By John O’Brien
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Sloane Stephens is happy to be part of an unlikely quartet to reach the last four of the WTA Finals after the American maintained her perfect record in round-robin play with a 6-3 6-3 victory over Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber on Friday.
The American’s victory set up a semi-final showdown against Karolina Pliskova on Saturday, the fifth and seventh seeds taking to the Singapore Indoor Stadium court after sixth-ranked Elina Svitolina faces eighth-ranked Kiki Bertens.
“Obviously the girls that were the bottom four — so me, Svitolina, Bertens and Karolina — I think we have all had great seasons and had some really great results,” Stephens said after beating Kerber for the fifth time in a row to top the Red Group.
“Obviously the top four have, too, but I think at the end, like when we were all battling towards the end of the year, everyone pretty much counted us out, because they were, like, ‘Oh, they are barely going to qualify or barely get in’.
“Everyone (of the lower-ranked players) came here with nothing to lose but ready to kind of kick ass.
“I think we have all played, the four of us in our groups, I think we have all played really well, like even though when I played Kiki, that was probably the best match I played in the group,” the American said of her 7-6(4) 2-6 6-3 victory.
“So, yeah, it’s great for us, great for the younger girls just to be able to prove ourselves and even get this far and get here. Yeah, it’s kind of cool.”
Stephens added that she was delighted with her ability to stay focused throughout all her matches on the indoor hard court surface that did not favour a particular player in the eight-woman field.
“I think I just competed really hard. I stayed solid every match. Obviously the conditions were kind of neutral for everyone. The court is a little bit slow,” the 25-year-old said.
“I knew from the start I was going to have to battle and every match was going to be a tough one,” she added of her matches against Kerber, Bertens and U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka.
“It’s not every day or every tournament that you play three top-10 players in a row or four top-10, whatever it is now. So I just go out there and battle, and play as hard as I can, and whatever happens, happens.”
(Editing by Clare Fallon)