Singapore | Stephens sees off Bertens
The second match on Wednesday in Singapore proved to be a slow burner, with the crowd taking time to warm to the contest as Sloane Stephens raced into a 3-0 lead before Kiki Bertens dragged herself back into contention.
I just tried my best from the very first point of the final set. It didn't go my way immediately but I just kept battling and I'm really pleased to pull through, Sloane Stephens
Eventually, Stephens, the 5th seed, held off the determined Dutchwoman in the late-night thriller at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, ensuring that the Red Group remains wide open until the last day of round robin play.
Both players came into the encounter with a chance to top the Red Group and advance into the semi-finals.
Stephens would have sealed a berth with a straight sets win, while Bertens, thanks to Angelique Kerber’s earlier three-set win over Naomi Osaka, simply needed to win.
The American, however, ensured that neither of those scenarios came to pass, dropping a set en route to recording her 7-6(4) 2-6 6-3 victory at nearly 1am Singapore time.
It looked as if nerves were playing a part again on Bertens when Stephens jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Dutchwoman steadied the ship to hold and then peg back the American.
Trading a further brace of serves, the pair settled into a far more competitive rhythm as their serving improved leading into the first tie-break in which Stephens surged ahead, taking it on her third set point when Bertens sent a forehand into the tramlines.
The Dutchwoman then capitalised on a drop in intensity from Stephens to reel off 4 games in a row on her way to snagging the second set.
Striking decisively and despite being pegged back once, she jumped to a commanding 5-1 lead needing some deep, calming breaths as she finally closed the set out on her 5th set point, breaking Stephens on the way.
After a pep-talk from her coach, Stephens finally woke from her slumber to re-assert her authority and closed out a memorable victory, getting her nose ahead for the first time in the set and galvanising her towards the finish line, clinching the match with the flourish of a break to love.
She had made it two wins in a row on her debut at the WTA Finals, handing Kiki Bertens her first defeat of the tournament at the end of the second round-robin stage.
“I just tried my best from the very first point of the final set. It didn’t go my way immediately but I just kept battling and I’m really pleased to pull through,” Stephens said, who has now gone 2-0 up in the standings, with all to play for on Friday.