A look at the WTA Finals' Contenders: First up, recent champion, Jessica Pegula!

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A look at the WTA Finals' Contenders: First up, recent champion, Jessica Pegula!
A look at the WTA Finals' Contenders: First up, recent champion, Jessica Pegula!

On 24th October, Jessica Pegula claimed a new career-high for herself in the WTA singles ranking, as the world no. 3. The new high came on the back of her winning the Guadalajara Open on the day before, on Sunday, 23rd October.

Or, to be more elaborate, Pegula’s rankings’ success rode on the wave of consistency she’d displayed not only throughout the week in Mexico but has been showing across the last couple of seasons. This accomplishment of Pegula’s can be contextualised as such: up to 2020, the 28-year-old barely made it past the second rounds of the biggest tournaments she played.

Her best result at a Major at that point came at the 2020 US Open where she reached the third round. Except for Wimbledon which wasn’t held that year, Pegula had lost in the first round of all the other Slams for the two years spanning 2019-20.

Likewise, in the WTA 1000 events, Pegula’s best result came at the 2020 Cincinnati Open. That year, she made it to the quarters of the event for the first time in her career, bypassing a smattering of qualifying and first-round appearances prior to that.

Pegula also had only three finals to her credit up to 2020 all of which were at the WTA International level. Interestingly, the Buffalo-born had made it to one final per year since making it to her first career final at the 2018 Quebec Open.

Her first title came a year later, at the 2019 Washington Open which was then followed by a third final at the Auckland Open, in 2019.

Jessica Pegula: Making the most of opportunities

Thereafter, in the post-pandemic era that was all about making a fresh start for tennis players, Pegula reset the trajectory of her career completely.

In the eight Grand Slams played in 2021-22, Pegula’s had four quarter-final appearances, including two straight quarter-finals at the Australian Open. Prior to reaching the finals of the 2022 Madrid Open and winning the 2022 Guadalajara Open, Pegula also reached the quarters and semi-finals of several WTA 1000 events, including back-to-back semi-final finishes at the Canadian Open in 2021-22.

Beyond these listings, the numbers in themselves are staggering. Her win in Guadalajara was Pegula’s maiden WTA 1000 title. However, at the culmination of the week, she’d won 39 matches in total in similar tournaments, across 2021 and 2022.

No other player’s won this many matches. Not even Iga Swiatek, who’s the most dominant player in women’s tennis currently and whose dominance was marked by a 37-match victory streak this year. Within the realm of American tennis,’ too, Pegula’s marked a name for herself this year.

This is the first time since Serena Williams that an American woman’s won at least 22 matches in the biggest event in the WTA’s tournaments’ hierarchy. The enormity of how far she’s come in the sport hasn’t eluded Pegula.

A couple of days ago, after she reached the semi-final in Guadalajara, she tweeted, “If you told me (five) years ago when I couldn’t string (two) matches together that I would have this stat… you can always improve, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise”.

With one last event – the WTA Finals – to go before the tennis calendar winds up for 2022, Pegula will be aiming to close the season on a euphoric note. And she’s got the chance to do so, not only in singles but in doubles as well.

For all that she’s achieved in singles this year, Pegula’s performance in doubles has been a shade better than her singles’ results. Pegula who teamed up with Coco Gauff this year made it to her first Major doubles final at the French Open.

The Gauff-Pegula partnership failed to win the Roland Garros women’s doubles title but did claim two WTA 1000 doubles titles, in Dubai and in Canada, which eventually propelled them towards a Finals’ qualifying spot.

In a year where Serena Williams’ retirement from tennis came as the biggest news and Gauff advanced her career, Jessica Pegula’s coming to her own has thus reaffirmed the existence of a hefty depth in the women’s tour, both in the international circuit and within the American ranks.

On an individual level, it’s also brought about a turnaround in how she’s come to be referred. For once, instead of being called the daughter of the owners of the NFL team, the Buffalo Bills, it’s Pegula’s parents´ proud turn to be acknowledged by their daughter’s illustriousness. Photo Credit: Jessica Pegula Twitter

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