WTA Finals: Breaking down the Red Group
The Red Group of the 2018 WTA Finals — Kerber, Osaka, Stephens, Bertens

WTA Finals: Breaking down the Red Group

The draw has came out for the 2018 WTA Finals — who is drawn into the Red Group? Who is the favourite to progress from the group? VAVEL USA Writer Don Han breaks it all down for you.

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Don Han

The draws of the 2018 WTA Finals were released — and the final edition of the year-ending championships held in Singapore is set to be a blockbuster one. With only the top-eight players qualifying for the event, any random match-up between any players would be a fantastic one. And when the Round Robin format comes into play, the action gets more thrilling with all the players having to get down to business from the first point onwards.

The Red Group is led by Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber, who is now the top seed after world number one Simona Halep withdrew from the competition due to a lingering back injury. She is joined by US Open champion Naomi Osaka, 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens and the resurgent Kiki Bertens who is having a career breakthrough year thus far.

Angelique Kerber during a practice session in Singapore | Photo: Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images AsiaPac
Angelique Kerber during a practice session in Singapore | Photo: Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images AsiaPac

Angelique Kerber [1]

No. of times qualified (including 2018): 5
Best result: Final (2016)
Best result this year: Wimbledon, Sydney champion

Naomi Osaka [3]

No. of times qualified (including 2018): 1
Best result: Debut appearance
Best result this year: Indian Wells, US Open champion

Sloane Stephens [5]

No. of times qualified (including 2018): 1
Best result: Debut appearance
Best result this year: Miami champion

Sloane Stephens speaking to the press before the commencement of the tournament | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images AsiaPac
Sloane Stephens speaking to the press before the commencement of the tournament | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images AsiaPac

Kiki Bertens [8]

No. of times qualified (including 2018): 1
Best result: Debut appearance
Best result this year: Charleston, Cincinnati, Seoul champion

Kerber is the most experienced player in this group — being the only player who has qualified for the year-ending championships in the past while she is also the only one who has been ranked as the world number one. Reaching the final in 2016, Kerber has experienced the pressure and would be able to adapt to the conditions quicker and better as compared to her opponents.

Osaka, Stephens, and Bertens will all be making their debuts in the singles competition here in Singapore. The extremely slow surface will definitely suit the counter-punchers’ games, hence Kerber and Stephens would benefit from it. Bertens will also adore the surface as her controlled aggressive style will help her to outlast other opponents. Nonetheless, something positive for Osaka would be that the Japanese had won the WTA Rising Stars competition here back in 2015, and she would have experienced the court speed hence things should not be too bad for the youngster as well.

Naomi Osaka speaking to the press before the tournament | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images AsiaPac
Naomi Osaka speaking to the press before the tournament | Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images AsiaPac

Kerber owns a 3-1 lead over Osaka in their head-to-head record, having won their last meeting at Wimbledon where the German was the eventual champion. The top seed also owns a winning record over Bertens, defeating her at the French Open in two tiebreak sets in their previous encounter.

Stephens owns Kerber in their recent meetings as the American triumphed 6-1, 6-2 at the Miami Open this year while Stephens, Osaka and Bertens all met each other once in the past. However, those meetings occurred way before they proved themselves as a top player, and hence those results would not mean much this week.

Bertens has a losing record against every player in the group, and the pressure while making your debut appearance is definitely not easy to handle. She would need to perform some of her best tennis for any chances to progress, while Osaka seems to have an edge if her serves and powerful groundstrokes are in the rhythm. Kerber and Stephens will both excel on this surface, adding onto the unpredictability of the proceedings.

Kiki Bertens practices inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium prior to the tournament | Photo: Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images AsiaPac
Kiki Bertens practices inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium prior to the tournament | Photo: Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images AsiaPac

Prediction

1. Osaka
2. Kerber
3. Stephens
4. Bertens

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