In a battle between the two highest-ranked American women Friday, fourth-seeded Jessica Pegula edged No.6 Coco Gauff at the Omnium National Bank tournament in Montreal in a match that came down to a few swings of the racquet late in the ultimate set.
Pegula had lost her past four matches against players ranked in the Top 10, but she changed that narrative with a 6-2, 5-7, 7-5 victory over Gauff. On Saturday, Swiatek will take on top-ranked Iga Swiatek.
“That was a good match,” Pegula said in her on-court interview. “It’s always tough to play your doubles partner -- you know exactly what you’re trying to do. It just came down to the wire and who was going to compete better.”
After a lengthy encounter that lasted 2 hours and 21 minutes, Pegula and Gauff made the decision to withdraw from their doubles quarterfinal match.
Pegula becomes only the sixth player in the Open Era to make it to the semis in each of her first three Canadian Open appearances after Evonne Goolagong, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Chris Evert.
Since 2021, Swiatek and Pegula lead all players with eight semifinals appearances in WTA 1000 events.
Pegula has now won two of her three encounters against her doubles partner Gauff.
Gauff was hurt badly by nine double faults -- two of them on break point in the third set.
It was the first loss for the new coaching team of Pere Riba and Brad Gilbert after a 6-0 start, which included the title last week in Washington, D.C.
“Watching her play the last couple of weeks I feel like she’s been coming out really, really fast and getting really good leads and being able to play freely,” Pegula said. “So obviously it doesn’t always go to plan, but I wanted to stay as tough as possible at the beginning of the first set. I just didn’t want her to be able to free up and start serving really well and ripping and playing super aggressive.
“So it worked out kind of perfectly today. I can’t say that’s always the case. But yeah, I wanted to be very tough the first few games just keep that pressure on really early.”
This was the first all-American quarterfinal in Montreal since 2001, when Jennifer Capriati met Megan Shaughnessy and the unusual familiarity of this doubles team was immediately apparent.
3/3 - Jessica Pegula is the 6th player in the Open Era to make it to the SFs in each of her first three appearances at the Canadian Open after Evonne Goolagong, Chris Evert, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Steffi Graf and Monica Seles. En plein.#OBN23 | @OBNmontreal @WTA_insider @WTA pic.twitter.com/pitBGtJ06H— OptaAce (@OptaAce) August 11, 2023
The first two games consumed 15 minutes and featured five break points. It was Pegula who emerged with the first break in the opening game, held her own serve and broke again for a 3-0 lead when a Gauff forehand found the net.
Gauff might be the quickest player on the Hologic WTA Tour, but Pegula was able to move her from side to side, forcing her to hit running out-of-position shots. At the same time, Pegula moved well, keeping Gauff off balance with a variety of looks and displaying some uncanny anticipation.
Pegula made the early lead stand up and served out the set at love.
Most opponents focus on Gauff’s weaker forehand, but Pegula targeted her backhand nearly as often to keep Gauff thinking. The second set couldn’t have been more different. The players held serve for a combined seven consecutive games before an unforced error from the staff at IGA Stadium seemed to temporarily light a fire under Gauff.
On the first point of the eighth game, Pegula was in the process of hitting an errant backhand when the lights were switched on. There had been two brief rain delays already and with the skies darkening, the ill-timed decision was made -- and the point was replayed. Gauff, unhappy, won the next three points and eventually broke Pegula when a forehand missed.
Serving for the set, however, Pegula broke Gauff right back, throwing the set back on serve at 5-4. But serving to reach a tiebreak, Pegula looked tentative and Gauff capitalized. When Pegula’s backhand found the net, the match was dead even.
Pegula scored the first break of the final set when Gauff committed her eighth double fault of the match. Pegula routinely stepped two, three feet inside the baseline for Gauff’s second offerings and the teenager often went for too much.
Gauff soon got it back to make it 4-all. But serving at 5-all, Gauff put a forehand, then a backhand in the net. Her ninth double fault on break point gave Pegula the chance to serve for the match -- which she did, at love.