Safarova qualifies for WTA finals as Suarez Navarro loses

MOSCOW (AP) Lucie Safarova grabbed the last spot at the WTA finals Thursday after Carla Suarez Navarro lost to a qualifier at the Kremlin Cup.

Suarez Navarro could have qualified for the season-ending tournament in Singapore by reaching the final in Moscow but was beaten 6-1, 6-2 by Russia’s Daria Kasatkina in the quarterfinals.

Suarez Navarro landed just 56 percent of her first serves as she was dismissed in less than an hour by Kasatkina, who at 104th in the world is ranked 90 places below her Spanish opponent.

Suarez Navarro said she had ”a really bad day” against Kasatkina but denied she was feeling the pressure of having to qualify for next week’s finals.

”I don’t think about Singapore at all this match,” she said. ”I just tried to play good, to be focused on my game, but she played good tactically and I couldn’t be aggressive.”

Czech player Safarova had lost in the first round in Moscow to reigning champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

In Singapore, she joins Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber and Flavia Pennetta.

Reaching her first WTA finals caps a year in which Safarova played her first Grand Slam final, losing to Serena Williams at the French Open. ”There have already been so many highlights this year, and I hope to finish it playing some more great tennis in front of the amazing Singapore crowd,” she said on the WTA website.

In the Moscow semifinals, Kasatkina takes on reigning Kremlin Cup champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who won 6-1, 6-3 against Margarita Gasparyan in an all-Russian match.

The other semifinal will pit Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova against Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko.

Two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova had a tough start against Latvian qualifier Anastasija Sevastova 5-7, 6-1, 6-3. Tsurenko had a walkover when third-seeded Pennetta withdrew Wednesday citing a leg injury.

In the men’s event, Marin Cilic of Croatia, seeded first, struggled with his powerful serve during a tough second-round match with Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin. Cilic fought back hard after losing the second set to go 4-0 up in the decider and eventually clinch the match 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3.

”I’ve always had trouble with him and the way he plays doesn’t suit me perfectly,” Cilic said of Istomin. ”In the third set I just felt that slightly he just dropped with his game and that was enough for me to make that big advantage.”

Cilic faces a quarterfinal meeting with Russian Andrei Kuznetsov, who knocked out eighth-seeded Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan 6-1, 7-5.

France’s Lucas Pouille won his second-round match against Spain’s Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-1, 7-6 (5). He meets second-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain in the quarterfinals.