It all turned into a bit of an anti-climax when Jessica Pegula routed Liudmila Samsonova to win the Omnium Banque Nationale présenté par Rogers title in Montreal on Sunday, not that the American is complaining, but the sleep-deprived have been criticising organisers over the scheduling due to the weather.
Honestly, I would love to have more time, but they said that it's not possible, so it's okay,. You know, I didn't have time to regenerate because I was to the physio room trying to tape all my body, and it takes one hour for this. So I don't know what to say. I was out of the court and then again in, and I don't know. It was strange. I knew Jessica. I know the way she plays. I know that she's a tough opponent, and I knew also that I don't have so many energies. So, you know, I tried to do my best, but it was not enough today.” Liudmila Samsonova
Pegula dismissed Samsonova, 6-1 6-0, in just 49 minutes to win her third career title and second WTA 1000 trophy.
“Congrats to Liudmila, you are an amazing player,” Pegula said in the trophy ceremony. “I think everyone needs to give her a round of applause [because] she’s played, like, five matches in three days.
“We’re out on tour to win tournaments, and to win titles every single week, but tennis can be really tough where you sometimes lose a lot,” the 29-year-old American 4th added.
“Even when you’re winning a lot of matches, you’re still not winning tournaments, so it can get tough. Winning a week like this week makes it all worth it, and makes you want to keep going for more.”
Her Russian opponent had taken out 3rd-seeded Elena Rybakina, 1-6 6-1 6-2, earlier on Sunday in a rain-delayed semi-final in which the Kazakh clearly ran out of gas.
Samsonova dropped the first set but posted a strong come-back win after an hour and 43 minutes of play.
Previously, she had had to play her 3rd-round match against World No 2 Aryna Sabalenka from Belarus and her quarter-final against Belinda Bencic, the Swiss 12th seed, both on Friday after rain forced the cancellation of the first match on Thursday.
Again, on Saturday, her match against Rybakina had to be shifted to Sunday, before the scheduled final.
Her efforts throughout the week clearly took their toll against Pegula, who was rested and full of confidence after her wins over Coco Gauff and World No 1 Iga Swiatek, neither of which was affected by the scheduling.
“I know, obviously, physically, she wasn’t feeling her best, but at the same time I played a really clean match,” Pegula said. “I don’t really think I made any unforced errors or anything. I played kind of a perfect match.
“I feel like I did enough to where, yeah, I could just play freely, and I kept trying to get the break, and just hold for as long as I could until I won the match. It was a good day.”
Pegula simply overpowered Samsonova from the baseline, striking 16 winners to just 3 unforced errors in the match, and did not lose a single point behind her first serve.
The 29-year-old also won 77% of points on returning her opponent’s second serve, and finished with 51 points to Samsonova’s 21 for the match.
Sleep is an essential element of every player’s training and recovery process, and playing late into the night disrupts this, as Swiatek pointed out in a press conference after needing 9 hours to get past Karolina Muschova on Thursday, fighting her way past Danielle Collins and then narrowly losing to Pegula.
“Well, for sure, physically it was a tough tournament,” she said on Saturday. “Especially that match against Karolina being delayed a couple of times, you know.
“I didn’t really have time during the tournament to actually rest for a while, and do nothing. So it wasn’t easy, but it didn’t change the fact that I just fought until the end.
“And this match today, for sure, physically, was tough, like having only 16 hours to recover. For sure I’m not an easy sleeper, so it’s hard to sleep after such a match as yesterday with a lot of adrenaline, you know. You kind of have to deal with that. It’s the life of a tennis player. So I did what I could.”
Rybakina took issue with the WTA after her semi-final loss because the match was postponed overnight so late in the day, when they all knew the weather forecast was dire.
The World No 4 had a tough week in Montreal, finishing her quarter-final against Daria Kasatkina, the Russian 10th seed, at 3am local time, while her semi-final match was postponed to finals day due to the rain.
Wearing shoulder strapping, Rybakina lost in 3 sets to Samsonova and blamed the scheduling for her injuries, admitting it would be tough to recover with the US Open looming.
The 24-year-old had to wait around all day on Saturday before being told they would return on Sunday, with the winner then playing the final a couple of hours later.
“Yeah, definitely, I feel destroyed just because of the scheduling and the whole situation,” Rybakina told the media. “I’m not really happy about it, but yeah, it is what it is.
“Unfortunately, players cannot do much in these situations. The decision is not really ours. Weather was not helpful. So I picked up some injuries I would say, but we tried to manage it and see how we will go from that.”
Rybakina also blamed the WTA for weak leadership, citing the 3am finish as unprofessional.
“It’s the first time when the match went, I think, that long, and we finished, also, so late,” she added. “It’s the first time and, hopefully, the last time, because I think it’s been a little bit unprofessional from the – I cannot say really the tournament because, I think, that the most important is the WTA here.
“Leadership a little bit weak for now, but hopefully something is going to change because this year it was many situations which I cannot really understand.”
Rybakina had then been set to face Samsonova just 15 hours later, and revealed that she had barely slept.
“Well, we finished at 3. Well, I showered, did some stretching a little bit, went back to the hotel. I think I fell asleep at 5. Yeah, I mean, I woke up at 10, and then it was impossible to sleep. So, yeah, it definitely was not enough time to recover.”
Rybakina had not expected to win the semi-final, and added that the whole debacle could have been avoided.
“Yesterday I was feeling really bad, so I would say that it was better from my concentration overall to play today because, I think, the most important not to get injured even worse, but yesterday after such a short sleep it was really tough for me to play.”
With the Cincinnati Open beginning on Monday, and the US Open starting on 28 August, Rybakina is uncertain of her schedule.
Meanwhile, Samsonova had to play two matches in one day for the second time this week, taking on Pegula in the final.
“The fact is that everyone saw that the forecast was, at 6pm, would be raining, so I knew that,” Samsonova said in her press conference after the final. “But, of course, it’s strange that the people doesn’t care so much about us, you know, because, if you know that, you must, I think, this is my opinion, to make a schedule where it’s possible to play, because we already made two matches in one day.”
The World No 12 revealed that she and her team had tried pushing for a later start to the final but were told that it was impossible.
“Honestly, I would love to have more time, but they said that it’s not possible, so it’s okay,” she said. “You know, I didn’t have time to regenerate because I was to the physio room trying to tape all my body, and it takes one hour for this. So I don’t know what to say. I was out of the court and then again in, and I don’t know. It was strange.”
Despite an incredible week claiming two Top 5 scalps in Sabalenka and Rybakina, the upshot was that the World No 18 simply could not perform at the level she wanted, and it left the Canadian fans short-changed in the championship match.
She had spent nearly 10 hours on court, and those efforts took a toll as Pegula comfortably claimed her third career title.
Nevertheless, Samsonova gave Pegula the credit she deserved.
“I knew Jessica. I know the way she plays. I know that she’s a tough opponent, and I knew also that I don’t have so many energies,” she said. “So, you know, I tried to do my best, but it was not enough today.”
The US No 1 was in tears as she lifted the trophy, evidence that Pegula understood the physical advantage she had over the jaded Samsonova, who will be boosted by a new career-high ranking of No 12 after her run in Montreal.
The first American to win the event since Serena Williams in 2013, Pegula’s win over Samsonova capped off a phenomenal week for the American No 1.
“Beating Coco and beating Iga were two really tough wins back-to-back,” Pegula said, “And being able to do that, and then just come out today, and play a really clean match, was kind of great.
“I felt like I didn’t have a ton of pressure at any point, or I wasn’t worried too much today.”
She still has a lot of ground to make up in the WTA rankings on the World No 1 Swiatek and No 2 Sabalenka, but she is eyeing the US Open with relish after this impressive title run.
Also on Sunday, No 7 seeds Shuko Aoyama & Ena Shibahara from Japan saved 2 match points to defeat American Desirae Krawczyk & Demi Schuurs from the Netherlands, the 5th seeds, 6-4 4-6 [13-11], to capture the doubles title.
The dramatic victory capped off a successful double-duty day for the Japanese duo, who defeated Taipei’s Latisha Chan & Yang Zhaoxuan of China earlier in the day in the postponed doubles semi-final.
The title is the second of the season for Aoyama & Shibahara, having won in s’Hertogenbosch during the grass season.
Montreal is their first WTA 1000 title since 2021 Miami, while it is the 19th doubles title for Aoyama and 10th for Shibahara.