singapore to arrive on Sunday, to knocking off the No.2 seed and defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska in the third longest WTA Finals match ever in the Lion City. The 31-year-old veteran fought off the crafty Pole, her own rattle of emotions, and a mid-match haircut - no really! - to win, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 in 2 hours and 48 minutes. The win moves Kuznetsova to 1-0 in the White Group.
Where to start?
Read how the match unfolded in the Live Blog.
- Pain doesn't kill Kuznetsova. Kuznetsova kills the pain.
The tatted up two-time major champion told reporters she actually wants to "erase" one of her tattoos, which she said was done in haste. It reads, "Pain doesn't kill me. I kill the pain."
But on this day, that ink was prescient. Kuznetsova is emotionally and physically zapped. She's not entirely sure how she was able to pull off this win under the circumstances. And yet she did.
"I tried to behave and act like I'm professional athlete, professional player," Kuznetsova explained. "I mean, sometimes it's not easy, you know. Sometimes you're kind of pulling through, saying, Okay, I put aside that I'm tired, I put aside emotions, the jet lag, whatever.
"I didn't want to think about it. I was trying to think we're even. We came here both to fight and let's play the match. Put all things aside.
"I think [the tattoo] is real meaningful and it's a good meaning, you know, that pain doesn't kill me, I kill the pain. Because I think we can be much stronger that our weaknesses. When you have pain you can overcome any pain you have. I think in life you can be much stronger than you think.
"The same as here. I came here, I was tired and jet lagged, but I didn't want to think about it. I can be stronger."
- Kuznetsova chose to believe in herself, not pity herself.
With little pre-tournament preparation on the very specific conditions on Stadium Court - the court has been described as slow and low-bouncing - Kuznetsova was able to make quick adjustments to her game after falling behind 1-4 in the first set. But as the fatigue and frustration set in in the third, where she was once again down a break, Kuznetsova fought through her blinding emotions to just play point-by-point, game-by-game and stay within touching distance of Radwanska.
When Radwanska earned a chance to serve out the win at 5-4, she played her worst game of the match and Kuznetsova pounced. In doing so, she notched a tour-leading 21st three-set win of the season.
It would have been easy, even understandable for Kuznetsova to tap out of this match. She never did. That's a great example for younger players who can't help but be tempted to wallow in their fate on any given day. As Kuznetsova has matured from a 19-year-old brace-faced Grand Slam champion to one of the most respected and appreciated talents in the game, her professionalism has come into focus.
"Sometimes I had some lows in my career and I was not tough because, I don't know, my mind was not there, the right place," she said. "But as I got straight and matured, I know I just going to be out there and fight for every ball. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't."
Tonight, it worked.
- For the second time in four weeks, Kuznetsova saves match point to beat Radwanska.
Kuznetsova told reporters she did not even remember being match point down a few weeks ago at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open. But indeed, in their second straight showdown, Radwanska came within a point of closing the gap in their 4-12 head-to-head only to come up on the losing end each time.
"I think I could play a little bit better," Radwanska said. "Couple of mistakes in the bad moments and not the right decisions I guess, and, yeah, that cost me a lot."
For Radwanska, it was all about missed opportunities. On match point she hit a tight backhand off a neutral ball into the middle of the net. Aside from the match point, Radwanska held a 4-1 lead in the first set and a break up at 4-2 in the third. Each time she let Kuznetsova back into the match with a few loose errors.
"Well, of course, it's very disappointing, especially that I had a chance in the first and the third set and just [let it] slip away. So [to] turn up like this I guess against those kind of players like Sveta when you're not taking your chances, you're not going to be a winner.
"I think when you're losing [those] tight matches, it's always a little bit of luck on the side, especially so many net points. Of course everything could be different if, for example, I would do a different shot, one of the different shots, in the first set. You never know how it's going to end.
"So you can just guess after the match, but of course a little bit unlucky in couple of moments."
- If anyone can shrug off this loss, it's Aga.
Last year she became the first player to win the WTA Finals with a 1-2 record in group play, and she started last year's tournament with a tough three-set loss to Maria Sharapova. Radwanska is 6-0 against Karolina Pliskova and 3-4 against Garbiñe Muguruza, who is struggling with her form at the moment. She just needs to shake off the sting of this loss.
"Still a chance, especially I was two losses down last year. But of course at the moment you're always thinking about the match that you just lost, so I think I need to cool down first and then I will think about what I have to do to go to the semifinals."
- But what was up with that mid-match haircut, Sveta?
Down a break at 1-2 in the third set, Kuznetsova stunned everyone by taking a pair of scissors to her hair on the changeover, shearing off a significant chunk.
Watch it all go down:
"I was just posting the video on Instagram saying, Sometimes you got to cut your hair not by bad hair dressers in not the best moments," Kuznetsova said.
The Russian said her ponytail was whipping into her eyes when she hit big forehands and she finally had enough. "I thought, Okay, what's more important now, my hair which I can let grow or the match? I thought, Okay, I got to go for it right now, and that's it.
"I was not thinking too much though. I was just trying to get the best of me, and what bothers me to take [it] out."
Kuznetsova broke serve in the very next game. Let that be a lesson to us all: personal grooming matters.