By Ros Satar, in Singapore

  • Sloane Stephens [5] def. Karolina Pliskova [7] 0-6 6-4 6-1
  • Will play Fed Cup final next month
SINGAPORE – Karolina Pliskova was stunned by a dominating comeback from Sloane Stephens as the Czech departed once more at the semi-final stage.


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Sloane Stephens [5] def. Karolina Pliskova [7] 0-6 6-4 6-1

Sloane Stephens in the first round robing match of the WTA Finals Singapore, 2018

Sloane Stephens in the first round robin match of the WTA Finals Singapore, 2018 | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Sloane Stephens came back from what looked like a veritable Everest to climb, to beat Karolina Pliskova in three sets and to book the second spot in Sunday’s final.

Pliskova, who had started so strongly in the week with a win over Caroline Wozniacki, before losing her second match to Elina Svitolina. She capped off the round-robins with her first win over fellow Czech Petra Kvitova.

It looked like it would be one-way traffic for the Czech as she completely dominated Stephens in the first set, roaring through the first set without dropping a game and all the confidence and free-swinging we had been used to seeing from Stephens seemed completely lacking.

Losing another two games to make eight on the bounce finally galvanised Stephens into action, and how. She went on to break Pliskova three times, with the Czech rallying briefly to get another one back, but it was enough of an advantage for Stephens to press home, levelling things up.

This time the momentum stayed with the American, and Pliskova’s lone flurry was a straight break back before losing her serve another three times on the trot, to exit in the semi-finals for the second time in a row.

Pliskova said: “I don’t think she played that bad [in the first set]. I think she was maybe also a little bit surprised the way I was playing. I think maybe she was thinking that I’m going to be more passive or that she’s gonna have more time.

“I just really went for it from the second game, actually. When I had the break point, I just killed the return, so I just wanted to be aggressive because I know she can run there like 20 times every shot. That’s what I don’t want to do.

“I think she was a little bit surprised, and she started to miss a little bit too much. And then obviously, on one hand, you think that the match is over for her, so I think she really a little bit went for it, put the speed more.

“She just stopped missing and went for the serve a little bit. Because for me she was just serving very slow the first set, so just every game I had chances. She was ready for my shots. She played couple good games. But I think this can be about one point, this match, actually. It’s tough to say, because if it’s maybe 6-0, 3-0, I don’t think I will lose that match.”

Rennae Stubbs and Karolina Pliskova in the first round robin match of the WTA Finals 2018, Singapore

Rennae Stubbs and Karolina Pliskova in the first round robin match of the WTA Finals 2018, Singapore | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

One of the highlights of this tournament has been watching the interactions with Rennae Stubbs and indeed being able to talk to Stubbs about the challenges she faces with Pliskova, although the improvements have been there to see, and the Czech admitted she was most proud of her movement up to the net and winning points there.

Of her coaching set up, she said: “I think I’m getting used to switching coaches like every half year (smiling). Yeah, I don’t mind to be with different people. They give you different advices.

“So, I just take only good things from the people. We know that I was with Rennae last year here, so I know her a little bit already before. I know she was a good tennis player, which is always a positive thing that she knows, she understand the game. So that’s one thing.

And also Conchita [Martinez], Rennae took Conchita in the team because she’s not always free. I think so far I’m just happy with my team. I just said before I had only Czech people, so I said I want to just change, because sometimes the Czech mentality is not the best, I think. I think we are just too hard on ourselves sometimes.

“So, I just wanted to have somebody more positive, which I just took. We are always with different countries, with different people every week, so I don’t mind to have different people in the team. If everything is working, I just gonna keep this team, and in future, we will see.”

Pliskova will play in the Fed Cup final between 10-11 November.


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