Svitolina won the WTA tournament in Singapore

Japan's Naomi Osaka was forced to retire from the WTA Finals with a left hamstring injury

Japan's Naomi Osaka was forced to retire from the WTA Finals with a left hamstring injury

Elina Svitolina believes her improved mental and physical toughness helped her pull through a tricky three-setter against Kiki Bertens as the Ukrainian advanced to her first WTA Finals title match with a gutsy 7-5 6-7 (5) 6-4 triumph on Saturday.

Stephens staved off seven break points early in the first set and added to the German's frustration by converting the first two she fashioned to pull clear for a 5-2 lead after little could separate the baseliners in the opening exchanges. She became the first player to go unbeaten in the year-end tournament since Serena Williams in 2013.

"I don't think I did that many things wrong in the second set", she said.

"In the end, it was just about running and chasing every ball. the level was very tough, we were both playing such good tennis".

Stephens, the 2017 US Open champion, will face Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, while Bertens will face Ukraine's Elina Svitolina.

After Stephens had lost the first eight games, the American said she was thinking "I made it all the way to the semifinal, and I'm going to lose?".

"It is never easy or never nice to win a match like this, but it is what it is".

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Bertens started the year ranked No. 31, climbing her way up to No. 9 the hard way - with quality wins against elite players, including a string of 10 consecutive victories versus top-10 players. 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.

"I think physically I was a little bit stronger, and mentally I pushed myself a little bit more".

After earning championship point, she took it when Stephens produced another unforced error.

Svitolina entered the final trailing Stephens 1-2 in their career head-to-head encounters. Everything has been going so fast, she was 74 after Hobart and now she's here in Singapore, not many people expected that, I don't know who did. She's a tough match.

She has now won 13 of 15 finals she's played in her career, including the last nine with her last final loss coming in 2016 to Petra Kvitova at the Zhuhai tournament. It will be determined in a pair of Sloane Stephens - Caroline Plskova. Kerber says she plans to take a four-week rest this year like she did last year. after learning from her mistakes in 2016 "2016 was definitely not enough free".

Pliskova said she produced her "best set" of the year before the dramatic change.

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