MIAMI -- World No.7 Elena Rybakina tallied her 13th consecutive victory by defeating No.3 Jessica Pegula 7-6(3), 6-4 at the Miami Open to advance to her second straight final. With a win at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Rybakina moved within one victory of becoming the fifth woman to win Indian Wells and Miami back-to-back to complete the Sunshine Double.
Rybakina's victory was her first win over Pegula in three tries. She now leads the tour in match-wins in 2023 with a record of 21-4.
After needing three sets to win in her first two matches of the tournament, including a match-point-saving effort against Paula Badosa in the third round, Rybakina has not lost a set since. She will face either Petra Kvitova or Sorana Cirstea in Saturday's final.
How the match was won: In their first meeting of the season, Pegula struggled to hold on to her numerous break advantages throughout the match. Pegula broke Rybakina three times in the opening set and served for it twice at 5-4 and 6-5. Despite struggling with her energy levels, Rybakina found herself swinging freely whenever she fell behind in the score line.
Forehand batting practice 🥎@JLPegula | #MiamiOpen pic.twitter.com/BdzgPKSutY— wta (@WTA) March 31, 2023
"Jessica, she played really well some moments," Rybakina said. "It's not easy to play against her because she keeps the ball really low, and it's difficult to redirect the ball.
"I was playing today better when I was down. Then I think that I was doing everything correct. It was just not enough maybe energy. Maybe I was getting a bit mad when I was down. So I was trying to push myself."
Keeps her perfect tiebreak record in 2023 intact 💪— wta (@WTA) March 31, 2023
Elena Rybakina wins five of the six points after the rain delay to clinch the first set!#MiamiOpen pic.twitter.com/4xeHtqZBH0
Turning point: After Rybakina played a more aggressive tiebreak to extend her perfect record in tiebreaks to 7-0 this season, the players left the court for the second rain delay of the match. When play resumed, Pegula dug out of a 0-40 hole in her opening service game and then consolidated yet another break for a 3-0 lead.
"I think that I started a bit more aggressive, because also, I knew that if it's gonna go to the third set, it's gonna be much more difficult," Rybakina said. "So I maybe risked a bit more even in the end of the second set."
Sure enough, Rybakina's aggression paid off. From 4-2 down, Rybakina methodically worked her way back into the set. Frustrated by her inability to keep Rybakina at bay on her own service games, Pegula began to misfire, giving the reigning Wimbledon chance a foothold for her comeback. In all, Rybakina reeled off the final four games of the match to seal the win after 1 hour and 51 minutes.
Stat of the match: Rybakina finished the match with 11 aces. This is the fifth consecutive match in which she has served 10 or more aces. Already the Hologic WTA Tour's ace leader, she is the first woman since Serena Williams to fire 10 or more aces in five consecutive matches at a single tournament.
10+ - Elena Rybakina is the first player to serve 10+ aces in five matches in the same tournament since Serena Williams at Wimbledon (2016). Rain.#MiamiOpen | @WTA @WTA_insider @MiamiOpen pic.twitter.com/NTldnn4APx— OptaAce (@OptaAce) March 31, 2023
Pegula's perspective: "To defend semis here is obviously great, but disappointed today because I had so many chances to win a set and see if I could get any momentum going. So disappointed I wasn't able to do that. But all in all, it was a good tournament. I can't be too disappointed."
Up next: Rybakina will face the winner of the second semifinal between Petra Kvitova and Sorana Cirstea, which will be played Friday (3 ET). Rybakina holds a 1-1 record against Kvitova and a 2-0 record against Cirstea.
With 11 wins over the past 20 days, Rybakina, 23, said her main priority now is to rest and recover for one last match.
A win away from joining the list of WTA Sunshine Double champions... ☀️☀️— wta (@WTA) March 31, 2023
Steffi Graf (1994, 1996)
Kim Clijsters (2005)
Victoria Azarenka (2016)
Iga Swiatek (2022)
Indian Wells champ Elena Rybakina is through to the #MiamiOpen final! 👀 pic.twitter.com/1fDrcfkM3u
"Against Petra I played in the beginning of the year, and she played really well, but it was much faster courts there," Rybakina said. "I think it's gonna be different if I play against her again, but for sure it's a lot physically, because here the courts are quite slow, especially after rain. When it's that humid, it's not easy.
"Both matches, no matter who I play, is going to be very tough. Hopefully I can make one last push and it's gonna go my way."