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Kuznetsova 2-0 at WTA Finals after beating Pliskova

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SINGAPORE — Svetlana Kuznetsova closed in on a spot in the semifinals of the WTA Finals on Wednesday, beating Karolina Pliskova 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (6).

Both players served for the match in the third set, but Kuznetsova finally finished it off on her fourth match point.

“I felt the support of the crowd and I couldn’t let anyone down,” said Kuznetsova, who fell to the court after improving to 2-0 in the White Group. “So I had to fight.”

Kuznetsova will qualify for the semifinals if Agnieszka Radwanska defeats Garbine Muguruza in the second match. Plishkova is 1-1.

Kuznetsova, who has the most three-set match wins of the year with 22, led 4-1 lead in the final set and served for the match at 5-3. But she never held a match point until the tiebreaker.

Pliskova had an opportunity to serve out the match at 6-5.

Kuznetsova, the last player to qualify for the season-ending tournament, returned to the top 10 this year for the first time since she last played at the WTA Finals in 2009.

“I’ve not been at my best my past years,” Kuznetsova said. “Something changed this year and I’m just enjoying my game.”

On Monday, Kuznetsova won her opening match against Radwanska after cutting her own hair during a changeover because she said it was bothering her while she played.

Nadal, Muguruza win ITF player of the year awards

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LONDON — Rafael Nadal and Garbine Muguruza have won the International Tennis Federation’s player of the year awards.

At 31, Nadal becomes the oldest ITF men’s world champion after a season in which he won a 10th French Open and a third U.S. Open.

The Spaniard also became the oldest player to finish the year at No. 1 since the ATP rankings began in 1973.

Muguruza dropped only one set en route to her first Wimbledon title and finished the year at No. 2 behind Simona Halep.

“Becoming ITF world champion in such a competitive year is amazing for me,” said Muguruza, who is also Spanish. “(Nadal) is a great role model for all of us, so it is a great moment for tennis in Spain.”

Kuznetsova out of Australian Open after left wrist surgery

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova has withdrawn from next month’s Australian Open after having surgery on her left wrist.

Tennis Australia on Friday said No. 12-ranked Kuznetsova and China’s Sasai Zheng, with a right knee injury, were the only players ranked in the top 100 who are confirmed as not playing the Jan. 15-28 tournament at Melbourne Park.

Serena Williams, who was pregnant while winning the 2017 Australian Open title and gave birth to her first child in September, “is anticipated to return,” Tennis Australia said.

Williams could equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles with another win at Melbourne Park. Serena Williams’ ranking has dropped to No. 22 during her break from the tour.