After a week of fascinating contests, we are now left with the two undefeated players of the tournament, set to fight out for the year-end BNP Paribas WTA Finals in Singapore. Both Sloane Stephens and Elina Svitolina have been mighty impressive in their performances in this tournament.
Both of them were suffering a dip in form before coming to Singapore. Each of them had lost four out of the last six matches. And yet, here they are in the finals, without losing a single match. The similarity between them does not end there. Of the four matches, each of them has won in the tournament, three have gone to three-setters, including their respective semi-final matches.
Elina Svitolina managed to put it across Kiki Bertens in a tight three-setter 7-5, 6-7, 6-4. She did have her fair share of struggles in the match, especially in holding serves, but she did find a way to win a few more points at crucial junctures, than her Dutch opponent.
Unlike Svitolina-Bertens match, where all the three sets were closely fought, Sloane Stephens was engaged in a strange, almost bizarre, match with Karolina Pliskova. The score-line 0-6, 6-4, 6-1 reflects the see-saw nature of this match.
The match began with the hard-hitting Pliskova on fire, blasting Sloane off the court. Sloane had no answer to Karolina’s ultra-aggressive game. She suffered a rare bagel in the first set, and the trend continued into the second set, where she soon found herself 2-0 down.
After losing the first eight games of the match, Sloane finally managed to win a game of her own. Soon the match which looked headed for a complete rout became competitive. It is in such situations when a match becomes close, competitive and tense that Sloane’s shots hit with more margin at the net and lines, put her in a clear advantage over players like Pliskova who hit with a lot of power, but with little margin.
That’s exactly how the match panned out. Pliskova became tense, and unforced errors piled up. The deciding set became almost as one-sided as the first one, but this time in Sloane’s favour.
The final between the two undefeated players of the tournament is expected to become another close affair. There is nothing much to choose between the two, and there is no clear favourite. They are both similar players in many ways, who prefer safe play over risky aggression.
They have met each other thrice, with Stephens winning twice, both on hard courts. The only victory for Svitolina has come on clay. Though the WTA Finals is played on hard court, it is on the slower side. Hence, Sloane will not have as much advantage over Svitolina as she would have had on a faster court.
However, what could come in handy for Sloane is her experience of winning big matches in big tournaments. Her track record in tournament finals is astounding. That gives Sloane Stephens a slight edge over Elina Svitolina in what promises to be a closely-fought encounter.