Interview: Sloane Stephens, semifinalist at the WTA Finals
After an unusually competitive week of round-robin play at the WTA Finals, the top four seeds are out, while the bottom four remain—two of whom are also rookies at this event. For three of the four surviving semifinalists, a win in Singapore would be the biggest of their careers thus far. It might also change their careers going forward.
Here’s a look ahead at Saturday’s semis.
Sloane Stephens vs. Karolina Pliskova
The American and the Czech have played three times, and none of the matches have been what you would call a classic: Of their nine sets, not one has been closer than 6-3. Stephens won their first two meetings, before Pliskova won their last one, in Madrid in May.
Oddly, Pliskova’s only win came on clay, a surface that should be to Stephens’ advantage. It’s also a surface that bares some resemblance to the notoriously slow indoor hard courts in Singapore. As expected, those courts have been to Stephens’ liking this week; she was 3-0 on them in round-robin play. But the more offensive-minded Pliskova has also thrived on them. She was 2-1 this week, and she also reached the semifinals on them last year.
With her serve and her low-percentage laser strikes from the baseline, Pliskova has the ability to blow Stephens off the court. But if both women play in the middle range of their capabilities, Stephens has the better chance of grinding Pliskova down, and making her hit one more ball than she can keep in play. As Sloane says, she’s tough when she settles into an event, and she looks settled in right now. Winner: Stephens
Bertens and Svitolina are surprise semifinalists for different reasons: Bertens because she has never been ranked higher than No. 22 at the end of a season; Svitolina because her 2018 campaign took a turn for the worse at the French Open, and didn’t turn back until this week.
As far as their head-to-head goes, they’ve split two matches. Svitolina won a 2016 meeting in Asia, while Bertens won, in straight sets, in Cincinnati this summer. Judging from Svitolina’s form and fight so far in Singapore, though, she seems primed to turn that result back around. She went 3-0 in her group, and she played her best, most determined tennis at the most crucial moment, at the end of the second set in her semifinal-clinching win over Caroline Wozniacki on Thursday. Whoever comes out on top in this one, the rallies should offer toe-to-toe, nothing-held-back entertainment. Winner: Svitolina
*This Week on Tennis Channel PLUS 10/21*
ATP Vienna & Basel (10/22 –10/28)
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USTA Macon (10/23 – 10/28)
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