Jessica Pegula upsets world No 1 Aryna Sabalenka at WTA Finals

Jessica Pegula shocked the top-ranked player, Aryna Sabalenka, with a 6-4, 6-3 win in her second match at the WTA Finals in Cancun. This victory secured her spot in the semi-finals. In the other group stage match, Elena Rybakina narrowly defeated Maria Sakkari 6-0, 6-7(4-7), 7-6(7-2) in a tight evening match.

Pegula, who had a poor 1-4 record against Sabalenka’s strong serves, was able to handle them well and keep the rallies going, preventing the Belarusian from making a comeback.

Sabalenka, who previously expressed concerns about playing on the newly built Estadio Paradisus, did not appear fully at ease facing Pegula. She made 29 unforced errors on a sunny day in the seaside Mexican town.

The number one seed made a comeback in the first set after falling behind 5-2. She landed a powerful forehand winner to break Pegula and then held her serve, bringing her within one game of the American.

However, Pegula maintained her composure and claimed the initial set following a tense exchange that concluded with Sabalenka hitting a backhand into the net on set point. Pegula swiftly gained a 4-0 advantage in the second set, but Sabalenka fought back and managed to break Pegula’s serve, narrowing the lead to 5-3.

Pegula needed seven match points in the long final game of the match to ultimately secure the victory. The decisive moment came when Sabalenka made a mistake on a backhand shot, giving Pegula her fifth consecutive win against a top-10 player.

Following the match, Pegula refuted the idea that her playing style lacks the same level of power as players like Sabalenka.

“I have a strong shot,” she informed the Tennis Channel. “Some commentators don’t seem to recognize that. I’m not sure why they say that. Perhaps because it doesn’t appear that way? I hit with a flatter trajectory, not as heavy as Aryna, but still with power.”

The sun sets over Paradisus Cancun during the match between Pegula and Sabalenka.

Pegula’s consecutive victory in the second round of the group stage secured her spot in the semi-finals later that evening. Meanwhile, fourth-seeded Rybakina fended off a late comeback from Sakkari to claim her first win in the tournament.

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Rybakina easily defeated her opponent from Greece with a score of 6-0 in the first set. However, Sakkari made a comeback and forced tiebreakers in the following sets, despite Rybakina’s strong performance in the third set where she was leading 4-2.

Sakkari broke Rybakina’s serve for the first time and got the set to 6-6, but the latter remained calm to clinically clinch the tiebreaker and won the hard-fought clash that lasted two hours and 26 minutes.

“I initially sensed that Maria needed some time to adjust to my speed,” Rybakina stated in a post-match interview regarding the one-sided first set. “As we are all aware, the surface is not ideal. We are all facing difficulties.”

On Thursday, the fourth-ranked Kazakh player will compete against Sabalenka for a chance to advance to the semifinals. Pegula, who has already secured a spot in the semifinals, will play against Sakkari in their last group stage match.


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