The unexpected happened at the Citi Open in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, as defending champion and top seed Jessica Pegula and 3rd-seeded Simona Halep headed for the exit door, leaving Emma Raducanu as the favourite for the title due to her World No 10 ranking, the highest player now left in the WTA 250 draw.
I felt like it was really, really important to win the first set. I thought that, like, for me, it would have been really hard to be composed in the second set if I lost the first set. Everyone's attitude is ‘I'm here to win the tournament’ and I'm no different. I'm playing really good tennis right now. I'm excited for more. Daria Saville
Pegula was upset by Australia’s Daria Saville, 7-5 6-4, who advanced to a berth in the quarter-finals where she will play Canada’s Rebecca Marino, a qualifier that outlasted Germany’s Andrea Petkovic, 6-3 3-6 6-1.
“I was really excited to play against a top-10 player again,” Saville said. “It was a great challenge. To get away with a win is even better!”
“I feel like I’m playing really good tennis right now. I’m excited for more.”
The World number 88 outplayed the 7th-ranked American in the hot and humid conditions, dispatching Pegula in 98 minutes for her second top-10 win of the year, having previously downed Ons Jabeur at Indian Wells in March.
“I stayed really composed,” Saville said. “I managed the energy really well. It was very hot. But I thought it’s hot for everyone so get on with it.”
The Russian-born Aussie won her only WTA title at the 2017 Connecticut Open and was a former Top 20 player but dropped to 627 as recently as February this year in the rankings after Achilles tendon surgery sidelined her for almost the entire 2021 season.
A former Top 20 player, Saville was ranked as low as 627 as recently as February this year, following Achilles tendon surgery, which kept her out of action for almost the entire 2021 season.
The 28-year-old has rapidly charged back into the Top 100, bolstered by a quarter-final run at WTA 1000 Miami, and a Round of 16 showing at WTA 1000 Indian Wells.
Pegula was perfect behind her first serve through 4-4, but it all went wrong for the defending champion in the following game as Saville broke the top seed to love.
The American, who won her first WTA singles title at the most recent edition of the Citi Open in 2019, pulled back level at 5-5, only to drop her serve again and give Saville a 6-5 lead, who then closed out the one-set lead at her second chance.
Saville broke serve again in the first game of the second, and although Pegula had 6 chances to break back over the remainder of the match, the Aussie saved every one of them while never relinquishing her lead as she closed out another Top 10 win.
In fact, Pegula had 10 opportunities in the match to break Saville’s serve, but was only able to convert on one of them.
“I felt like it was really, really important to win the first set,” Saville said after her win. “I thought that, like, for me, it would have been really hard to be composed in the second set if I lost the first set.”
After beating Pegula in their first meeting, Saville is now into her 3rd quarter-final of the year, all on hard courts, after Miami and WTA 250 Guadalajara.
“Everyone’s attitude is ‘I’m here to win the tournament’ and I’m no different,” Saville said. “I’m playing really good tennis right now. I’m excited for more.
“I’m happy. It creates good reputation. Players are going to say, ‘She’s playing well. She has some good wins this year’.”
Saville takes on Marino in the quarters in their first meeting, after the World No 111 saw off a former Top 10 player for the second match in a row, taking out Petkovic, 6-3 3-6 6-1, on Wednesday.
Following a pair of 3-set victories in qualifying, the 31-year old Marino started the main draw with a come-from-behind win over former World No 1 Venus Williams, who was playing her first singles match in nearly a full year.
Marino made it a 4th consecutive 3-set win this week with her 1 hour and 53 minute upset of Petkovic, the World No 68, firing 5 aces and breaking the German 3 times on her 10 chances to win the first WTA Tour match-up between the two players.
Petkovic coughed up 7 double-faults, and converted just 1 of her 9 break point opportunities in the contest.
The Canadian, who returned to the WTA Tour after 4 years away between 2014 and 2017, is now into her first tour-level quarter-final since 2018 Quebec City.
Meanwhile, Halep, a former World No 1, was forced to retire from her 2nd-round match because of illness, allowing Russia’s Anna Kalinskaya to reach the quarter-finals where she will face Kaia Kanepi, the 6th seed from Estonia.
Seeded 3 in the event, Halep had a medical time-out towards the end of the first set and took a tablet, having fought back from 4-0 down in the first set, but the Romanian did not hold onto a 40-0 lead at 5-5, and Kalinskaya broke for 6-5 before serving out the set.
The Russian grabbed an early break in the second before an ailing Halep was unable to continue while trailing 7-5, 2-0.
Kalinskaya is now 7-1 at the Citi Open over the last two editions, including qualifying matches, having made the semi-finals as a qualifier in the most recent edition of the event in 2019.
The women’s tournament wasn’t held in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kanepi, the World No 33, went the distance against China’s Zhu Lin, 4-6 6-4 6-4, taking 2 hours 35 minutes to reach her quarter-final meeting with Kalinskaya.
The seeding attrition has been quick in Washington, with just 3 seeds out of the original 8 still standing after Wednesday’s daytime session.
Two of them, defending US Open champion Radacanu (2) and former World No 1 Victoria Azarenka (4) return to action on Thursday.