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Stephens vs Pliskova tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Unbeaten Stephens sets sights on ‘final of finals’ in Singapore

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 26 Oct 2018
  • Sloane Stephens takes on Karolina Pliskova at the WTA Finals Singapore
  • Stephens vs Pliskova is live from Singapore on Saturday at 7.30pm local/12.30pm BST
Sloane Stephens (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova face off for a place in the title match at the WTA Finals Singapore on Saturday.

The Singapore court was made for Sloane Stephens – but Karolina Pliskova’s got the weapons to win on any surface. Who will prevail in the semifinals of the WTA Finals Singapore?

Not just a new champion, but two new finalists are guaranteed to emerge at the WTA Finals Singapore in 2018 with the four lowest seeds, only one of whom has been as far as the semifinals before, progressing to the elimination stages. 

Sloane Stephens celebrates victory against Angelique Kerber (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images for the WTA)
Stephens is one of two first-timers, along with Kiki Bertens, to have made it to the semifinals – and the American has certainly made an impression on her debut, going 3-0 in the round-robin stages to finish top of the Red Group.

After beating US Open champion Naomi Osaka and Kiki Bertens, Stephens had the best record in the group but all four women still had a chance to reach the semifinals on Friday. That state of affairs didn’t last long, however, with Osaka’s retirement when trailing Bertens by a set putting the latter into the semifinals and reducing the complicated maths to a straight winner-takes-all match between Stephens and Wimbledon champion Kerber.

Head-to-heads have proved a poor guide to matches this week, but they held true in this case. Stephens came in on a four-match winning streak against Kerber, and although there were some nerves out there, the American handled the occasion and her opponent to record a 6-3, 6-3 victory and book her place in the semifinals. Kerber competed doggedly, but the German didn’t serve well enough and made some unusual and costly unforced errors. Stephens blended trademark defense with taking her opportunities to dictate play, with her running cross-court forehand a particularly devastating weapon which Kerber could not quite counter with her own ability to attack down the lines on the run. Ultimately, Stephens’s easy power and consistent depth on the ball, while keeping her unforced errors to a minimum, was simply too potent a combination for the former world no. 1.

It’s good in some ways that Stephens didn’t have to go to three sets with Kerber, as her semifinal opponent Karolina Pliskova was enjoying a rest day after securing her own progression through to the elimination stages on Thursday.

As aforementioned, head-to-heads have been a poor guide to results this week – at least, where Petra Kvitova is concerned. The Czech owned a dominant record against her group (as Stephens did against hers) but couldn’t live up to it and her match against Pliskova was no exception. The younger Czech came in with an 0-3 record against Kvitova but overturned it in style, wreaking havoc on the left-hander’s serve in particular and breaking five times on her way to a 6-3, 6-4 victory.

Karolina Pliskova  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
‘[Kvitova] started to be more loose [in the second set], so of course it's happening with her that she can hit some winners, some good shots, some good returns, of course,’ Pliskova said afterwards. ‘So I just tried to move her around and change the speed. I just believed I have weapons which can work against her, and I felt better on this surface, I guess, than her.’

A semifinalist in Singapore last year, when she lost to Caroline Wozniacki (a defeat she avenged earlier this week), Pliskova wasn’t able to beat Elina Svitolina but has otherwise been playing well. The Stuttgart and Tokyo champion has had stretches of lackluster play this season, but her recent team-up with Rennae Stubbs (supported by Conchita Martinez) seems to be working out well and the slow court in Singapore, which neither Kvitova nor Osaka have been able to quite figure out a way to hit through, aren’t bothering her too much – although neither do they flatter her game in the way they do Svitolina’s, Wozniacki’s and Stephens’s.

‘I feel good,’ Pliskova said. ‘I was pretty positive even after the match that I lost against Svitolina. I think my game is just completely fine. There is no reason to panic or there is no reason to just feel bad about something. I think my shots are pretty solid, so I can play anywhere.’

Pliskova will need to hold on to that attitude, because one tremendously tricky aspect of playing the defensively-gifted Stephens on a court like this is having to hang on to your positive mindset and positive tactics through lengthy rallies and despite the inevitable errors. 

‘[Pliskova] has a really big serve, but I think the court kind of neutralizes that,’ Stephens said. ‘I think it will be a good match. Obviously playing semis, you're playing, I don't know, what are we, 8 and 9 in the world, something like that?"

‘A single-digit number when you're playing someone that's a single-digit number is always tough. I'm just going to go out there and play my best and do what I have been doing all week and try to have another good match.’

I think the advantage is definitely with Stephens here. Pliskova did win their most recent encounter, in Madrid this May which is the only time they have played in the past three years, but Stephens leads the head-to-head 2-1 overall and the American’s blend of defense, shot-making power, good serving and variety is honestly very, very potent on these courts. Stephens is also, as we know, so dangerous once she gets on a run and with three wins to her credit, she’s nicely in the groove in Singapore. It will take a tremendous serving performance and a mammoth defensive effort from Pliskova to win this one and I believe Stephens is headed to her first ‘final of finals’ in Singapore.

Stephens vs Pliskova BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore semifinal tennis is live from Singapore on Saturday at 7.30pm local/12.30pm BST

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Stephens vs Pliskova tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Unbeaten Stephens sets sights on ‘final of finals’ in Singapore

Sloane Stephens vs Karolina Pliskova live streaming, preview and predictions for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore semifinal match on Saturday 27 October: Ace queen Pliskova has more experience but the court in Singapore flatters Stephens, who’s on a roll

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