Pegula bests Azarenka to reach Guadalajara Open final

Pegula, who has qualified for both her singles and doubles debuts at the WTA Finals, is one win away from her first title of the year and her second career title (following 2019 Washington D.C.).
 Jessica Pegula
Jessica Pegula

MEXICO: No.3 seed Jessica Pegula moved into her second final of the year with a 7-6(3), 6-1 win over former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka in the Guadalajara Open Akron here on Saturday.

Pegula will have to wait to find out who her final opponent will be. In the second semifinal, No.4 seed Maria Sakkari won an 83-minute first set 7-5 over Marie Bouzkova, but the rest of the match was rained out and postponed to 1:00 p.m. local time on Sunday.

Pegula, who has qualified for both her singles and doubles debuts at the WTA Finals, is one win away from her first title of the year and her second career title (following 2019 Washington D.C.).

Pegula notched her 40th match-win in WTA main draws this season with her 1-hour and 29-minute triumph over Azarenka. She becomes just the fourth player to hit 40 victories for the year, joining Iga Swiatek (62), Ons Jabeur (46) and Daria Kasatkina (40).

Pegula's two 2022 finals have both come at the WTA 1000 level; she also reached the final in Madrid earlier this year, falling to Ons Jabeur. Pegula is the first American to reach two or more WTA 1000 finals in a single year since Sloane Stephens in 2018.

"I think it's just capping off the end to a couple amazing years, really," Pegula said afterward. "I'm just super happy to be through to a final."

In fact, U.S. No.1 Pegula has become an expert at WTA 1000 tournaments since the start of 2021. Pegula has won 38 matches at WTA 1000 events over the last two seasons, more than any other player, including World No.1 Iga Swiatek, who sits in second place with 36.

To make it into the final, Pegula had to beat four Grand Slam champions in a row this week, with victories over Elena Rybakina, Bianca Andreescu and Sloane Stephens preceding her win over two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka.

"Vika (Victoria Azarenka) is always tough no matter what, especially on hard courts, especially in faster conditions," Pegula said. "I've lost to her the last couple of times, I knew it was going to be tough. I'm just glad, in a semifinal as well, that I was able to hold on to that first set.

"I thought it was really important to not let her get any momentum or more confidence by winning an easy first set, so I'm definitely really happy with how I handled that situation. (Being) able to take that first set and start off strong in the second against someone as experienced as her is always going to give me a lot of confidence."

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