No.4 seed Jessica Pegula survived a severe scare from fellow American Lauren Davis in the first round of Wimbledon, coming from a break down in the third set to win 6-2, 6-7(8), 6-3 in 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Pegula has not lost in the opening round of a Slam since falling to Aryna Sabalenka at Roland Garros 2020, and she recovered from missing three match points in the second-set tiebreak to preserve her streak. A five-time major quarterfinalist, she has yet to go past the third round of Wimbledon.
Compatriots Davis and Pegula first played each other 11 years ago, in the quarterfinals of the Albuquerque ITF W75 event. Davis won that one 6-3, 6-7(9), 6-4, but Pegula has now won the last four editions of the rivalry stretching back to 2016, and leads the overall series 4-2.
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Next up for Pegula will be Cristina Bucsa, who saved four consecutive match points in the third-set match tiebreak to defeat Kamilla Rakhimova 6-3, 4-6, 7-6. The Spaniard trailed 9-5 in the deciding tiebreak, but reeled off six straight points -- her second Grand Slam win from match point down of 2023, following her defeat of Bianca Andreescu at the Australian Open.
How the match was won: Pegula delivered a commanding first set, dropping just three points behind her serve and taking advantage of 13 unforced errors from Davis to take the lead.
But No.46-ranked Davis, who captured her second Hologic WTA Tour title at Hobart in January, began to find her groove in the second set, and found a terrific forehand pass to break Pegula for 5-3.
Towards the end of the second set, Pegula received several strokes of luck. Down set point as Davis served for the set, one of Pegula's shots skidded off the baseline, leaving Davis flailing at the unexpected bounce. At 5-5 in the tiebreak, a net cord pulled Davis forwards, leaving Pegula with a simple pass to bring up her first match point. Two points later, a Davis volley hit the top of the tape and fell back on her side, giving Pegula a second match point.
But Davis clung on, saving three match points with quality aggressive play and converting her second set point as a Pegula backhand went long.
Davis was bidding for her sixth career Top 10 win and second at Wimbledon; four years ago, she became the first ever lucky loser to dethrone a defending champion here when she defeated Angelique Kerber 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 in the 2019 second round. With all the momentum, the 29-year-old captured an immediate break in the decider after winning the best point of the match, hustling all over the court before nailing a winning pass.
But Pegula broke back in the next game, and went back to basics with a watertight third set. She lost just four more points behind her serve, broke Davis for 5-3 and served out with little fuss, converting her fourth match point with a high backhand volley winner.
In Pegula's words: "It's tough to stabilize [in the third set]. I got broken. Had chances. She played a couple incredible points. It was very windy, so it was hard to really feel like you could get any momentum going because then you'd have the wind gusting. It would keep you off balance and unstable.
"I think what kind of snapped me out of it was that I was down 30-0, I challenged, and the ball looked like it was significantly out, where the umpire overruled it, it was in. I got kind of pissed. For me being pissed is not that bad, but it got me a little bit like, 'OK, I need to get it together right now. I just got broken. It's 30-0.
"I was able to break that game, hold, take control of the match. I don't know, I was able to find a little moment there where I was able to get myself going a little bit just for the fact that I was a little annoyed with that point, that circumstance."