Jessica Pegula improved to 48-0 in 2023 when winning the first set, grabbing 10 of the last 12 games to beat Elena Rybakina 7-5, 6-2 in the opening match of round-robin singles competition at the WTA Finals on a windy Sunday night.
It’s worth noting that no woman had previously won a match in the women’s tennis tour’s season-ending finals. Jessica Pegula’s triumph is a notable achievement, considering her previous record in the same event in Fort Worth, Texas, the year before. In contrast, Elena Rybakina made her debut in the event, which features the world’s top eight players. Also read: Rafael Nadal Announces Comeback at Australian Open 2024
Pegula, ranked No. 5, was behind by a break at 5-3 when Rybakina served for the first set. She, on the other hand, broke and won four games in a row to clinch the set. Given her performance as a front-runner this year, she was in a terrific position to win.
Pegula, a 29-year-old American whose parents control the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, now has a tour-leading 42 victories on hard courts this season.
Top-ranked Aryna Sabalenka, who lost the 2022 WTA Finals title match to Caroline Garcia, collected the first 11 games and overwhelmed Maria Sakkari 6-0, 6-1 in Sunday’s other singles match. Sabalenka is trying to become the first player since Serena Williams in 2013-14 to reach the final in consecutive years. Sakkari is ranked No. 9 but moved into the field in Cancun when French Open finalist Karolina Muchova, who is No. 8, withdrew because of an injured right wrist. Also read: Wimbledon’s Grand Vision: A New Stadium and 38 Courts
Both women concluded with 12 wins, but the significant statistic was that Pegula produced just 16 unforced mistakes, while Rybakina had 35.
Rybakina is ranked fourth after winning Wimbledon in 2022 and placing second to Sabalenka at the Australian Open in January.
“This is something … I’m not happy with. I’m pretty sure the rest of the players also [are] not happy,” Sabalenka said. “It’s not great. I mean, usually we need like three to four days to kind of like adjust to the conditions. … I hope that next year, WTA will do a better job,” she said. Also read: Breaking: Caroline Garcia Upsets Madison Keys at Zhuhai
The WTA announced in September that it will conduct this tournament in Cancun for one year. Some players, notably Rybakina, expressed worry this weekend that the temporary court would not be ready for practice until the start of the competition.