(Reuters) – Former world number one Karolina Pliskova was stunned 6-1 6-2 by qualifier Vera Zvonareva in the Kremlin Cup second round on Wednesday, but defeat came with a silver lining for the Czech who secured qualification for the WTA Finals.
Pliskova’s loss meant Elina Svitolina booked her place in next week’s season-ending tournament in Singapore. However, fellow contender Kiki Bertens lost in three sets to Aliaksandra Sasnovich to give Pliskova the eighth and final spot.
“I’m delighted to be appearing at the WTA Finals for the third time,” world number five Pliskova said.
“I have such great memories from playing in Singapore in 2016 and 2017, and I can’t wait to close out the year competing against the other elite players of 2018.”
Russian Zvonareva raced into a 4-0 lead in the opening set and the 34-year-old continued her dominance in the second set to seal her first win over a top-10 player since 2011. She next faces fifth seed Anastasija Sevastova.
Sasnovich overcame a mid-match lapse to dump out fourth seed Bertens 6-3 4-6 6-3 and the Dutchwoman is now the first alternate for the WTA finals.
Former U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, another player who will feature in Singapore, made a slew of errors in her 6-3 6-2 defeat by Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur. World number 101 Jabeur next meets Anett Kontaveit who beat France’s Kristina Mladenovic 6-2 7-6(3).
(Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)