CANCUN, Mexico -- Jessica Pegula won 10 of the final 12 games in a 7-5, 6-2 victory against Elena Rybakina before an engaged crowd Sunday evening at the GNP Seguros WTA Finals. 

In the first singles match of the tournament, the 29-year-old American vaulted out front in the Bacalar Group, with No.1-ranked Aryna Sabalenka still to play No.8 Maria Sakkari.

WTA Finals: Scores | Draws | Order of play

The day before she began play, Pegula signaled a change in her post-season trajectory. She and doubles partner Coco Gauff went a collective 0-9 last year in Fort Worth, but Pegula actually smiled when the subject surfaced.


“I think we feel better this year,” Pegula told reporters. “I have mentally prepared myself a little bit better on what to expect coming in here. Hopefully I can use that as better preparation this year mentally and physically and have some better results.”

As it turned out, hope had nothing to do with it. 

While the wind in this festive al fresco event wasn’t a major factor, the big-hitting Rybakina was just a touch off, finishing with 35 unforced errors, against only 12 winners. Pegula, meanwhile, was more contained and efficient, with 12 winners and 16 unforced errors.

Rybakina was serving for the first set at 5-3, when she began to unravel. Pegula broke her, when a backhand soared long and went on to finish with a flourish, winning four straight games.

“She made a couple of errors, a couple of loose points and I was able to jump on it and find my momentum,” Pegula told reporters afterward. “I started serving a little better after that and was able to get a read on her serve and I started finding my rhythm a little bit with the court and the balls. I just took advantage of the opportunity that I had.”

The reversal virtually guaranteed the final result; Pegula is a heady 48-0 this year after winning the opening set -- 6-0 against Top 10 players. This was also her fourth straight win over a Top 10 player, extending her personal best. Pegula, who won the Guadalajara Open Akron a year ago, is also 6-0 lifetime in Mexico. 

The momentum bubbled into the second set with Pegula breaking Rybakina in the opening game, again in the fifth and one more time in the seventh.

Pegula, who said she came into Fort Worth last year “burnt out,” looked feisty and fresh. She has now won three of four career matches against Rybakina, reversing a semifinal loss back in March in the Miami Open.

How important was it to end that personal 0-for-6 streak at the WTA Finals?

“If I had gone 0-7, I’d be 0-7 -- there’s nothing I could do about it,” Pegula said. “It would have been just another loss. Last year, you’re losing to the best girls in the world at that point, you’d rather be losing to them than the worst eight players in the world. You’re excited and you want to do well, but sometimes you’ve got to look at the other side.”