Tennis: Pegula Stuns World Number 1 Sabalenka at WTA Finals, Reaches Semis

Wed Nov 01 2023
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CANCUN, Mexico: In a thrilling upset at the WTA Finals in Cancun, Jessica Pegula managed to stun the world number one, Aryna Sabalenka, with a remarkable display of skill and determination. Pegula’s 6-4, 6-3 victory secured her a spot in the semi-finals, and her performance left tennis enthusiasts around the world in awe.

Pegula, who had a challenging 1-4 record against the hard-hitting Sabalenka before this match, demonstrated her ability to absorb Sabalenka’s powerful serves and extend rallies. Throughout the game, she thwarted Sabalenka’s comeback attempts and maintained her composure even when the pressure was on.

Sabalenka, who had expressed discomfort playing at the newly constructed Estadio Paradisus, never seemed entirely at ease during the match. She committed a staggering 29 unforced errors on a sunny day in the coastal Mexican city, which contributed to her downfall.

The top seed did make a spirited comeback attempt in the first set, after trailing 5-2. Sabalenka managed to break Pegula’s serve and pulled within one game of the American, showing her signature aggression and powerful forehand. However, Pegula’s resolve proved unshakable as she clinched the first set with a backhand into the net by Sabalenka, ending a tense rally on set point.

In the second set, Pegula raced out to a 4-0 lead, only for Sabalenka to rally once more by breaking her serve and cutting Pegula’s lead to 5-3. The match came down to a marathon final game, with Pegula eventually sealing the victory after seven match points. Sabalenka’s backhand error gave Pegula her fifth consecutive win against a top-10 opponent.

After the match, Pegula responded to comments suggesting that her game lacks power compared to players like Sabalenka. She asserted, “I hit hard. People don’t seem to think I hit hard, like commentators. Seriously, I don’t know why they say that. Maybe because it looks like I’m not? I hit flatter, I don’t hit as heavy as maybe as Aryna, but I hit hard.”

Pegula’s back-to-back wins in the group stage secured her a spot in the semi-finals. Meanwhile, the fourth seed, Elena Rybakina, overcame a late comeback attempt from Maria Sakkari to secure her first win in the competition. Rybakina dominated the first set 6-0, but Sakkari fought back, taking the subsequent sets into tiebreakers despite Rybakina’s strong start in the third set, where she led 4-2.

Despite the challenges posed by the playing surface, Rybakina maintained her composure and clinched the tiebreaker, ultimately winning the intense match that lasted two hours and 26 minutes.

Rybakina will face Sabalenka in a crucial battle to reach the semi-finals, while Pegula, who is already through to the semis, will take on Sakkari in their final group stage match. The WTA Finals in Cancun continue to deliver high-stakes and thrilling tennis matches, keeping fans on the edge of their seats.

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