By Ros Satar, in Singapore

  • Sloane Stephens [5] def. Angelique Kerber [1] 6-3 6-3
  • Stephens rounds out the bottom four seeds ousting the top four to reach the final four.
SINGAPORE – Sloane Stephens extended her impressive run of wins over top seed Angelique Kerber to book the last semi-final spot.

 

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Sloane Stephens [5] def. Angelique Kerber [1] 6-3 6-3

From the start of the tournament, Sloane Stephens has looked very much in control of proceedings she professed to have last played when she was 10 years old (even though she was in Zhuhai last year where they play a similar format)!

Angelique Kerber in the first round robin match at the WTA Finals 2018, Singapore

Angelique Kerber in the first round robin match at the WTA Finals 2018, Singapore | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Since their first encounter in Miami back in 2012, it has been Stephens all the way in this match-up and since then she has never been taken to three sets. This had a few twists and turns in it, but ultimately Stephens was able to dominate the second half of the first set, breaking Angelique Kerber three times in row. The double-break cushion deflected Kerber’s one break back and with a break to take the set, Stephens had one foot in the semi-finals.

The turning point in the second set had to be a mammoth game where Stephens finally prevailed on her sixth break point. Not that it broke the fighting spirit of Kerber just yet – the German finally converted once more on the break point chances that had been coming her way.

However, Stephens has looked by far the more consistent of the two throughout the competition, and it showed with a penultimate break before a confident serve out to love.

After the match she said: “Obviously playing Angie is always tough for me. She’s No. 2 player in the world. She’s a tough match. Coming here and playing against the top players in the world, nothing is going to be easy. Obviously, a lot on the line today, trying to make the semis and trying to get through. I just tried to do my best and battled as hard as I could and stick to my game plan.

“I was just thinking I’m playing against the No. 2 player in the world and she’s probably going to try a little bit harder now and try to win.

“It just kind of slipped away from me, but I didn’t lose focus. I just going and kept playing and tried my absolute hardest, and I got my opportunity at 4-3 when I broke there. Was happy with that. Couldn’t complain. Just stayed focused and kept going.”

Naomi Osaka retires in the third round-robin match of the WTA Finals 2018, Singapore

Naomi Osaka retires in the third round-robin match of the WTA Finals 2018, Singapore | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

The situation for the final pair was made simpler by the retirement of Naomi Osaka in the earlier round-robin match. With Bertens effectively through in straight sets, it made the complex potential for working out percentage of games a non-entity with a straight ‘winner-takes-all’ scenario.

Stephens said: “I had no idea. I purposely didn’t look or go into it or anything, because I was, like, I don’t want to know what the situation is. I was, like, just play and whatever happens happens.”

In the opening round of the tournament this year, the top four seeds all suffered defeats. Now five days n that same four are the ones going into the final two days of the tournament, with Stephens the only Slam champion among them, Karolina Pliskova the only other Slam finalist.

Stephens continued: “I think that everyone came here with not nothing to lose but ready to kind of kick ass. I think we have all played, the four of us in our groups, I think we have all played really well, like even though when I played Kiki, that was probably the best match I played in the group.

“So, yeah, I think it’s great for us, great for the younger girls just to be able to prove ourselves and even get this far and get here.”

The semi-finals start not before 4pm (9am BST) on Saturday with the second semi-final not before 7:30pm (12:30pm BST).

 

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