CANCUN, Mexico (AP) — Jessica Pegula outplayed U.S. Open winner Coco Gauff and beat her 6-2, 6-1 at the WTA Finals on Saturday in a matchup between American doubles partners on a rainy and windy evening to reach the title match at the season-ending championship for the first time.
Their semifinal was tied at 2-all when the fifth-seeded Pegula — a 29-year-old born in New York and now based in Florida who is a decade older than Gauff — reeled off six games in a row to claim the opening set and lead 2-0 in the second.
This was the first time two U.S. women played each other in the final four at this event since 2002, when Serena Williams defeated Jennifer Capriati. When Saturday’s semifinal ended after an hour, Pegula and the third-seeded Gauff met at the net for a hug.
“Coco is still the present and the future of U.S. tennis. I’m happy that I’m also at the top of the game and one of the leaders for all the Americans,” Pegula said. “So that’s always really nice. And that’s kind of just where I see myself.”
They were scheduled to play a doubles match together later Saturday, but that was wiped out by rain — and the second singles semifinal, between No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka and No. 2 Iga Swiatek, was suspended for the night. They were in just the fourth game when a storm arrived.
Action was halted with Swiatek leading 2-1 and Sabalenka serving at 30-all. Both wrapped themselves in white towels to brace against the chill. Organizers waited for nearly two hours before calling off all competition for the day.
Swiatek and Sabalenka were scheduled to resume their match Sunday; the singles final, originally slated for Sunday, was pushed back to Monday.
Sabalenka won the Australian Open in January and was the runner-up to Gauff at the U.S. Open in September. Swiatek won the French Open in June for her fourth major championship.
“They’ve won Grand Slam titles and big events before, so I’m assuming I’ll probably be the underdog again,” Pegula said, “even though I’m playing some really great tennis.”
Pegula has won all eight singles sets she’s played this week at the tournament for the top eight players in women’s tennis. She is the first player since Williams in 2012 to get to the final without dropping a set.
Gauff vs. Pegula started about an hour late because of showers — bad weather has been a theme throughout the WTA Finals — and then was delayed by two rain interruptions in the second set of just under 15 minutes each. Shifting breezes affected the way balls traveled.
“She was playing well with the wind and I wasn’t. So, yeah, that’s pretty much it,” Gauff said, mentioning that they didn’t have the chance for a full warmup before getting on court to play. “At the end of the day, she was the more experienced player when it came to these circumstances. So I’m not going to blame the weather or anything. We were in the same boat.”
It’s true: None of that seemed to slow Pegula, who is bidding for the most prestigious title of her career.
“To get through here in such a tough field is going to give me a lot of confidence going into next year,” said Pegula, who is on a nine-match winning streak, including a run to the Korean Open trophy last month. “I thought I’ve been able to handle all the opponents that I faced really well, even in the conditions and stuff like that.”
AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis