Berlin | Pegula rallies from behind to land first grass court title

World No 5 Jessica Pegula saved 5 match points and went on to beat Anna Kalinskaya, 6-7(0) 6-4 7-6(3), in an enthralling final at the ecotrans Ladies Open, the WTA 500 tournament in Berlin, and bag her first Hologic WTA Tour title of the year, her first on grass.

This is the most grass-court confidence that I've had, probably, going into Wimbledon. Hopefully that pays off as well. Being able to tough out a couple of matches, and have a couple of long matches, especially for the body to get ready, and dealing with a lot of the rain delays too. That's always possible at Wimbledon as well, so that was good prep, mentally, as well. Jessica Pegula

“I knew I could play well on this surface, and giving myself a couple of extra weeks on grass clearly paid off,” the American said after landing the 5th title of her career.  “I played some really good tennis this week, and I feel, like, I beat some really good girls, especially on grass. To be able to gut out a win like that is cool.”

Earlier on Sunday, Pegula resumed her suspended semi-final match against top-seeded Coco Gauff to win 4 of 5 points and prevail 7-5 7-6(2) after rain had interrupted the second-set breaker on Saturday.

Kalinskaya had benefited from two retirements on her way to the Last 4, from Marketa Vondrousova and Aryna Sabalenka, both due to injury, but then stormed past former World No 1 Victoria Azarenka in 3 sets to reach the final, where she dominated much of the 2 hour 38 minute contest.

Pegula had won their only prior meeting, a 3-set effort at the 2019 Citi Open, and, in their second encounter, Kalinskaya quickly fell behind 3-0 in the opener before taking an off-court medical timeout.

When play resumed, Kalinskaya dialled into her first-strike tennis to slowly claw herself back into contention, and Pegula saw her leads of 4-2 and 5-3 erased by the unseeded Russian’s laser-like returns that unsettled the American, and she was broken.

Pegula’s frustration boiled over in the tiebreak, as Kalinskaya coolly rolled through 7 perfect points to complete her come-back.

Anna Kalinskaya held 5 match points, all on Jessica Pegula's serve, and failed to convert any of them in Sunday's final

© Inaki Esnaola/Getty Images

The American 4th seed struck back in the second to level and, nearly 2 full sets later, it was Pegula’s turn to mount a come-back, as she rallied from 1-4 down to level the match at 4-4, and looked to be well on her way to a surge to the finish line.

When Kalinskaya served, Pegula held triple break point for a chance to serve out the win, but the Russian unleashed a series of forehand missiles to wipe 4 of them away, and moved 5-4 ahead, the momentum swinging her way.

Pegula demonstrated her gritty resolve with solid baseline play to fend off 4 Championship Points and managed to hold for 5-5 before saving another when she served to force the deciding tiebreak.

There, with the help of a pitch-perfect lob, Pegula’s superior rally tolerance won the day, and she bagged the last 5 points of the match to seal the win after a thrilling battle.

“This is the most grass-court confidence that I’ve had, probably, going into Wimbledon,” she said. “Hopefully that pays off as well.

“Being able to tough out a couple of matches, and have a couple of long matches, especially for the body to get ready, and dealing with a lot of the rain delays too. That’s always possible at Wimbledon as well, so that was good prep, mentally, as well.

“I feel, like, I’ve been through a lot this week, so if I could handle this week I think at Wimbledon I should feel pretty good.”

It was an emotional triumph for Pegula in more ways than one, after missing the entire red-clay season due to injury, while she had to navigate multiple weather delays throughout the week, including the postponement of her semi-final against Gauff.

World No 5 Jessica Pegula demonstrated her fighting qualities to come form behind and win the Berlin title against Anna Kalinskaya

© Maja Hitij/Getty Images

There was heartbreak for Kalinskaya, though, who said in the trophy ceremony: ”Jess, you’re such a fighter, it’s nice to see you back on tour. Couldn’t wish for a better come-back. If we played like this against each other every time, I would be happy for both of us.”

Kalinskaya came into the 2024 season ranked No 77 in the rankings, and has proceeded to notch up a series of career milestones, including her first Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open, and her first WTA 1000 final at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, ahead of this, her first grass-court final.

Prior to this week, the 25-year old Russian had yet to progress past the Round of 16 at a grass-court event, and now will see herself rise 7 places to No 17 in the world, and being seeded at Wimbledon.

Berlin champion Jessica Pegula and runner-up Anna Kalinskaya pose with their unique trophies

© Inaki Esnaola/Getty Images

In the doubles finals, the unseeded Chinese pair of Wang Xinyu & Zheng Saisai defeated Taipei’s Chan Hao-Ching & Veronika Kudermetova from Russia, 6-2 7-5, to win their second title as a team.

The Chinese team lost just one set during the week, and ousted the No 2 seeds, Dutchwoman Demi Schuurs & Luisa Stefani from Brazil as well as sisters Lyudmyla & Nadiia Kichenok, the No 3 seeds from Ukraine, on their way to the final.

Doubles champions Wang Xinyu & Zheng Saisai pose after defeating Chan Hao-Ching & Veronika Kudermetova in Sunday's final

© Inaki Esnaola/Getty Images



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