Guadalajara | Pegula advances past Azarenka into Mexico final

Jessica Pegula, the No 3 seed, followed the form book with a straight sets win over Victoria Azarenka to reach the final of the Guadalajara Open Akron, but her opponent there has yet to be determined as Saturday’s second Last 4 match between 4th-seeded Maria Sakkari and Marie Bouzkova was suspended due to rain, with Sakkari leading by a set.

Vika is always tough, no matter what, especially on hard courts, especially in faster conditions. I’ve lost to her the last couple of times, I knew it was going to be tough. I’m just glad, in a semi-final as well, that I was able to hold on to that first set. Jessica Pegula

After a sluggish start, Pegula, the top-ranked American, defeated Azarenka, 7-6(3) 6-1, after an hour and 29 minutes, bringing the Belarusian’s run in Mexico to an end.

“I think it’s just capping off the end to a couple amazing years, really,” Pegula said later. “I’m just super happy to be through to a final.”

Pegula found herself in an early hole as the former World No 1 secured an early break on her way to 3-0 lead, but the American soon found her rhythm, breaking back to send the set into a tiebreak, which she took with the loss of just 3 points.

Azarenka effectively unravelled following the loss of the opener, while Pegula stepped up her play, breaking the two-time Australian Open champion twice as she steam-rolled through the second to reach her second final of the year.

Pegula’s path to the final has included wins over 4 Grand Slam winners this week – Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, and US Open champions Bianca Andreescu and Sloan Stephens and now Azarenka.

Despite falling behind 3-0 in the first set, Pegula recovered well and out-hit her opponent, striking 18 winners to Azarenka’s 11, while she also had 8 fewer unforced errors than the Belarusian as she levelled their head-to-head record at 2-2.


Victoria Azarenka could not extend her fine run in Guadalajara against Jessica Pegula on Saturday

© Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

“Vika is always tough, no matter what, especially on hard courts, especially in faster conditions,” Pegula said. “I’ve lost to her the last couple of times, I knew it was going to be tough.

“I’m just glad, in a semi-final as well, that I was able to hold on to that first set.

“I thought it was really important to not let her get any momentum, or more confidence, by winning an easy first set, so I’m definitely really happy with how I handled that situation.

“[Being] able to take that first set, and start off strong in the second, against someone as experienced as her, is always going to give me a lot of confidence.”

Pegula, who is making her debut in both singles and doubles at the WTA Finals, which begin in Fort Worth, texas on 31 October, is ranked 5 in the world and recorded her 40th match-win in WTA main draws after defeating Azarenka.

She becomes just the 4th player to hit 40 victories for the year, joining World No 1 Iga Swiatek on 62, Ons Jabeur with 46, and Daria Kasatkina at 40.

The 28-year-old American, now chasing her second career title, awaits the winner between Greece’s Sakkari and Bouzkova, from the Czech Republic, who will have to complete their semi-final on Sunday at 1pm local time before playing the final later in the day.

On Saturday, Sakkari won the first set, 7-5, in 83 minutes before the rains came.

Pegula has matching 1-3 win-loss records against both Sakkari and Bouzkova.


Rain fell after the first set of the second semi-final between Marie Bouzkova and Maria Sakkari causing the match to be suspended overnight

© Ulises Ruiz/AFP via Getty Images



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