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Osaka vs Bertens tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – US Open champion Osaka tries to avoid going winless in Singapore

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 25 Oct 2018
  • Naomi Osaka faces Kiki Bertens on Friday at the WTA Finals Singapore
  • Osaka vs Bertens is live from Singapore on Friday at 4pm local/9am BST
Naomi Osaka (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP)

Both US Open champion Naomi Osaka and Kiki Bertens are in with a chance of making the WTA Finals Singapore semifinals but who can seize opportunity on Friday?

The final day of round-robin play begins with Naomi Osaka and Kiki Bertens facing off – all four women in the Red Group can still make the semifinals but will it be either one of these first-timers?

A week of remarkably close matches in Singapore, which has broken the record for most three-set matches at a season-ending WTA championship, meant that all eight women still had the chance to reach the semifinals going into the final two days’ play. Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina have secured their places in the final four from the White Group, but there are still two spots up for grabs from the Red Group – and four players who can claim them.

Naomi Osaka shows her frustration  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
The scenarios are complicated, which adds another level of intrigue to this clash between Bertens and Osaka. If Bertens wins, she is almost certain to go through to the semifinals, unless she wins in three sets and Angelique Kerber wins in three sets in which case it would come down to percentage of games won between Bertens, Kerber and Sloane Stephens. If Osaka wins, she could still eliminated by a Kerber victory – but if Stephens wins, Osaka will make the semifinals unless both Stephens and Osaka have won in three sets, in which case again it will come down to percentage of games won between Bertens, Kerber and Osaka.

Like I said, it’s complicated. But one thing is certain: If either Bertens or Osaka lose in straight sets, they will be definitively eliminated – and defeat in three sets makes their chances very slim. 

Winning is exactly what Osaka hasn’t been able to do in her Singapore debut so far. The US Open champion was excited to play here, but these conditions, which favour defensive players and make it difficult for more aggressive power players to strike through the court, hit winners and play quick points, do not help her game in the way that they help counterpunchers like Kerber and Stephens – both of whom have already beaten Osaka this week. And in both matches, she faded as it went on: She split two very tough sets with Stephens, but lost the third 1-6. Against Kerber, she broke back as her opponent served for the match to send it to a decider and kept it closer, but still lost 4-6. 

The biggest problem for Osaka, who is struggling with an injured back and referred pain in the legs, has been her serve. Against Stephens, she served at 56% and won 68% of points behind it; against Kerber, she served at 50% (and it declined throughout the match). 

‘In a way I'm very proud of myself for being able to make the matches so close without really having a first serve, but I don't know. I feel like I'm not really sure how that's going wrong, and I want to practice it,’ Osaka said.

She added: ‘For some reason I can't get the timing of the ball on the court, on the groundstrokes or the serves.

‘So it's a bit strange feeling, like, playing against the top players and then not knowing what you're going to do on the next ball. I want to be in the top form, but I'm not really there. So it's a little bit depressing.’

Without a strong serving performance and on a court which makes it hard to hit winners, Osaka’s unforced numbers have been consequently high – although I think she has done pretty well to make the matches as close as she has, given how things have been stacked against her. But she faces the very real prospect of going winless on her Singapore debut – a fate she will be desperate to avoid on Friday.

Kiki Bertens at least knows that she has avoided that particular fate after the Dutch player came back from a set and a break down to beat Kerber on Monday, although she wasn’t able to eke out a win in a very high-quality, tight match against Stephens. The American raced into an early lead but Bertens was able to pull it back and take the first set to a tie-break, only to dig herself too big a hole to climb out of with two big unforced errors on the first three points. Bertens refused to go away, though, surging back to level the match, and actually led 2-0 in the decider before Stephens won four straight games to lead 4-2, going on to win the match and snap Bertens’s nine-match winning streak against top-10 players with a 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-3 victory.

Kiki Bertens (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
It was, personally, my favourite match of the tournament so far and showcased just how much Bertens has improved – and what solid foundations that improvement is built on. Considered a clay-court specialist until midway through this season, Bertens’s all-court skills are really serving her well on these courts where panicking and trying to pull the trigger too early on a power play is a recipe for disaster. 

‘In the beginning when you play like this, I was really thinking, “Okay, do I belong here? I'm playing so bad” and all that kind of stuff,’ Bertens said.

She added: ‘I think I could play a little bit more like how I'm comfortable playing, because in the second set you could see that I was putting pressure, and she was missing some shots.

‘In the third set, she was just really solid, and I was missing too many balls. I think it was just a few points, and then you start doubting a little and that's never good.In general I could play a little bit more the way I wanted to play, but sometimes maybe I had to play a little bit more aggressive.’

Of the two, it’s definitely Bertens who is having the better week in Singapore and who has found a way to adjust to the conditions – thanks, perhaps, to the all-court skills that come with being a great clay-courter. She lost her only previous match against Osaka in straight sets, 4-6, 2-6 – but that was in very different conditions in Acapulco, and back in 2016 when both women were much less confident and accomplished than they are now. With Osaka struggling physically, mentally and tactically in these conditions, I think Bertens has a great opportunity to win this match and thereby all but guarantee herself a spot in the WTA Finals Singapore semifinals.

Osaka vs Bertens BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore round-robin tennis is live from Singapore on Friday at 4pm local/9am BST

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

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Osaka vs Bertens tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – US Open champion Osaka tries to avoid going winless in Singapore

Naomi Osaka vs Kiki Bertens live streaming, preview and predictions for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore round-robin match on Friday 26 October: Both Bertens and Osaka are still in with a chance to make the semifinals on their debut at the season-ending championships

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