Editor's note: From Monday to Thursday this week, we will look at the road each of the eight singles players and eight doubles took to qualify for this year's WTA Finals in Fort Worth, Texas.
Season at a glance
Jessica Pegula has continued her steady climb up the ranks over the past two seasons.
On Sunday, she won her biggest title, at the Guadalajara Open Akron. Pegula's 2022 campaign solidified her status as one of the tour's most consistent big-tournament players.
Two seasons ago, the Buffalo, New York, native had yet to break into the Top 50. At the start of 2021, Pegula, 28, was ranked No.62 and had been past the first round of a Slam only twice in her career. But a new sense of ambition soon took over, sparked by a surprising run to the 2021 Australian Open quarterfinals. By the end of the season, Pegula was a Top 20 player.
"It just shows everyone has their own path," Pegula told WTA Insider. "You can always figure stuff out. You can always improve and get better. It's just the mindset of being able to improve and get better.
"For me, that was my path. For others, they do well when they're really younger. One's not better than the other, they're just different."
This season, Pegula picked up right where she left off and more than backed up her breakthrough season. In a year dominated by No.1 Iga Swiatek, Pegula was quietly posting numbers that only Swiatek could match.
In addition to three Slam quarterfinals at the Australian Open, Roland Garros and US Open, Pegula advanced to the semifinals or better four times at the WTA 1000-level. Both marks were matched only by Swiatek.
--Highest-ranked American since Sloane Stephens in 2019
--Won first WTA 1000 title at Guadalajara
--Over the last two seasons, posted 39 wins at the WTA 1000-level, the most on tour
--One of only two players to make the quarterfinals or better at three of the four Slams
Already a force on hard courts, Pegula's clay season was a breakthrough. She made her first WTA 1000 final in Madrid, losing to No.2 Ons Jabeur in three sets, and continued that momentum into Roland Garros, where she was thwarted by Swiatek in the quarterfinals.
When the tour returned to hard courts after Wimbledon, Pegula continued to close the gap in the rankings, where she made her Top 5 debut after the US Open.
"My mom got really sick and that was super hard to deal with after having to go play Wimbledon and then having to come back," Pegula said, reflecting on the biggest challenge of her season.
"In the grand scheme it's not tennis related, but that was definitely the toughest challenge, having to deal with a family health crisis. Luckily she's feeling better.
"But the way I handled that situation, flying to Wimbledon, not really playing anything on grass, and then being able to handle everything going into the US Swing as the No.1 American, I think I did a pretty good job of handling that through the end of the season."
In the last tournament of the season, Pegula finally made good on her goal of winning a tournament in 2022. After saving match points to defeat Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, she tore through a tough draw that included four major champions to win the biggest title of her career.