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2023 WTA Finals: Jessica Pegula beats No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka to top group

Arthur Kapetanakis | November 01, 2023

Jessica Pegula has emphatically flipped the script at the WTA Finals. One year after a winless campaign at the season finale in Forth Wort, Texas, the American is through to the semifinals as a Cancun group-winner thanks to a perfect 2-0 start.


Pegula advanced to the knockout rounds in style with a 6-4, 6-3 win against world No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka on Tuesday night in Mexico. The 29-year-old, who beat Elena Rybakina in her opening match at the year-end event, clinched first place in her group with one match to spare.

Her victory against Sabalenka was her third against a reigning world No. 1, following two wins over Iga Swiatek earlier this season in Montreal and at the United Cup. She is the first American to notch three wins against the WTA's No. 1 in the same season since Serena Williams in 2012.


"I feel more comfortable playing [top players] this year. I feel more confident," said Pegula, who is 7-4 against the Top 10 this season. "I don't think it feels like such a big deal. Last year, when I made the top five, I think I psyched myself out a little bit. Not a lot. You have a couple thoughts in your head—do I really belong at that level?"


Now a mainstay at the top end of the WTA rankings, Pegula has demonstrated her credentials time and again in recent years. But a deep run in Cancun could add the biggest title yet to her growing resume.

On Tuesday evening, Pegula converted on five of 14 break points in a dominant display against Sabalenka. She raced to a 4-0 lead in the second set but had to hold her nerve to close out the win, needing seven match points to finish the job.


While her position atop her group is secured heading into her final round-robin match, additional ranking points and prize money will still be on the line in her next outing Thursday against Maria Sakkari. The Greek is out of contention for the semifinals with an 0-2 record, while Sabalenka and Rybakina—both 1-1—will contest a winner-takes-all matchup for a place in the knockout rounds.


In the opposite group, Coco Gauff could clinch her place in the semis with a win against Swiatek on Wednesday evening, depending on the scoreline and other results. Like Pegula, Gauff did not record a win in her WTA Finals debut last season. But the reigning US Open champion began her 2023 campaign with a 6-0, 6-1 rout of Ons Jabeur on Monday night.


As joint-doubles world No. 1s, Pegula and Gauff are also competing in the Cancun doubles event. The top seeds were beaten, 7-6(2), 6-3, by Erin Routliffe and Gabriela Dabrowksi in their opening match, but could still advance out of the group stage with wins in their next two contests.

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