WTA Finals: Sloane Stephens beats Naomi Osaka in Singapore

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

Stephens, who won the 2017 U.S. Open after spending 11 months out with a foot injury, said she could sympathise with Osaka after the 21-year-old complained of exhaustion in her two tournament appearances since last month's triumph in NY.

"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".

Bertens, only in the eight-player field when world number one Simona Halep withdrew through injury, had been swept aside 6-1 in the first set and was 2-1 down in the second to Kerber when she called on Raemon Sluiter for a tactical debate.

Earlier, Kerber had a chance to serve it out against Osaka in the second set, but triumphed the hard way in a 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 victory in 2 hours, 30 minutes.

Both players exchanged breaks of serve twice in the first set.

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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.

Though Osaka saved it with a service victor, she then double-faulted to seal the win for Stephens.

"It was two or three points that decided the match, I think it was a really good match", Kerber told British broadcaster BT Sport.

But the third seed was wildly inconsistent in the Red Group opener with 46 unforced errors and was broken three times in a third set meltdown.

"Well, before the match the plan was to try to play aggressive where I can but not rush too much".

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"At the beginning of the second was just like hopefully I can get a few more games", she said.

Osaka changed her tactics at the start of the second set, drawing Stephens way from her baseline comfort zone to hold far more comfortably.

"I think I made more unforced errors than her in the third set", she said.

Bertens is the first woman from the Netherlands to break into the world's top 10, at number nine, since Brenda Schultz-McCarthy in 1996. The Dutch player went for broke and ran the Wimbledon champion around the court to take control of the contest. "This match was sort of a continuation of my last match in a way. that I didn't serve well".

A pair of easy holds and an another break took her to 5-1, and the 2017 US Open victor sealed the contest on her second match point when an anguished Osaka double-faulted for the fourth time in the match.

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The American then secured her third break of the match to move a game away from taking the set. With the score 4:3, Bertens played a triple break-point and the first match ball ended the match in their favor.

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