Singapore : In a match between the last two U.S. Open champions, Sloane Stephens and Naomi Osaka, the 2017 champion Sloane came out on top 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 at the WTA Finals, the season-ending tournament for the top eight players in the world, in Singapore on Monday.
Both women are making their debuts at the season-ending event, and it was the American who opened Red Group action with a win built on the foundations of solid defense from the baseline and a devastating forehand when she attacked.
“I just competed really well and never gave up,” Stephens said in a post-match interview. “I knew I would have to play some really good tennis to beat her, stayed tough and tried to stay as positive as I could and took my opportunities when they presented themselves.”
Both players struggled to hold serve. Osaka was broken on seven of 19 break-point opportunities, while Stephens was broken on four of 12.
Stephens entered the tournament with 33 wins this season, the least of any of the eight qualifiers. She reached her second career Grand Slam final at this year’s French Open, and won the Miami title.
Osaka, who became the first Japanese to win a Grand Slam last month in New York, continually showed her frustration during the match. When she failed to capitalize on four break points in the fourth game of the second set, she made a visible shrugging gesture with both hands.
Stephens gifted the second set to Osaka when she double-faulted on a second set point in the 10th game. But Osaka appeared to be mentally fatigued and only managed to hold serve in the third game of the final set.
“We played a really tough and competitive match so its always an honor to share the court with somebody that good,” Stephens added.
Red Group play continued last night with Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber of Germany taking on Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands, who was the last player to make it into the eight-woman tournament when world No. 1 Simona Halep of Romania withdrew through injury.