WTA Tour: 2018 WTA Finals Preview

Tennis player holds racquet
Damien Kayat takes a look at the WTA finals taking place on the 24th of October at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

WTA Tour 
WTA Finals
Singapore Indoor Stadium, Kallang, Singapore
Red Group Matches- 24th October 2018

Naomi Osaka (8/11) vs Angelique Kerber (11/10)
This will be an interesting battle between the last two major champions: both of those finals won at the expense of all-time great Serena Williams.  Angelique Kerber’s year has slightly stagnated in the wake of that glorious Wimbledon.  Kerber started the year with victory in Sydney before an agonizing semi-final defeat in Melbourne.

The plucky lefty then enjoyed a consistent run that featured five quarterfinal and two semi-final appearances prior to SW19.  But few could have anticipated her dominating the grass-courts with such aplomb.  Her surgical precision was able to offset Williams’ obvious advantage in power.  Since then Kerber seems to have gone into cruise control, with a run to the final 16 of the China Open her most impressive showing.  Kerber’s loss to Kiki Bertens makes this a critical test of Kerber’s resolve in the wake of a successful, arduous season.

Japanese sensation Naomi Osaka will be looking to add to her resume and shake off the moniker of ‘the other girl’ following that farcical series of events at Flushing Meadows.  Her results since claiming her maiden Grand Slam title have been encouraging and read far more impressively than Kerber.  She reached the final of the Pan Pacific Open before a semi-final run in China.

Osaka’s devastating power from the baseline and relentless aggression have served her well this year.  That title at Indian Wells was really the catalyst for her coming of age.  A semi-final in Nottingham suggested that her all-court game seems to be improving, though it is on the harder surfaces that she truly shines.  Osaka looks like the real deal and I believe she will go on to emerge from the shadow of the US Open.  Osaka lost yet another nail-biter to Stephens in her opening match and will be hoping to bounce back in style.

I was actually surprised- giving Osaka’s youth- that this will actually be the fourth meeting between these two.  Kerber leads the head-to-head 3-1, having won their last four encounters.  And this match represents make or break time following their opening match defeats.  Kerber is a clever counterpuncher who finds in Osaka a perfect foil for her game.  She can absorb Osaka’s power and use it against her, much like she did against Williams at Wimbledon.

Sloane Stephens (8/13) vs Kiki Bertens (5/4)
Last year’s US Open finalist is the very definition of mercurial.  She started the year with an opening round loss in Melbourne that signalled a quiet start to her campaign.  It wouldn’t be until Miami that her obvious talents emerged.  Winning that massive title will have vindicated her in the eyes of some who saw her US Open success as fleeting.  Her clay-court season looked suitably tame until she surprised the world with a run to the Roland Garros Final.

In many ways that run was more incredible than her US Open success and broke down preconceptions of Stephens.  Stephens further underlined her hardcourt pedigree with a formidable run to the final in Canada.  Stephens- much like Osaka who she beat in her opening match- is synonymous with a fearless brand of tennis that is exciting to behold.

Kiki Bertens has perhaps been the surprise package of this year’s tour, slowly accumulating improved results prior to that massive win in Cincinnati.  Runs to the final 32 in Melbourne and Miami hinted at her abilities but it wasn’t until the clay-court season that she truly arrived this year.  She won the Charleston Open and lost to Petra Kvitova in the Madrid Final.

A quarterfinal run at Wimbledon not only underlined her adaptability, it hinted at the capacity for Bertens to elevate her game on the grandest stage.  Bertens then picked up the biggest win of her career in Cincinnati and has won since in Korea.  Bertens has endured a marathon campaign and had to draw on her energy reserves to overcome Kerber in her first match.

This will be their second meeting, with Stephens winning their only encounter on the clay-courts of Rome in 2013.  This makes it quite a tricky proposition to call this game.  Bertens has probably been the most consistent player this season but I still believe that Stephens has the edge at full tilt.



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Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.net

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