The 2018 WTA Finals continued in Singapore on Monday with the first set of matches from the red group. Both matches went the distance and both saw the lower ranked player win! The seeds through five to eight have won the opening four matches. It’s not a big surprise with how the season has gone and the general mantra that anyone can beat anyone.
I haven’t yet watched the second match of the day (WTA TV have been slow in uploading the matches 😒) where Kiki Bertens came from a set down to beat the number one seed, Angelique Kerber. Bertens has now won her last nine (!!!) matches against top ten opposition. I’m off to watch Kerber-Bertens back in full… read on for a review of the first match of the day featuring Naomi Osaka and Sloane Stephens.
Sloane Stephens d. Naomi Osaka, 7-5 4-6 6-1
From the quartet of matches to open the 2018 WTA Finals, the Osaka-Stephens match was the one I was most looking forward to. While the quality wavered and the conclusion was a tad subdued, it generally lived up to expectation as a very engaging and competitive three setter. I’m excited for this match-up in the years to come. Ultimately, Stephens was the more consistent player, drawing away at the end, 7-5 4-6 6-1, in two hours and 24 minutes to record her first win in Singapore. From experience of previous newbies, this seems to be a court that takes some time to adjust to. It was a scrappy start from both players with many of the points being decided on errors. The quality definitely improved in the second set where there were a handful of superb rallies with both using the angles to their advantage.
I was impressed with how Stephens held her court position. The American was very positive in her attitude, maintaining a pretty even level across all three sets. Osaka won the second set playing a bit more aggressively, but errors were her undoing in the first and third sets. Osaka showed signs of frustration which you don’t often see from the Japanese player. I would guess this stems from tiredness, both physical and mental, since her title run at the US Open. It must have been such an overwhelming few months for Osaka and I do wonder whether she’s even had the opportunity to process everything has happened.
A good start for Sloane and early signs suggest this is a good court for her.
The press conferences are posted every day on the WTA Facebook page. Osaka spoke about how her timing was off and that she wished she had spent longer practising on the court. Stephens discussed chatting with Osaka for the first time during the gala event.
The second set of matches from the white group will feature Caroline Wozniacki against Petra Kvitova and Elina Svitolina against Karolina Pliskova.