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Stephens vs Svitolina tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Unbeaten players clash for the title at the WTA Finals Singapore

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 27 Oct 2018
  • Sloane Stephens faces Elina Svitolina in the final of the WTA Finals Singapore on Sunday
  • Stephens vs Svitolina is live from Singapore on Sunday at 7.30pm local/12.30pm BST
Sloane Stephens (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

It’s the end of the WTA Tour season for both players - but who will claim its last big prize as Sloane Stephens and Elina Svitolina face off for the title at the WTA Finals Singapore?

Both Sloane Stephens and Elina Svitolina have gone unbeaten at the WTA Finals Singapore this week, but only one can end their 2018 season with a win. Will it be the Miami champion and Roland Garros runner-up or the titlist in Brisbane, Dubai and Rome who takes the title as the season-ending championships’ sojourn in Singapore comes to an end?

Whatever happens, it will be the last match of the season for both women – albeit not quite the last match of the season, with the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai, the second-tier year-end championship, coming up next week – and the last match of the five-year residency of the WTA Finals in Singapore with the tournament moving to Shenzhen from 2019.

Sloane Stephens celebrates victory over Karolina Pliskova  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Winning in Singapore wouldn’t be quite the biggest title of Sloane Stephens’s career – the US Open in 2017 tips it – but it would be one of her finest triumphs. Stephens’s career has been a rollercoaster and her seasons tend to mimic it, but qualifying for the WTA Finals Singapore in 2018 has demonstrated that winning her maiden major was no fluke despite the remarkable circumstances surrounding it. You don’t reach the WTA Finals without delivering a greater degree of consistent success throughout the year than Stephens has ever come close to managing before, and her 2018 season has seen her triumph in Miami and finish runner-up at the Rogers Cup and Roland Garros.

Rarely has a debutante looked more at home at the season-ending championships. We said before the tournament that the slow, gritty court in Singapore, which frustrates the big flat-hitting players like Petra Kvitova but also rewards those who combine defensive skills with the power to get the ball through the court, was made for Sloane Stephens and her all-court game. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been blips: Stephens dropped sets against Naomi Osaka and Kiki Bertens in the group stages, and her 6-3, 6-3 win over Angelique Kerber had its nervy moments.

But she came into the semifinals unbeaten – although that didn’t preserve her from the biggest blip of all as semifinal opponent Karolina Pliskova reeled off the first eight games of the match to lead 6-0, 2-0. Stephens was nervous – ‘I’m trying so hard and nothing’s happening’, she said to her coach at one point – but Pliskova was tremendous during that first stretch of the match, playing aggressively, moving freely, covering and using the court and frequently finishing points off at net to great effect.

Pliskova even had a game point to lead 3-0 in the second set. But Stephens had other plans. The American dug in, dug deep and broke serve, putting a little more height on the ball and finding her first ace of the match to hold serve for the first time for 2-2. Pliskova’s level dropped as she lost a third game in a row, and although she briefly recovered the break, she double-faulted under pressure to fall behind a break at 3-4 and Stephens levelled up. 

With Pliskova’s serve just a mite less effective and her unforced errors climbing, Stephens started to tighten her grip on the match. She broke in a long first game to start the third set, and although Pliskova broke back immediately with some ferociously precise forehands, it was the last gasp of the Czech’s resistance and Stephens reeled off six games in a row to close out the win 0-6, 6-4, 6-1 – a tremendous comeback from a losing position, from a player whose competitive tenacity has often been questioned, rewarded with a place in the final of one of the biggest events of the season.

If the consensus coming into this tournament was that Stephens, with a commanding head-to-head record against her group and conditions to suit her, was a likely pick to reach the final, the same could not have been said for Elina Svitolina.

After the great results of her first five months of the season gave way to a listless stretch in which she looked a little lost on court, Svitolina has rebounded triumphantly at the WTA Finals on her second appearance, starting with a statement win over Petra Kvitova – who had beaten her seven times in a row – in straight sets.

If defiance of her ‘haters’, or those who questioned whether she had much to bring to the tournament after a late qualification, powered Svitolina to that first win over Kvitova, her subsequent results prove that the foundations of greater success were very much in place already and just lacking the vital spark she seems to have found in Singapore. Her three-set win over Pliskova, and the way that she came back from a set down against Caroline Wozniacki in a testing situation (she needed just one set to advance) were impressive – and against Kiki Bertens in the semifinals, she impressed again.

Elina Svitolina celebrates victory over Kiki Bertens (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Bertens had made a very good debut in Singapore, but she was ragged today in key moments while Svitolina remained focused and committed to her game plan. A tight first set ended when poor shot selection from Bertens, having pushed to 30-30 on the Svitolina serve at 5-5, let the Ukrainian off the hook, and Bertens went on to play a dreadful game at 5-6, ending in a double fault and a flung racquet as Svitolina took the first set. 

Bertens rebounded in the second set, taking an early break which she maintained until the business end, when Svitolina – who has done this to great effect all week – really ramped up the aggression in her return game and saved three set points, coming back from 0-40 down to break the nervy Bertens for 5-5. A tactical lapse from Svitolina – having targeted the Bertens backhand with great success, she went to the Bertens forehand repeatedly at 5-5 in the tie-break and paid the price – gave Bertens a fourth set point and the Dutchwoman converted to level the match. 

But a return to targeting the Bertens backhand was key to Svitolina securing a 2-1 lead after three straight breaks to open the decider, and Svitolina defended that break advantage with her life, continuing to deliver unbelievable defense as Bertens’s unforced errors mounted with each attempt to hit through the Ukrainian. The Cincinnati champion would come up with two points of sheer brilliance to hold her serve from 30-30 at 3-5, and she had two break points to prolong the match as Svitolina served for it. But trademark defense from Svitolina saved the first, and on the second, Bertens couldn’t quite put the ball away even when it sat up off the net cord, pressing for too much in fear of Svitolina’s ability to track the ball down. It cost her, and Svitolina closed out the win, 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-4.

There is no equivocation about it – this will be the biggest final of Svitolina’s career, which so far has held nothing bigger than several Premier-5 titles (not that that’s to be sneezed at, either). Can she claim the title?

Three previous meetings between Stephens and Svitolina have left the American with a 2-1 lead in the head-to-head, but they have only played once in the past four seasons – Stephens’s 6-3, 6-3 victory over Svitolina in the semifinals of the Rogers Cup. Both women are superb defenders who have excelled on this slow court, and both are capable of injecting some pace when the rally requires it. Svitolina’s backhand down the line has been a real weapon this week, but if Stephens is on song and moving well, she should be able to counter it with her running cross-court forehand – and the American has a bigger serve and is more of a shotmaker, although she isn’t as solid. It all looks very promising for Stephens to my eyes, but she cannot afford the same kind of nerves and slow start that afflicted her in the semifinals when she takes the stage in Singapore on Sunday.

Stephens vs Svitolina BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore semifinal tennis is live from Singapore on Sunday 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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Stephens vs Svitolina tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Unbeaten players clash for the title at the WTA Finals Singapore

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