Jessica Pegula rolled to the first WTA 1000 title of her career Sunday, as the No.3 seed down No.4 Maria Sakkari 6-2, 6-3 in the Guadalajara Open Akron final.
Both players were looking for their first WTA 1000 crown, their first title of the year and their second career title overall. But it was Pegula who triumphed with consistent depth and power in 70 minutes.
Pegula improves her win-loss record this year to 41-17. Only two players have won more main-draw matches in 2022: World No.1 Iga Swiatek (62) and World No.2 Ons Jabeur (46).
Words from the winner: "I’m just super excited, relieved, happy, like all the emotions," Pegula said after her victory. "Dedicating it to my mom was extra special, I know she was watching back home.
"Just a lot of emotions, but super excited just to get a big title next to my name. That was something I really wanted this year, and I kept saying it was one of my goals, so to be able to accomplish it at the end of the year is really cool.
"I thought I just played really solid, I didn’t really make a lot of silly errors or stupid decisions. I served really smart, I returned well. There were a lot of different points where I had to maybe slice and come in, or serve and volley, or do something different, and I just didn’t panic, I just kind of did what I had to do to win the point, and it was working."
Peaking at the right time: The World No.5 Pegula had to save three match points in her first match of the week (following a first-round bye) against reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the second round.
But Pegula went on to defeat four Grand Slam champions in a row (Rybakina, Bianca Andreescu, Sloane Stephens and Victoria Azarenka) to make her second WTA 1000 final of the year. Pegula saved her best for last, dropping only 12 games in her last two matches of the week.
Stat corner: Pegula and Sakkari had split their two meetings this year, but Sakkari had a 3-1 head-to-head lead overall coming into the Guadalajara championship match.
Nevertheless, it was Pegula who prevailed after converting five of her eight break points against World No.6 Sakkari, earning the 10th career win over a Top 10 player. Pegula also had 11 winners to Sakkari's nine, while the Greek player was undone by 25 unforced errors.
Since the start of 2021, Pegula has won more matches at WTA 1000 events than any other player on tour. She increased that total to 39 WTA 1000 match-wins over the last two seasons.
Match moments: Pegula and Sakkari were evenly matched up to 2-2 in the opening set, but Pegula won 16 of the next 19 points from that point forward, firing groundstrokes and returns deep into the Sakkari court. Pegula swept through the first set without facing a break point.
In the second set, Pegula broke Sakkari twice en route to a commanding 5-2 lead. But Sakkari, who was playing her second match of the day after finishing off her rain-delayed semifinal four hours prior, extended the match by using strong forehands to earn her first break for 5-3.
Pegula was unfazed by the late charge, and she drew errors from Sakkari in the next game to set up triple championship point. One strong backhand was all Pegula needed to convert her first match point and clinch the highest-level title of her career.