By Ros Satar, in Singapore
- Angelique Kerber  def. Naomi Osaka  6-4 5-7 6-4
- As for the White group – all four can still qualify in the last round robin matches.
SINGAPORE – Angelique Kerber was taken the distance and sends Naomi Osaka packing on her debut at the WTA Finals.
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Angelique Kerber  def. Naomi Osaka  6-4 5-7 6-4
It was clear nerves were in full effect with three straight breaks of serve, but it was Kerber who came out on top of the initial exchange, in a tight and competitive first set. With the slowness of the court there for all to see, Kerber had as much time as she wanted on the ball, earning another couple of chances to break.
The German faces a real test while serving for the first set, fending off five break points before taking it on the first chance she got.
With Osaka shaking out her leg and stretching out her hamstring, the pair traded four breaks at the start of the second set, with another brace towards the end before Osaka broke Kerber once more to level the match.
Into another decider for both of them, and Osaka was beginning to look the stronger of the two, putting Kerber under pressure but not quite able to find the breakthrough, there but punched a hole in Osaka’s defences to take a 4-3 lead to go ahead in the set for the first time.
Osaka still had plenty of fight, forcing Kerber to save two break points as she consolidated fo a slim lead. Ultimately it was an Osaka error, dumped in the net that handed Kerber her qualification lifeline.
Having said after her first match that she needed to improve and be more consistent, it was a far more satisfied Kerber as she got a much-needed win on the board.
She said: “I think it was a really good match from both of us. I think the first set was good for me, and then she came back in the second set and I had my chances, but she plays good. So, I had no chances to do something.
“And the third set I think it was a lot of up-and-downs, a lot of emotions. It was just one, two points which decide the match. I was just trying to moving good in the last few points and trying to going for it.
“But it was not so easy, because Naomi is [an] incredible player and I knew before that it will be a tough match. I’m just happy that I won the battle and having a match which I won, yeah, on my belt.”
She will face Sloane Stephens in the final round robin match and goes into that match-up trailing the American 1-4.
She said: “Against Sloane, it will be the same like the last two matches. I know what to expect. I know we will have again long rallies, and, you know, I think that I have to be aggressive. I have to go for it, and I have to take the match in my hands. And I think this will be the goal for the next match.”
Of course, regardless of the qualification scenarios, there is one more match to go, and Osaka had to try and assess what was not quite working for her, as she gears up to face Kiki Bertens on Friday.
“For me I feel like this match was sort of a continuation of my last match in a way that I feel like I didn’t serve well, like, in either of them.
“In a way I’m very proud of myself for being able to make the matches so close without really having a first serve, but I don’t know. I feel like I’m not really sure how that’s going wrong, and I want to practice it.
“I don’t know. Like I’m playing against the best players in the world, so I feel like I want to be in the top form, but I’m not really there. So it’s a little bit depressing. I feel like there is a rhythm that I need to, like, get that I haven’t really been in touch with for the past few weeks.”
The final round robin matches for the Red Group will take place on Friday.
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