By Ros Satar, in Singapore

  • Kiki Bertens [8] def. Angelique Kerber [1] 1-6 6-3 6-4
  • Bertens will now face Sloane Stephens, while Kerber faces Naomi Osaka next
SINGAPORE – Kiki Bertens stuns top seed Angelique Kerber as the top four seeds at the WTA Finals all lose in the opening round-robin matches.

 

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Kiki Bertens [8] def. Angelique Kerber [1] 1-6 6-3 6-4

After scrambling into the last WTA Finals berth, thanks to Simona Haleps late withdrawal through injury, Kiki Bertens completed the rout of the top four seeds by the underdogs and newcomers, as she stunned top seed Angelique Kerber in a taut three-setter.

It certainly did not feel like the case in the early exchanges with Kerber looking very much in control as she leapt out to a 3-1 lead and with another break in the bag, she deflected three break points to take the first set on her third set point.

Rallies were tense as both plied their craft, and it looked as through Kerber was on her way to an opening win with an early break at the start of the second set. Bertens, however, has caused Kerber headaches before, and found her way not only back into the match to level at 2-2, but to push for a break at the end of the set, with no difficulty in closing it out to take it into a decider.

To describe the start (and indeed middle) of the third set as tight would be a staggering understatement, with seven straight breaks of serve, but it was Bertens who came out ahead, consolidating for a 5-3 lead.

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

Kerber reminded her she has history here with a love hold, but it was not enough as Bertens made her debut with some style, setting Kerber on the back foot.

Coming into press quickly, Kerber acknowledged the set-back, but she does know the format well, and knows there is plenty of room to improve ahead of her match with Naomi Osaka.

“I know that I have to win my next matches, but I have still chances so it’s not that I’m out of the tournament. But of course, I know that I have to play like I start the match, like in the first set, and trying to playing my two sets like this. I know that it is there. I just have to play more consistent.”

Bertens closes out a bit of a rout from the four lower seeds, three of them newcomers to the tournament, after Osaka was beaten also in three sets by Sloane Stephens.

She credited coach Raemon Sluiter with helping her to adjust after their initial game plan was not working. Coupled with nerves, it was enough at the start of the second set to want to just more games on the board, but the more comfortable she got, the more it felt like she belonged in the field.

She said: “Before the match it was the plan to just try to play aggressive where I can but not rush too much. So just try to play the rally and see how it goes. Then I called him already in the first set. And then more the plan was just hang in there, try to be tough, just play some more rallies and then see.

“But I was making so many mistakes, so that didn’t work out. And then, like, the third one finally worked better. And that was like to play more aggressive and go for my shots.

“Really like in the beginning when you play like this, I was really thinking, okay, do I belong here? I’m playing so bad and all that kind of stuff.

“To just start playing more aggressive like what I did, that’s not really like how I normally play my matches, so I think that’s one thing I can be really proud of today, that I turned that match around, that I played more aggressive, going a little bit out of my comfort zone and to get a win.”

Bertens will face Stephens on Wednesday not before 9pm (2pm BST).

 

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