By Ros Satar, in Singapore

  • Sloane Stephens [5] def. Kiki Bertens [8] 7-6(4) 2-6 6-3
  • No semi-final place decided in either group ahead of the final round robin matches
SINGAPORE – Sloane Stephens continued her impressive debut at the WTA Finals with another hard fought three-setter to defeat Kiki Bertens.

 

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Sloane Stephens [5] def. Kiki Bertens [8] 7-6(4) 2-6 6-3

Sloane Stephens made it two wins in a row on her debut at the WTA Finals as she handed Kiki Bertens her first defeat of the tournament at the end of the second round-robin stage.

Certainly, it looked as though nerves might be playing a part once more with Bertens as Stephens jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Dutchwoman steadied the ship to hold and then peg back the American.

Trading a further brace of serves, the pair settled into a far more competitive rhythm leading us to a first tie-break this tournament. Stephens surged ahead taking it on her third set point.

Once again Bertens impressed with her ability to rally from behind. Striking decisively (and despite being pegged back once, she swiftly jumped out to a commanding 5-1 lead needing some deep, calming breathes as she finally closed the set out on her fifth set point, breaking Stephens on the way.

There was more of a twist to come as for the third day in a row, both singles matches had gone the distance. Bertens was the first to break, but lost the advantage straight away, broken twice in succession by the American.

Getting her nose ahead for the first time in the set galvanised her towards the finish line as she finished with the flourish of a break to love to go 2-0 up in the standings, with all to play for on Friday.

Bertens admitted it had been another slow start, but those feelings of doubt that maybe haunted her a little in her first runaway set against Angelique Kerber in the first round-robin match had long since gone away, given her performance on Wednesday night/Thursday morning.

Kiki Bertens in the first round robin match at the WTA Finals 2018, Singapore

Kiki Bertens in the first round robin match at the WTA Finals 2018, Singapore | Jimmie48 Tennis Photgraphy

She told reporters after the match: “It was a tough match. I think Sloane had a good start. I was struggling again a little bit in the beginning and then I didn’t play a good tiebreaker. In the second set, I played a little bit better and I think the level of Sloane dropped a lot.

“And then in the beginning of the third she raised her level again. I think it was really close. It was just a few points, but she was staying in there tough. Physically she was really well. So it was tough there today. But I think, yeah, I deserve to be here right now. That’s my feeling.”

Stephens had a lot of praise for her fellow newcomer, and both of them have acquitted themselves well in their first time out on the singles draw.

She said: “[Bertens is] just an all-around really solid player. She has a lot of variety in her game. She can slice, she can dropshot, she can come to the net, can do a lot of really great things.

“I think we are kind of similar in that we can mix it up a lot and do a lot of different things. So I thought that’s
why we had so many great points, long points where there were slices and lobs and all types of different things going on.

“But I think that’s why it was so competitive, because we were playing kind of similar, but it was a tough match. I think it’s not often you play someone who plays kind of similar to you that
you have to kind of battle it out and figure it out.”

It could be another long night ahead for Stephens as she faces Kerber and for both groups now there is all to play for as no-one has automatically qualified, nor been eliminated from the groups.

Stephens said: “Looking forward to it. I’ve played well against her in the past. Just gotta go to battle. Obviously every match is a tough match and every match counts. Just going to go out and compete my hardest and hopefully get another win.”

The final round-robin matches for the Red Group takes place on Friday.

 

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