Wednesday, 14 November, 2018

Pliskova advances as Stephens hands Osaka lifeline

Sloane Stephens of the United States waves to the crowd after beating Naomi Osaka of Japan in their women's singles match at the WTA tennis tournament in Singapore on Monday Oct. 22 2018 WTA Finals: Sloane Stephens beats Naomi Osaka in Singapore
Sergio Cook | 26 October, 2018, 06:26

Stephens, who won the 2017 U.S. Open after spending 11 months out with a foot injury, said she could sympathise with Osaka after the 21-year-old complained of exhaustion in her two tournament appearances since last month's triumph in NY.

When she failed to capitalize on four break points in the fourth game of the second set, she made a visible shrugging gesture with both hands.

Osaka, who was often battling to keep her emotions in check, fashioned five break points when Kerber served for the set at 5-4 but the German was able to stave off all of them with some gutsy tennis and sealed the opener with a booming serve.

Naomi Osaka was left frustrated with her performance after she opened her debut WTA Finals tournament with a 7-5 4-6 6-1 defeat against Sloane Stephens, the U.S. Open champion admitting that she never really felt comfortable against the American.

Kvitova worked her way back into the contest, rallying twice from 40-0 down to win back-to-back games in the middle of the set that finally gave Pliskova something to think about.

After Osaka wasted a chance to level things up when she declined to challenge a call that would have been ruled in her favour, Stephens took command of the match. "I thought I played a really good match - I played solid from start to finish", she said.

It was the result Osaka needed after she fell to No. 1 seed Angelique Kerber in a three-set classic to put her on the brink of elimination. But she redeemed herself by breaking straight back to level the match. "I think that this tournament is really special in that way, because there is no other tournament during the year that does a round-robin format", she said.

Bertens of the Netherlands was the last player to make it into the eight-woman tournament when world number one Simona Halep withdrew through injury.

"So I think that the fact that you get another chance to learn from your mistakes and apply it in the matches going on is something that's really good". The Dutch player went for broke and ran the Wimbledon champion around the court to take control of the contest.

Osaka changed her tactics at the start of the second set, finding success by drawing Stephens into the court and away from her baseline comfort zone to hold far more comfortably, but the American used her potent forehand to stay in touch.

"Honestly, beginning of the second was just like hopefully I can get a few more games".

However, Osaka fought back to earn two break points and levelled the match at 5-5 with a brilliant forehand victor. She once again broke a flustered Kerber to take it into a third set for the first time between the pair.

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