Calm Stephens edges Osaka, Kerber stunned by Bertens

Naomi Osaka of Japan returns a shot to Sloane Stephens of the United States during their women's singles match at the WTA tennis tournament in Singapore on Monday Oct. 22 2018

Bertens, who was a doubles finalist previous year in Singapore, snapped a run of service breaks with a vital hold from 0-40 in the eighth game of the final set before a forehand victor earned the world No 9 a tour-leading 11th victory over a top 10 player this season.

The match began poorly for Bertens, who made unforced errors as she lost the first set which her German opponent dominated at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. "I knew I was going to have to play some really good tennis to beat her, so I just stayed tough and tried to stay as positive as I could and just my opportunities when they presented themselves".

Kerber saved 13 of the 18 break points she faced, including five in the final game of the first set, to improve to 1-1 at the season-ending tournament.

The key moment of the match was the second game in the final set Stephens after the break with the score 0:40, he defended his serve and never allowed Osaka to return to the game.

Angelique Kerber produced a dogged display of defensive tennis to tame big-hitting Naomi Osaka 6-4 5-7 6-4 in a classic Red Group encounter between the winners of the last two Grand Slams at the WTA Finals on Wednesday.

"It was great to win such a great match and to be able to look forward to another one in two days from now".

"I think that's one thing I can be really proud of today, that I turned that match around, that I played more aggressive, going a little bit out of my comfort zone and to get a win".

Osaka followed up her win at Flushing Meadows with a run to the Pan Pacific Open final in Tokyo and China Open semi-finals but the 21-year-old admitted that she had started to experience problems with her serve in Beijing.

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The second match was a slow burner, with the crowd taking time to warm to the contest, as Stephens raced into a 3-0 lead before Bertens dragged herself back thanks to some clever changes of pace and direction.

"In the beginning when you play like this, I was really thinking, 'OK, do I belong here?"

It was a sluggish start with both players struggling to hold serve and few winners being struck before Stephens made her move - aggressively rattling Osaka with deep ground-strokes, pinpointing the lines.

But the Japanese insists there is no need to regret the reverse as she settles in among the world's best players.

Each woman broke serve six times in the match, and the Dutch World No.9 overcame 12 double faults on her own delivery in the match to secure two key holds in the final set.

"You don't play like back-to-back Top 10 players like in regular tournaments", Stephens said. I think I made more unforced errors than her in the third set.

"We played a lot of great long rallies, and she played a lot of great short points".

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