Svetlana Kuznetsova hacked off her own hair with a pair of scissors and burst into tears before saving a match point and eventually beating the defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska 7-5 1-6 7-5 at the WTA Finals on Monday.
Despite appearing on the verge of exhaustion and close to breaking down, Kuznetsova somehow summoned up the energy to win her opening round-robin match in dramatic fashion, less than 48 hours after she qualified for the prestigious end-of-season championship.
Spectators at Singapore’s Indoor Stadium looked on in stunned disbelief when the Russian gave herself an impromptu haircut early in the deciding third set, chopping off the end of her ponytail and throwing the loose strands onto her seat.
At the next change of ends, Kuznetsova then began to cry, sobbing into her towel before she regained her composure, wiped the tears from her cheeks and went back on the court to finish a contest which lasted almost three hours.
Her efforts looked to have been in vain when she dropped her serve to fall 5-4 behind and Radwanska got to match point but the Pole squandered her lone opportunity and Kuznetsova reeled off the last three games to register one of the most stunning wins of her career.
“At some point I was just ready to lie on the court and let them take me out of here. But I kept at it,” Kuznetsova said in a courtside interview.
A two-time grand slam winner, Kuznetsova was appearing in the WTA Finals, restricted to the world’s top eight players, for the first time since 2009 after she only just snuck into the elite final.
The 31-year-old needed to win the Kremlin Cup in Moscow on Saturday to leapfrog Britain’s Johanna Konta for the last spot in the field then had to fly straight to Singapore just to be ready to play her opening match.
Spain’s French Open champion Garbine Muguruza was scheduled to play the Czech Republic’s US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova in Monday’s other White Group match.