SINGAPORE (Reuters) - An emotional Agnieszka Radwanska claimed her maiden WTA Finals title with a roller-coaster 6-2 4-6 6-3 victory over Petra Kvitova in an absorbing encounter at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Sunday.
Playing a first final in her seventh appearance at the season-ending event, the sixth-ranked Pole also created history by becoming the first woman to lift the title after completing round robin play with a 1-2 record.
“A few weeks ago I didn’t even know I would be here,” a tearful Radwanska said in a courtside interview, the Pole claiming late-season titles in Tokyo and Tianjin just to secure a place at the elite eight-woman tournament.
“I was doing the right thing in the important moments of a really close match. I had my chances in the second set but it doesn’t really matter how I won,” the Pole added. “It means the world to me.”
In stark contrast to her semi-final victory over Maria Sharapova, 2011 champion Kvitova made a lackluster start with a sloppy opening service game, handing her opponent an immediate break as the Czech got off to the worst possible start.
The double Wimbledon champion finally got on the scoreboard in the third game thanks to a pair of aces but unable to make any inroads on the Radwanska serve, the Czech recorded a third double fault in as many games to cough up yet another break.
Exuding confidence, Radwanska breezed through her next two service games to wrap up a dominant first set in 33 minutes and the 26-year-old was threatening to blow Kvitova off the court when she claimed the opening two games of the second.
Kvitova, who was diagnosed with mononucleosis in August, managed to stop the rot with a hold to claim her first game of the second set, screeching in delight at a forehand winner in an attempt to stir herself into action.
Her efforts bore fruit three games later when the powerful left-hander forged her first break point of the match and leveled at 3-3 with a booming crosscourt forehand winner.
An easy hold put the Czech ahead for the first time in the set and suddenly the crowd had a contest to enjoy after Radwanska’s march to victory ran into a brick wall and Kvitova completed the comeback with a second break to set up a decider.
Grimacing in pain and clutching her bandaged right thigh after each rally, Kvitova was trying to keep the points short as the pair traded a pair of breaks apiece to remain deadlocked in the decider.
Radwanska, however, dug deep once more and broke again in the seventh game before moving to the brink of the biggest victory of her career, ending Kvitova’s resistance on her first match point when the Czech committed her 53rd unforced error.
“I think I played really well in the second when I came back and tried to push her a little bit and tried to play my game and not make the mistakes I had in the first set,” Kvitova said.
“I just couldn’t really continue in the third and I think Aga (Radwanska) played a little bit better at the end of the third set as well.”
In the final of the doubles event, top seeds Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza claimed a ninth title of their first season together with a thumping 6-0 6-3 victory over Spain’s Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro.
Editing by Toby Davis/Patrick Johnston