FORT WORTH, Texas -- For Ons Jabeur, Jessica Pegula, Coco Gauff, and Daria Kasatkina, their 2022 campaigns were the best seasons of their careers. Just making it to the WTA Finals is a phenomenal achievement and reward for an outstanding season.
But each of the four found it difficult to focus on the positives after bowing out in the group stage in their WTA Finals debuts. Experience won the week in Fort Worth, where the four players who were playing the tournament for a second time all advanced to the semifinals. The rookies bowed out, and in heartbreaking fashion.
Pegula and Gauff had the toughest week, going a combined 0-12 in singles and doubles. Neither could hide their disappointment when their tournaments finally ended.
"It's always tough but that's tennis," Pegula said. "You have one good week, and then you're right back at it the next week. There's just a lot of really highs and really low lows. I feel like this was a reward for me at the end of the year to be able to come and play Finals, and to finish winning Guadalajara was obviously a huge accomplishment for me.
"But yeah, the celebrations definitely get cut short when you show up here and I lose three matches. You're kind of down in the dumps again about your performance."
I wish I could have given the fans more yesterday..I was not myself & the combination of a long year/getting sick hit me hard. However I’m so honored to be w/ the most amazing group of girls. Wishing them all the best in the rest of the tourney, we all have much to be proud of 💕 pic.twitter.com/TzVpZWelSu— Jessie Pegula (@JLPegula) November 5, 2022
Gauff struggled to find her perspective after her showing as well. Despite being the youngest WTA Finals qualifier since 2005, it was difficult for the 18-year-old to see any silver lining from her debut.
"I know, it wasn't my whole season," Gauff said, "but I feel like I worked so hard to get here and I didn't take the opportunity as I wanted to. It's not even about the losses, just some of the ways that I lost. I feel like I didn't improve this week. I feel like I stayed stagnant. Usually in my career, even if I lose first round at a tournament, there's always some sort of improvement.
"It's probably the worst week of the year for me. I've never lost so much so fast."
Gauff heads to Glasgow to represent the United States at the Billie Jean King Cup, where the Americans are set to face Poland and Czech Republic in group play. She sees it as an opportunity to end her season on a positive note.
"I have a team and teammates who are ready to play," Gauff said. "So I think right now, my mindset is just on that and try not to dwell too much on this because I still have a team I need to be there for. So I'm kind of grateful that I have that tournament, because it'd be an awful way to end the year on this."
"It gives me a lot of motivation to do better, because losing sucks. I'm gonna remember this feeling and use it to feel when I practice and use it to feel when I hopefully play this again. The goal is to try to play again next year."
It's CORN 🌽🎶— wta (@WTA) November 4, 2022
Since we're in Texas... What's the best thing to BBQ and why?! pic.twitter.com/C4NDgyUPng
Jabeur echoed Pegula and Gauff's sentiments. In a season that saw her reach two major finals, win her first WTA 1000 title, and rise to World No.2, the 28-year-old Tunisian went into her final group match needing a straight-set win over Maria Sakkari. She lost in straight sets to finish 1-2 in her tournament debut.
"It's a disappointment to end the season like this," Jabeur said. "I have to take the time to reflect on the season and not to be hard on myself because that's what I usually do. I don't like to lose matches like this and especially at this ranking. Especially as the player that I am today. I want to improve. I want to be better. I want to be No.1 and playing like this doesn't help much."
Distance and perspective will be the key for this quartet over the next weeks. Kasatkina might be in the best position to bounce back quickly, having narrowly lost her chance of advancing by losing a deciding tiebreak 7-5 to Caroline Garcia.
"Well of course now I hate everything," Kasatkina said with a laugh. "Super disappointed, I don't want to do anything. But of course, I have to be objective. I have to see that this season was the best in my career and especially after what happened a few years ago. Honestly, at the beginning of the season, if you tell me that I'm going to be here right now sitting here, I would probably not trust you.
"Tomorrow is going to be better for sure. I'm going to be more fresh and more with a clear mind and more thankful for everything."
Pegula will nurse her spirits in the California Wine Country with family and friends, taking the well-deserved time out to celebrate her breakout season. But it won't be long until everyone is back in the gym and on the courts to ready for the Australian summer in January. That's one thing you can always count on in tennis: there's little time to either pat yourself on the back or dwell on your losses.
"You have one good week, one bad week, and people don't remember you winning and they just see your loss," Pegula said. "So I think as tennis players we do need to celebrate because the journey is all the stuff that's happening right now. There is really no end-to-end goal. Top athletes always say the dream is the journey, not the end result. It's hard to maintain that mindset all the time, but I think as long as you come back to that and try to celebrate the small goals as much as you can I think that keeps it healthy. Sometimes we forget. So I have friends and family for that.
"I'm not one to really celebrate myself too much or like the attention on me, but I think your friends are kind of your hype people. So they're definitely like, 'No, we're gonna celebrate and drink tons of wine in Napa. It's going to be a total celebration of your awesome year.'"