Jessica Pegula wins in Seoul for fourth career title, second of 2023
Just a few months after claiming her first WTA 1000-level title in Montreal, Jessica Pegula won the Hana Bank Korea Open to claim her second singles title of the season and fourth career singles title.
Since Montreal, the world No. 4 hasn’t necessarily capitalized on her ranking, falling in the fourth round of the US Open to Madison Keys and bowing out in the third round at both of the 1000-level events in Cincinnati and Beijing, although she did reach the finals of the WTA 500 in Tokyo at the beginning of October.
Pegula was given a wild card to play in Seoul, and only dropped one set throughout her five matches during the tournament. American Claire Liu, 23, was firing on all cylinders at the beginning of their quarterfinal match, but Pegula rallied to win that one, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0.
On her way to the final, Pegula also defeated Viktoria Hruncakova, Ashlyn Krueger and former US Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer. While it was a straight-sets win in under 90 minutes, the final against China's Yuan Yue had its fair share of difficult moments.
Pegula faced a break point in her first service game that she managed to save, and was broken twice in the second set by the then-No.128, although the American broke first-time finalist Yuan four times in that set to win the match.
Pegula is the first American to win in Seoul since Venus Williams in 2007.
She said winning this tournament was particularly special due to her heritage. Pegula's mother, Kim, was adopted out of a South Korean orphanage at age 5. Pegula dedicated victory to her mom, who's been recovering from a cardiac arrest episode last year.
“I am half Korean. I don’t speak and I am still learning about my culture (my mom was adopted and left on a doorstep of a Korean police station) but I have been overwhelmed by the support from Korean fans,” Pegula wrote in an Instagram post.
“My mom visited her orphanage here when I played this event 4 years ago. It was the first time she felt open about learning about her past. Her health struggles the past year made this tournament a goal to win. It has been such an honor to play in front of you.”
But she wasn’t the only American to return with some hardware. Bethanie Mattek-Sands helped the U.S. sweep the tournament, claiming the doubles title alongside Marie Bouzkova to raise her first trophy of the year. In singles, in addition to Pegula and Liu, former University of Michigan star Emina Bektas reached the semifinals before falling to eventual runner-up Yuan in three sets.