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Pro Media & News

2022 WTA Finals, Day 1: Pegula falls to Sakkari; Americans go 0-3 overall

Victoria Chiesa | October 31, 2022


With Day 1 of play at the WTA Finals Fort Worth in the books, an old adage will have to ring true for the three Americans in the field: If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Home favorites Jessica Pegula, Coco Gauff and Desirae Krawczyk were all beaten on Monday in their first-round robin matches of the year-end event.  

In the day’s first singles match, No. 3 seed Pegula was edged by Greek No. 5 seed Maria Sakkari in Nancy Richey Group round-robin action in a pair of tiebreaks—reversing the result of the final of the Guadalajara Open Akron played just eight days ago.

 

Pegula and Coco Gauff were later beaten by China’s Xu Yifan and Yang Zhaoxuan 6-4, 4-6, [10-7] in their first doubles match of the tournament, and the last match of the evening session. Earlier, Krawczyk—seeded eight in the doubles field with her Dutch partner Demi Schuurs—fell to the No. 1 seeds and defending champions, Czechs Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, in the event’s opening tilt, 6-4, 6-3.

 

If Pegula’s pre-event press conference was any indication, the new world No. 3 wasn’t putting much stock in her 6-2, 6-3 triumph against Sakkari that crowned her champion at the year’s final WTA 1000 event. Everything was different, she said.

“Maybe the thought process is, 'Oh, it should be an easy matchup,’” Pegula told reporters two days before the event began. “But I think at the same time, it’s almost harder because obviously she's going to go back and try to change things. The courts are totally different. The surface is different. The balls are different. Not at altitude.

 

“It’s weird playing each other so close together in such a short time span. Especially coming into here in such a big event. But I think we’ll always think of it as, it’s another week.”

 

The first set of Sakkari’s 7-6(6), 7-6(4) win, in fact, lasted 71 minutes—one minute longer than the entirety of the pair’s last meeting. Three times a break down in the first set, Pegula couldn’t claw all the way back; she saved two set points in the tiebreak, but Sakkari ripped a forehand passing shot en route to staking herself to the lead. Pegula later came from 3-0 down in the second set to even the score, but never led; she saved two match points on serve in the 12th game to force another tiebreak, where she crucially lost the last four points.

 

“It was a tough match today,” Pegula told reporters afterwards, calling the defeat “a little disappointing.”

 

“I thought [it was] two really high-level good sets. [I was] obviously just a few points away from winning either of those sets,” she added. “It was a tough day; obviously, tough to take two [losses], but at the same time, I feel like I gave myself a chance in singles and doubles, and sometimes, that's just the way it goes.

 

“Hopefully, playing on this court will maybe make me feel a little bit better for the next round.”

 

Therein lies the strength of the format at the WTA Finals if you’re a fan of American tennis. Despite the defeat, Pegula is nowhere close to being eliminated—a win against Ons Jabeur, who was beaten by Aryna Sabalenka in the group’s other singles match played Monday, in two days will get the U.S.’ top-ranked player right back into contention for a semifinal berth. The first- and second-place finishers in each of the four groups will advance to the knockout rounds, and Gauff and Pegula will also face Krawczyk and Schuurs in doubles round-robin play on Wednesday.

 

U.S. interests in Tuesday’s order of play are squarely behind Gauff; she’ll take on Caroline Garcia in singles round-robin action from the Tracy Austin Group—a rematch of their recent US Open quarterfinal, which was won by Garcia.

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