CANCUN, Mexico (AP) — Jessica Pegula converted her seventh match point to complete a 6-4, 6-3 victory over No. 1-ranked Aryna Sabalenka at the WTA Finals on Tuesday to close in on a semifinal berth.
Pegula won all four sets she’s played so far in round-robin action, a year after going 0-3 at the season-ending championship. There was a chance she could clinch a spot Tuesday in the final four, depending on the result of the later match between Elena Rybakina and Maria Sakkari.
Pegula, who is seeded fifth in Cancun, had lost four times in a row to Sabalenka, the champion at the Australian Open in January and the runner-up at the U.S. Open in September.
On Tuesday, on a temporary hard court that has drawn criticism from Sabalenka and others, Pegula dominated for stretches. That included a four-game run in the opening set, and then a 4-0 start to the second while grabbing 16 of 19 points.
The big-hitting Sabalenka — who lost just one game on Sunday against Sakkari — finished with more than twice as many unforced errors than Pegula, including a 17-8 margin in the first set.
The toughest portion of the match for Pegula, a Buffalo-born 29-year-old who is based in Florida, was when it was time to close things out.
Serving for the match at 5-2, she earned a pair of match points at 40-15. But then came Pegula’s first double-fault of the evening, which was followed by her second. Soon enough, Sabalenka had broken her.
In the next game, Pegula got to love-40 — three more match points. And Sabalenka saved each of those, the first two with backhand winners, the next with a forehand winner. A sixth match point came and went when Pegula netted a forehand.
Soon enough, though, Sabalenka was faltering, double-faulting, putting a forehand into the net to offer up a seventh chance for Pegula to end the match, then framing a backhand to wrap it up.
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