Montreal | Pegula shocks Swiatek to reach final

Jessica Pegula came from a break down, twice, in the deciding set to upset World No 1 Iga Swiatek at the Omnium Banque Nationale présenté par Rogers on Saturday, and reached the final where she awaits the winner of the other semi-final between Elena Rybakina and Liudmila Samsonova, which was postponed overnight because of rain in Montreal.

I was getting frustrated that I wasn't holding. But then, at the same time, I knew she was having trouble holding as well. I was just like, 'I know I'll get more chances if I can just ... hold’. Basically, it was whoever could, kind of, consolidate the break. Jessica Pegula

Weather has been a huge factor at the WTA 1000 Canadian Open, but Pegula, the World No 3, was lucky enough not to be adversely affected by it, having won her Last 16 match against Italy’s Jasmine Paolini in 69 minutes before the rain struck on Thursday, and then took out her doubles partner Coco Gauff on Friday without interruption.

Swiatek needed an exhausting 9 hours, that included two lengthy rain delays, and 3 sets that day to get past Czech Karolina Muchova, and then battled American qualifier Danielle Collins long and hard late on Friday afternoon.

The Pole admitted she was still feeling the effects of Thursday after playing her third 3-set match in 3 days.

Pegula, the fresher of the two, seems to thrive in Canada, and she had reached the semi-finals for the third consecutive year, finally breaking into the championship match with a stunning 6-2 6-7(4) 6-4 win over the World No 1, after an enthralling 2 hour 30 minute contest.

“It was a great match,” the 29-year old American said. “It was tough. Kind of a roller-coaster. Really up and down, but I’m glad I was able to hold my nerve there at the end.”

When Swiatek’s forehand sailed wide to give Pegula the break at match point, it was a fitting finish to a match in which both struggled to hold their serve.

“We’re both good receivers and sometimes there are matches like this,” Swiatek said later.

World No 1 Iga Swiatek came from a set down and led by a break in the decider but could not get over the finish line and lost to Jessica Pegula in the semi-final at the WTA 1000 in Montreal

© Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Swirling wind on Saturday made serving difficult, and the heavier Wilson extra-duty balls used in the lead up to the US Open seem to be taking time for players to adjust to.

“I don’t know why, this week all of us seem to be really having trouble, even girls that are considered the best servers on tour,” Pegula said. . “It’s weird.

“It feels, like, the conditions, it’s flying a little bit, it’s swirling. I know it’s also the first week we’re playing with the Wilson extra duty balls.

“They’re a little bit heavier, so they’re not quite coming off the racket as well. Maybe we’re not used to it.”

Between them, Pegula and Swiatek managed to break 19 times in 30 games, with the American 4th seed holding an 11-8 edge, while they only won 11 service games combined.

“I was getting frustrated that I wasn’t holding,” Pegula said. “But then, at the same time, I knew she was having trouble holding as well. I was just like, ‘I know I’ll get more chances if I can just … hold’.

“Basically, it was whoever could, kind of, consolidate the break.”

Swiatek leads the tour with 50 match wins, and has landed 4 titles this year, including the French Open in June and the Warsaw Open two weeks ago.

“I kind of knew what I had to do to push her,” Swiatek said. “Sometimes I could do that, sometimes I was making more mistakes — and I think that was the difference, but I tried to play aggressively for the whole match.”

Jessica Pegula proved the more resilient against Iga Swiatek on Saturday

© Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

They traded breaks in the first 4 games, before Pegula broke for a 3-2 lead and added another in the 7th game, cashing in on 4 of the 8 break points Swiatek handed her, while the Pole made 2 out of her 4 chances.

Swiatek put 74% of her first serves into play in the opening set, but won only 47% of those points, which proved the difference as Pegula did an excellent job of returning her serve, and was the steadier from the baseline.

The second was more of the same, with Swiatek breaking Pegula early, but 8 of the first 10 games also resulted in breaks, and, when Pegula went up 5-4 and served for the match, the Pole broke her yet again to stay alive and level at 5-5.

“Even though I served for it at 5-4, I thought she played a great game,” Pegula said. “She hit two lines and just went for her shots, and sometimes that just happens.”

Swiatek held for a 6-5 lead, but the American matched that with a rare hold of her own to set up the tiebreak, and ran out to an early mini-break to go up 4-2.

She handed the break back, though, with an untimely double-fault, and then made 2 uncharacteristic miscues, which was all the encouragement Swiatek needed to accelerate and win the next 5 consecutive points to level the match at a set apiece.

The match was disrupted in the breaker when the Rednex novelty classic ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ began blaring out over the court speakers during play.

“I just thought it was funny,” Pegula said afterwards. “I’ve never had that happen, let alone with ‘Cotton-Eyed Joe’… I was, like, ‘Is this really happening right now?’ Of all the songs. It was just, like, what is going on?”

Pegula was broken twice to fall behind 4-2 in the decider, but she held onto her next 2 service games to love and then broke Swiatek to level before doing so again, for a final time, after the top seed struck 2 shots long.

“In the third set, she was going for it,” Pegula said. “But I knew, if I could hold my serve, I would get another chance, the way the match was going.”

“I felt like I was in control. It feels great and there’s no better way to earn it, right? She played some really great tennis at the end of the second set, and in the third. So, she made me earn it.”

Pegula fired 6 aces, to just 2 from Swiatek, and won 63.5% of her first-serve points to win the match in 2 hours, 30 minutes.

Jessica Pegula hopes to be the first American to win the Canada Open since 2013 against either Elena Rybakina or Liudmila Samsonova

© Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Swiatek was not particularly pleased with the way she had played, but she had been put under pressure by Pegula attacking every second serve, which made her serve more aggressively and offered even more chances to the American.

“She really pushed me, so I needed to change something up,” Swiatek said. “It was working, but in the third, I don’t really know what happened when I was leading.

“I’ve got to watch the match and analyse it, because, for sure, she was fighting for every point, and I did as well. It was a tricky match.”

The World No 1 was broken 11 times in the match, which is unprecedented.

“I think we are good returners, so maybe that’s why, but it’s hard to say, honestly,” she added. “For sure we were pushing each other on our returns, so maybe that’s why.”

Pegula actually broke her serve 4 times in the first set, 4 times in the second set, and 3 times in the final set, although Swiatek was still able to break Pegula 8 times, which amounted to a total of 19 breaks of serve in the match.

Rain forced the postponement of the night semi-final between 3rd-seeded Elena Rybakina from Kazakhstan and 15th-seeded Russian Liudmila Samsonova and they now will play their semi-final at 1.30pm on Sunday.

Pegula is looking to become the first American to win the WTA 1000 in Canada since Serena Williams triumphed in 2013 against the winner in the final, which is scheduled for 5.30pm.



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