By Ros Satar, in Singapore
- Sloane Stephens  v Elina Svitolina 
- H2H: Stephens leads 2-1
SINGAPORE – The two strongest players from the group stages Elina Svitolina and Sloane Stephens go head to head for the season ending championships.
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Sloane Stephens  v Elina Svitolina  | H2H: Stephens leads 2-1
In a stark contrast from last year, Svitolina has been more focused and determined and it has shown in each of her wins. Stand out matches have to include her final round-robin match against Caroline Wozniacki where she needed just one set to advance, and dropped the first against the defending champion, coming back to seal her place and end Wozniacki’s defence in the second.
She has been involved in the two longest matches at the WTA Finals this season – her semi-final against Kiki Bertens, and that match against Wozniacki. Perhaps more impressive is that her record in tour level finals stands at 12-2, and has won her past eight matches at this stage – her lost loss was in Zhuhai in 2016.
Stephens’ title record stands at 6-2. This season she has reached four finals winning Miami earlier this year. However, her wins over Svitolina have all come on hard courts including Montreal this year, which ought to give her a little confidence.
Stephens has also had her fair share of tough matches this week, with her semi-final as one of the toughest matches so far, coming from a set behind to win, although she was on court longer in her first round-robin match against Naomi Osaka.
Both players feel they have something to prove here. Svitolina has been brutally honest about the criticism she has received ranging from her appearance to her right to be here, and for her to lift what would be the biggest title of her career to date would be the perfect way for her answer those critics.
Stephens had a similar view, after her semi-final, where she addresses those who felt she would never match her run to the US Open title. She proved those critics wrong with her runner-up spot at Roland Garros. Interestingly that was her first defeat in tour level finals and she lost once more to Simona Halep in Montreal.
Any memories of the miserable experience at the season-ending finale have surely been eradicated for Svitolina, and she will look to execute her aggressive baseline game against the athleticism of Stephens on Sunday.
What has impressed most about Svitolina is the edge she has found on her focus, and she admitted it was an area she had been working on for some time. For those that do wonder if she has what it takes to win a Slam – that focus is well on the way there.
Stephens knows what it takes to win a major title, and more importantly she knows what it takes to come back from an exit – her comeback against Pliskova proved how much she does care about results here, despite often giving the impression that it never matters – it does. We saw how much the loss at Roland Garros was felt, and a loss here after her battles would hurt – no doubt.
It is a tough one to call and this has all the ingredients to make another long three-setter. The edge is maybe on Stephens’ side. Her match against Angelique Kerber was incredible – she did everything that Kerber can do to frustrate and choke players, just better. Expect Stephens to force Svitolina on the run, and to edge this final showdown in Singapore.
Prediction: Stephens in three sets.
The WTA Finals Championship Match takes place at 7:30pm (11:30am GMT)
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