Sloane Stephens won the Red Group without loss of a match in the round robin stage of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global on Friday to complete the knockout semi-final line-up of the competition.
I stayed solid the whole time knowing there was a lot on the line, I knew it was going to be a battle and just tried to play as hard as I could. Sloane Stephens
As a debutante in Singapore, Stephens completed her undefeated run when she defeated No 1 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany, 6-3 6-3, in an hour and 40 minutes.
For the first time since 2003 none of the Top 4 seeds have advanced to the final four at the WTA Finals.
Stephens, the first debutante to win all three round-robin matches since Garbiñe Muguruza in 2015, hit 25 winners to Kerber’s 18 and finished the match with 28 unforced errors to the German’s 39.
In the opening stages on Friday evening, Stephens struggled on serve, but stayed level with Kerber through 2-2, withstanding 5 break points in the process with some outrageous winners.
That fight would pay dividends when the American blasted an overhead winner to convert her first break point of the match and take a 3-2 lead.
The German again had chances on a Stephens service game, but the American saved two more break points to hold for 4-2.
Now 0-for-7 on break points, Kerber’s frustration leaked into her next service game, which she dropped to love for 5-2.
Serving for the set, Stephens appeared flustered, squandering 3 set points, the last with a very make-able forehand that flew long, before Kerber finally converted a break point on her 8th try.
Once again Kerber faltered on her serve, pushing an attempted drop shot into the net at 15-30 down to hand Stephens two more set points.
Although Kerber survived a break point the first time she served in the second set, it was her second delivery game that proved crucial.
Stephens attacked the German’s serve and earned a remarkable 7 break points in the game, saving six of them before conceding it with a backhand error.
Kerber looked crushed, and it seemed like the match was all but over when the American went 40-15 up on her serve in the 5th game but, somehow, it did not work out that way as Stephens made a few errors to let the German back in to level.
After two routine holds, the drama resumed when Kerber played 3 horrible points to gift the World No 6 three more break points, and then played three excellent points to drag the score back to deuce. Two games later she conceded her serve again and the American breezed through hers for a place in the semi-finals.
“I stayed solid the whole time knowing there was a lot on the line,” Stephens said after the match.
“I knew it was going to be a battle and just tried to play as hard as I could.”