By Ros Satar, in Singapore

  • Sloane Stephens [5] def. Karolina Pliskova [7] 0-6 6-4 6-1
  • Will face Elina Svitolina for the title on Sunday
SINGAPORE – Sloane Stephens came back from losing eight games on the spin to deliver a masterclass in coming back from behind to book her spot in the final.


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

Karolina Pliskova in the second round robin match of the WTA Finals 2018, Singapore

Karolina Pliskova in the second round robin match of the WTA Finals 2018, Singapore | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

In her first year at the season-ending championships, Sloane Stephens hauled herself over the lne to qualify for the final berth, having to overcome a speedy start from Karolina Pliskova and an 0-8 deficit to get through.

At the start of the match, it was all Pliskova, as Stephens could not find any answers for the Czech’s game. With the first set done, and a break down in the second, Stephens said she did not want her last tour match of the year to end with an 0 and 0 defeat.

Winning one game was the start as she inched her way into the game, and as Pliskova’s level dropped off more, Stephens seemed to regain the fight and spirit we had seen earlier on in the tournament as she came through 3-0 in the round-robin stages.

Breaking Pliskova three times in the second set, and four in the decider puts Stephens back in the driving seat in what should be a closely contested final.

Sloane Stephens after the third round-robin match at the WTA Finals 2018, Singapore

Sloane Stephens after the third round-robin match at the WTA Finals 2018, Singapore | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Stephens said: “I was thinking, Shit. I made it all the way to the semi-final, and I’m going to lose? Oh, no. It’s, like, this is so embarrassing. Yeah, that was it, basically. I was, like, I’m going to lose 0-0. It’s like I’m trying so hard. Nothing’s working. But then I won one game. Then you know the rest.

“I think she was just playing really well. Like I didn’t think I was playing that badly. I was making a lot of shots in the court, but she was just reading everything that I was putting back. I mean, I just wasn’t aggressive enough. She was serving really well, so obviously if she’s serving well, that makes it a little bit difficult. So she was serving well, and I just wasn’t being aggressive enough. I wasn’t making her play enough balls.

“Obviously at 6-Love, 2-Love, you don’t have anything to lose, so you can kind of do whatever at that point and hope for the best. I think that’s what I did. I was, like, I gotta win a game. I cannot be embarrassed. I’ve played so well this whole week, and I cannot let this be the last match of the season, like, it can’t end like that. I just tried my best, and, yeah, it ended up okay.”

Just as Elina Svitolina, who she will face on Sunday in the final, has spoken out at her critics who feel she doesn’t not deserve to be here, Stephens could relate.

She continued: “I think my biggest thing was obviously after the US Open last year, everyone was Oh, she’s a one-hit wonder, she’ll never do anything again, it was just lucky, no one was playing, blah, blah, blah, and I think this season I was just like I really want to play a little more consistent, I want to have some better results in the bigger tournaments and just do better and show that I’m, you know, I’m a top-10 player or top whatever player.

“I think I did that throughout the year. Obviously winning Miami, finals of another Grand Slam, finals in Montreal, quarters of the US Open defending a title. Could I have done better? Yeah. Could I have done better in smaller tournaments? Could I have done some things differently, schedule changes, whatever? Yeah, I could have.

“But I think off of not playing tennis for 11 months and having surgery and having to reset my whole life and career and kind of figure out what was really important to me tennis-wise, I think that this year I have done extremely well. I don’t think anyone can say that I had a bad season.

“So, I think from what I did this year, I want to continue to build obviously for next year, and I think obviously ending this tournament here, win or finals, I think will help me going into 2019.”

The WTA Finals championship match will be played on Sunday, not before 7:30pm (11:30am GMT).


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