No.2 seed Jessica Pegula battled through windy conditions and a fellow Top 10 opponent to reach the Qatar TotalEnergies Open final, defeating No.5 seed Maria Sakkari 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 in 1 hour and 59 minutes.
The result puts the American into her first final of 2023, her sixth overall and her third at WTA 500 level or above. It is also the third final she has reached in the past year after having to save match point in her opener. Pegula was runner-up in Madrid last May after facing one match point against Camila Giorgi in the first round; and in October, she staved off three match points against Elena Rybakina in the second round before going on to claim the biggest title of her career so far.
Sakkari still holds a 4-3 head-to-head lead over Pegula, but the pair have now alternated wins in each of their encounters since 2021. Here, Pegula reversed the result of their most recent meeting -- 7-6(6), 7-6(4) to Sakkari in the WTA Finals Fort Worth round robin -- and their only previous match in Doha, a third-round tilt last year that the Greek took 6-4, 7-5.
Pegula will face either No.1 seed Iga Swiatek or No.8 seed Veronika Kudermetova in the final.
Match management: With the wind playing havoc with the ball's trajectory and speed, adjustments were key. For a set-and-a-half, Pegula was the player who adapted her game more effectively. Instead of trying to hit through the wind, she reined in her aggression to play centrally and with greater margin. At the same time, she was alert in taking any chance to disrupt the rhythm of the rallies on her own terms with slices and drop shots.
But up 6-2, 4-2, Pegula began to lose accuracy as Sakkari began to find the mark with her forehand. A pair of double faults as she serve to stay in the set, including one on set point, enabled Sakkari to level the match.
Pegula found her best tennis of the day to race away with the decider, though. After an opening exchange of breaks, the five-time major quarterfinalist surged towards the finishing line with a series of fluent, well-struck winners. Coming forwards to put away points at net was crucial, and appropriately enough a neat forehand volley sealed Pegula's second match point.
In Pegula's words: "That was probably the hardest conditions I've ever had to play in, wind-wise. I'm glad I didn't get too frustrated. I think I played very smart."