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Kerber vs Stephens tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Is Sloane headed for the semifinals on her WTA Finals Singapore debut?

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 25 Oct 2018
  • Angelique Kerber faces Sloane Stephens in the final round-robin match of the WTA Finals Singapore on Friday
  • Kerber vs Stephens is live from Singapore on Friday at 7.30pm local/12.30pm BST
Angelique Kerber (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Can Angelique Kerber hand Sloane Stephens her first defeat of the week at the WTA Finals Singapore?

The final round-robin match of the WTA Finals Singapore could decide the fate of the Red Group as Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber takes on French Open finalist Sloane Stephens on Friday.

Despite Stephens having gone 2-0 in Singapore so far and Naomi Osaka having gone 0-2, all four women in the Red Group still have a chance to reach the semifinals going into Friday’s final round-robin matches, with Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina already qualified from the White Group.

Angelique Kerber  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Thanks to Stephens’s wins over Osaka and Kiki Bertens so far, the American is in the most commanding position – if she beats Kerber, she will make the semifinals no matter what anybody else does. Kerber, on the other hand, might have to beat Stephens in straight sets to guarantee making the semifinals if Bertens has beaten Osaka; equally, if Osaka has beaten Bertens in three and Kerber loses to Stephens but wins a set, she could still be in with a chance of making the semifinals as it would then go to game percentage to break a three-way tie between Kerber, Osaka and Bertens for the second spot.

It’s impossible to know, until Osaka and Bertens have played, what exactly Kerber and Stephens will need to do in order to ensure their qualification (if Osaka gets her first win of the week, Stephens might well be playing a dead rubber, as that would put her through to the semifinals despite the result against Kerber). 

On three previous appearances at the WTA Finals – two in Istanbul and one in Singapore – Kerber failed to get out of her group, the exception coming in 2016 when she won every match on her way to the final, only to lose to Dominika Cibulkova.

The Wimbledon champion did not come in with a lot of form to draw on, having had unspectacular results since claiming her third Grand Slam in July, but like other fundamentally defensive players she has been able to get matches and sets won on this court this week. Her opening match against Bertens saw the left-hander find victory slipping away from her despite having completely dominated the first set, as Bertens found her game and started to dictate and Kerber, once having let her level drop to let Bertens into the match, couldn’t quite keep going for her shots when she needed to. And it looked like it might be a somewhat similar story against Osaka: Kerber actually served for the match in the second set but lost three straight games to send the match to a third set, claiming a late break to get the win 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.

But while Kerber had definitely cooperated in her loss to Bertens, she maintained, I thought, a consistently high level against Osaka – not easy to do in the face of the US Open champion’s ability to wrest control of the match totally away from her opponent, even on these courts, as she did briefly at the end of the second set. Kerber kept her chin up, kept working hard for everything and making it almost impossible for Osaka to hit winners, while ensuring that the Japanese-American player was constantly leaking unforced errors. 

If there is a concern, it’s that Kerber’s serving didn’t look great as she seemed to be struggling a bit with her back – but she made up for that with consistent pressure on return.

Playing Sloane Stephens, however, could be a very different (and potentially much more challenging) prospect.

Stephens is absolutely capable of making as many unforced errors as Osaka – but that’s not how the American has been playing so far this week. Making her WTA Finals debut after a season that included a runner-up finish at the French Open and claiming one of the year’s biggest titles in Miami, Stephens said she was deeply unfamiliar with the round-robin format. But while that could come back to bite her in this final match, so far the American looks like she has it mastered, going 2-0 against Osaka and Bertens.

Sloane Stephens (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP) 
Stephens could have booked her place in the semifinals with a straight-sets win over Bertens, having beaten Osaka 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 on Monday, and she made a great start against the Dutch player, racing to a 3-0 lead. But Bertens came in on a nine-match winning streak against top-10 players and she promptly turned things around, getting back on serve to take it to a tie-break. Stephens was just slightly more clinical in that tie-break, with Bertens making two big unforced errors in the first three points, but the effort of clinching that first set saw her slump a little at the beginning of the second and Bertens absolutely roared back to level before taking a 2-0 lead in the decider. 

Stephens swung the momentum decisively back in her direction as she won four games in a row to lead 4-2, and then managed to keep her nose in front – just about – to seal a 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-3 victory in a match that ended past 1am, took two hours and 22 minutes and was, for my money, the best match of the tournament so far. 

‘I think we are kind of similar in that we can mix it up a lot and do a lot of different things,’ Stephens said. ‘So I thought that's why we had so many great points, long points where there were slices and lobs and all types of different things going on.

‘But I think that's why it was so competitive, because we were playing kind of similar. But it was a tough match. I think it's not often you play someone who plays kind of similar to you that you have to kind of battle it out and figure it out.

‘It was kind of cool, but I thought we played some really great points. I guess that's kind of what competing is all about.’

Stephens should get her fill of competition, then, as she takes on Kerber. The American leads the head-to-head 4-1, and has won the last four in straight sets (one of them was a retirement from Kerber trailing a set and 0-3), most recently allowing Kerber just three games on her way to the Miami Open title in March. To me, this is a reflection of the fact that Stephens simply has more options in her game than Kerber, who only does a couple of things well (but does them supremely well); Stephens can defend and counterpunch, but she’s also capable of injecting a great deal of pace, her serve is bigger and more of a weapon than Kerber’s, and she just has more ways of winning points. On the other hand, she doesn’t have anything like Kerber’s consistency.

It’s so hard to predict how this one might play out because what each is playing for will depend on the result of the Osaka-Bertens match – Stephens will already have qualified for the semifinals if Osaka has won, in which case it doesn’t seem likely that she’ll be particularly keen on grinding her way through hours of long rallies with Kerber. She also doesn’t have a lot of experience in round-robin, unlike Kerber, and days like this are where that experience really pays off. But so far this week, Stephens has been playing the better tennis and she has a nice head-to-head against Kerber. Will that be enough to see her win this Singapore clash?

Kerber vs Stephens BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore round-robin tennis is live from Singapore on Friday at 7.30pm local/12.30pm BST

*Geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify

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Kerber vs Stephens tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Is Sloane headed for the semifinals on her WTA Finals Singapore debut?

Angelique Kerber vs Sloane Stephens live streaming, preview and predictions for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore round-robin match on Friday 26 October: Stephens is on a four-match winning streak against Kerber with both still in semifinal contention

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