Sat, Oct 24, 2015 - Page 18 News List

Czech Safarova secures last spot for WTA Finals

Reuters and AFP, SINGAPORE AND MOSCOW

The Czech Republic’s Lucie Safarova took the final qualifying spot for the season-ending WTA Finals after Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro was knocked out of the Kremlin Cup quarter-finals on Thursday.

Suarez Navarro needed to make the final in Russia to overtake the Czech and book a spot in the elite tournament in Singapore, which starts on Sunday, but was beaten by Russia’s Daria Kasatkina 6-1, 6-2 in her last-eight clash.

In an all-Russian semi-final, Kasatkina is to face defending champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who saw off compatriot Margarita Gasparyan 6-1, 6-3.

Safarova, who had already qualified for the WTA Finals doubles with partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands, is to make her debut in the tournament after a standout year where she reached the final of the French Open.

“I am really excited to qualify for the WTA Finals for the first time,” Safarova, the world No. 9, said in a statement. “It has been a dream year and to be one of the eight qualifiers in singles and also compete in the doubles is something that makes me very proud.”

World No. 1 Serena Williams, who narrowly missed out on a rare calendar Grand Slam, decided earlier this month that she would not be defending her WTA Finals title, citing the need to allow her body to heal.

Safarova joins Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber and Flavia Pennetta in the Singapore singles field.

Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky and former world No. 1 Venus Williams of the US are first and second alternates respectively.

Meanwhile, Kremlin Cup top seed and defending champion Marin Cilic on Thursday battled through to the quarter-finals with a hard-fought three-set success over Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin in Moscow.

The 27-year-old Croat, seeking his first win of the season and 14th career title, prevailed 7-6 (7/3), 3-6, 6-3 in two hours to record his sixth win over Istomin in seven meetings.

After taking the opening set in a tiebreak in 56 minutes, Cilic lost his grip in the second, allowing the 29-year-old Istomin to break twice to level at one set all after one hour, 30 minutes on court.

However, in the deciding set, Cilic, 14th in the ATP rankings, moved up a gear to race to a 4-0 advantage, which let him book a place in the quarter-finals.

“In the last few matches with Denis [Istomin], I always experienced problems, as his style of play doesn’t suit me,” Cilic said. “Today, it was another very tough match, as in the first two sets I didn’t have any break points.”

“In the third set I felt that his game dipped a little and that was enough for me to make the deciding advantage,” Cilic said.

“I feel that I’m not too far from my top form and I hope in the near future I will be able to play much, much better,” he added.

Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov defeated Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin 6-1, 7-5, while compatriot Evgeny Donskoy eliminated Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis 6-4, 7-5, Germany’s Philipp Kohlscreiber beat Russia’s Aslan Karatsev 7-6 (7/3), 2-6, 6-4 and France’s Lucas Pouille defeated Spain’s Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-1, 7-6 (7/5).

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