WASHINGTON, D.C., USA -- Jessica Pegula of the United States added her name to the roll of WTA singles titlists, claiming her first-ever crown at the Citi Open on a toasty Sunday afternoon with a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over Italy’s Camila Giorgi.
"It's been extremely gratifying," Pegula said, in her post-match press conference. "I mean, this is what you work for, to win tournaments and to just win, basically."
"But, you know, the journey -- it sounds cliche, the journey makes it all that much sweeter," added Pegula, who came back from hip surgery in 2017. "I've worked really hard. So to kind of push through this week and really push myself to the limit, stronger than I kind of almost thought I was at times, really makes it amazing, yeah. I'm excited!"
25-year-old Pegula had reached her first singles final last autumn as a qualifier in Quebec City, but she went one step further this week, attaining a comeback win over Iga Swiatek in the second round and a tough three-set victory over Anna Kalinskaya in the semifinals before her 59-minute victory over Giorgi in the championship match.
World No. 79 Pegula came into the clash with a 2-1 head-to-head lead over 62nd-ranked Giorgi, but the pair had not squared off since 2012. Nevertheless, Pegula picked up where she left off on Sunday, winning 81 percent of points on her first serve and saving the only break point she faced against former Wimbledon quarterfinalist Giorgi.
"[Giorgi] plays so fast and quick, I didn't want to let her dictate the points," Pegula stated. "So I just tried to really use my legs, be ready for every single shot to come back fast and hard, but also kind of try to do that to her, as well, almost kind of not give her time to dictate points."
"I'm aggressive as well," Pegula continued. "I have no problem with people who are hitting fast and hard at me. So it was definitely part of my game plan not to give her too much time to think out there and not let her get into timing."
The American started the encounter off with a bang, breaking Giorgi handily in the opening game, then consolidating for 2-0 with powerful play. Pegula got through a close game to hold for 3-1 after Giorgi’s mounting errors caused her to misfire on a wide backhand on game point, and from there, Pegula was off to the races.
Pegula used penetrating service returns from both wings to reach triple break point at 4-2, then obtained a second break after another miscue from Giorgi, this one going long off the forehand wing. Now serving for the set, Pegula was totally unfazed, and polished off the opening frame with a forehand winner to put her one set away from the title.
27-year-old Giorgi continued to use her go-for-broke groundstrokes in an attempt to power her way back into the match, and the Italian opened the second set with a blistering winner. But Giorgi was unable to ever find that form consistently, and lost the next four points in a row to drop her opening service once more.
Giorgi had her only break point in the next game, which she reached via a superb volley, but it was squandered after another wide backhand error, and Pegula rebounded with fiery forehands to hold on for 2-0.
That would be the only spot of danger Pegula would face as her deep, hard-hitting play carried the day. At 5-2, a heavy forehand by the American forced an error from her opponent and gave her double match point; she converted her first chance with a stunning service winner and promptly sank to her knees in delight.
"This final, I felt like I was just ready," Pegula admitted. "I was like, 'You know what? You're going to go out there and you're going to go win.' And I felt confident in that."
"I think this is a great confidence booster, for sure, just in general," Pegula added. "Hopefully I can keep the momentum and keep riding it."