WTA Finals: Sloane Stephens beats Kiki Bertens to give Naomi Osaka lifeline

Tanya Simon
October 27, 2018

On Friday, Stephens will play Kerber and Osaka takes on Bertens in the final round-robin matches of Red Group.

The rising superstar lamented her woes on serve.

Germany's Angelique Kerber celebrates after winning her group stage match against Japan's Naomi Osaka.

It was really sad and to be honest we haven't really spoken about it that much right after, she didn't really want to speak about it and I respect that. Like a bunch of photographers and she held a press conference with over 400 media outlets and stuff, which is ridiculous, but lovely to see as well that one individual can spark such a hype and create this big wave through a whole nation and being part of it makes me feel very proud and blessed.

The early match began tentatively with three consecutive breaks of serve falling in the German's favour as Osaka looked to dictate with her power, while Kerber was content to counter-punch off the back foot and keep the ball in play.

"I can not be more happy right now".

"It doesn't feel good". Ultimately I hope that Naomi sees that I only have her best interest at heart and that I only wish her well.

In the tournament's first tie break, Stephens took advantage of a misfiring Bertens to draw first blood.

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Svitolina opened her campaign on Sunday with a straight sets win over Kvitova while Pliskova beat defending champion Wozniacki in two sets.

The Dutchwoman carried that momentum into the start of the decider, breaking to move 2-0 ahead, but Stephens finally awoke from her slumber after looking flat for a half a dozen games to reassert her authority and close out a memorable victory.

"I just tried my best from the very first point of the final set".

In Vienna, world No. 10 Grigor Dimitrov had his Vienna Open debut cut short by Mikhail Kukushkin on Wednesday, losing 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to the experienced Kazakh in the opening round.

"We both played on a really high level tonight", said Kerber, who improved to 4-1 in her career against the 21-year-old U.S. Open champion.

Eighth seed Kyle Edmund maintained his strong run of form as he battled past Argentina's Diego Schwartzman in his opening match, three days after beating Gael Monfils to register his first ATP Tour title in Antwerp, Belgium.

The qualifiers will be decided on the last day of round robin play. A demoralised Stephens had no answer and her slump continued into the deciding set where she was broken in the second game.

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