CANCUN, Mexico (AP) — Jessica Pegula improved to 48-0 in 2023 when winning the first set, grabbing 10 of the last 12 games to beat Elena Rybakina 7-5, 6-2 in the opening match of round-robin singles competition at the WTA Finals on a windy Sunday night.

Neither woman had won a match previously at the season-ending championships for the women’s tennis tour. Pegula went 0-3 in Fort Worth, Texas, a year ago, while Rybakina is making her debut appearance at the event for the top eight players in the world.

Pegula, who is ranked No. 5, trailed by a break at 5-3, and Rybakina served for the opening set there. But Pegula broke and reeled off four games in a row to take that set. That put her in good position to win, given her success as a front-runner this year.

This was the tour-leading 42nd victory on a hard court this season for Pegula, a 29-year-old American whose parents own the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.

Both women finished with 12 winners, and this was the key statistic: Pegula made only 16 unforced errors; Rybakina made more than twice as many, 35.

Rybakina is ranked No. 4 after winning Wimbledon in 2022 and finishing as the runner-up to Aryna Sabalenka at the Australian Open this January.

The WTA announced in September that it would be holding this tournament in Cancun under a one-year agreement. Some players, including Rybakina, raised concerns this weekend that the temporary court was not ready for practice until too close to the beginning of competition.

“This is something … I’m not happy with. I’m pretty sure the rest of the players also (are) not happy,” Sabalenka said.

“It’s not great. I mean, usually we need like three to four days to kind of like adjust to the conditions. … I hope that next year, WTA will do a better job,” she said.


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