Stephens downs Kerber to enter semifinal

DELIGHTED Sloane Stephens of the US strikes a happy picture after beating Germany's Angelique Kerber to book her spot in the semifinals of the WTA Finals in Singapore on Friday. Reuters

A confident Sloane Stephens stormed into a semifinal slot at the WTA Finals with a convincing straight sets victory against top seed Angelique Kerber on Friday, joining fellow debutant Kiki Bertens in the knockout stage.

The former US Open champion continued her unbeaten run in Singapore with a 6-3, 6-3 triumph in 101 minutes, her fifth straight-set victory in a row over Kerber.

After topping Red Group, Stephens will play Czech Karolina Pliskova in the semifinals.

For the first time since 2003, none of the top four seeds advanced to the semifinals of the WTA Finals.

"I stayed solid the whole time knowing there was a lot on the line," Stephens said after the match.

"I knew it was going to be a battle and just tried to play as hard as I could."

The match started tensely, with Kerber unable to convert seven break points in Stephens' first three service games, and the missed opportunities proved costly.

An energetic Stephens made her pay by converting all three of her break points to draw first blood.

The American impressively counterattacked and pinpointed the lines to frustrate Kerber, who survived an injury scare when she landed awkwardly midway through the first set.

Kerber was immediately under pressure in the second set and saved seven break points in the fourth game before cracking under the pressure.

There was still fight left in the German, who broke straight back but continued to struggle on serve.

On her fifth break point, Stephens claimed the decisive break in the eighth game and then served it out to knockout the Wimbledon champion.

Bertens faces unbeaten Elina Svitolina after a hamstring injury forced Naomi Osaka's retirement earlier on Friday.

She won the first set 6-3 in 47 minutes before US Open champion Osaka, who wiped away tears, forfeited the match.

It was a bitterly disappointing end for the 21-year-old, who came into Singapore as the form player but lost three-set matches to Stephens and Kerber.

"I hurt my left hamstring in the first match (against Stephens)," Osaka told reporters.

"It was just getting worse and worse every time I played. I couldn't even really practice that well today."

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Stephens downs Kerber to enter semifinal

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