FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Jessica Pegula dropped her head to the table in front of the microphone, smiling while hoping there might be a consolation victory awaiting the American in her WTA Finals debut.
The Buffalo native was New York honest about going winless in all three singles matches, capped by Friday’s 6-3, 7-5 round-robin loss to Aryna Sabalenka, and taking an 0-2 doubles record into her finale with fellow American Coco Gauff.
Pegula also tried to remember the strong season that got her to Texas with a No. 3 ranking, and made her and Gauff the first Americans to debut at the WTA Finals in singles and doubles since Lindsay Davenport in 1994.
“I keep telling myself I had such a great year, but that’s the tough thing with tennis is you end the year really well and then I come here and I lose all my matches,” the 28-year-old said. “I mean, I don’t think I’ve lost this many matches in a short amount of time, this is like the same amount in like three months or something, almost?”
No. 7 Sabalenka finished 2-1 in group play and advanced to the semifinals when fifth-ranked Maria Sakkari won the first set of the late match against No. 2 Ons Jabeur. Sakkari is already in the semis.
Sabalenka, who didn’t qualify for the semifinals in her WTA Finals debut last year in Guadalajara, knew a straight-sets victory improved her chances of advancing.
The 24-year-old got it — and a fourth consecutive straight-sets win over Pegula — despite double-faulting three times serving for the match at 5-3. She did the same thing earlier in the second set.
Pegula had a chance to force a tiebreaker on her serve, but Sabalenka finished her off with a backhand crosscourt winner on her second match point.
“I kept telling myself just stay focused, just keep fighting,” Sabalenka said. “It doesn’t matter, two or three sets. Just keep fighting. Just get the win, get extra points and then move on.”
The hard-hitting Sabalenka never trailed in overpowering Pegula from the start, finishing with a 26-13 edge in winners and five aces.
Even with her attacking style, Sabalenka had fewer unforced errors, finishing with 23 to 26 for Pegula, who mumbled to herself after many of hers.
“I feel like this week was a little bit of a grind,” Pegula said. “It definitely feels like I hit a wall a little bit today, just as far as physically, mentally.”
Pegula qualified for the WTA Finals on the indoor hard-court at Dickies Arena by reaching the semifinals in San Diego. Then a week before showing up, she got her first title of the season — and second of her career — by beating Sakkari in Guadalajara.
While saying she underestimated the difficulty of playing singles and doubles this week, Pegula didn’t regret it. She and Gauff were eliminated after their second loss Wednesday. Gauff also is out of contention in singles with an 0-2 record.
“We’re used to playing both,” Pegula said. “But obviously this week, I think maybe the end of the year, it just kind of caught up, I don’t know about her, but it caught up to me a little bit.”
American Desirae Krawczyk and Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands advanced to the semifinals in doubles with a 7-6(2), 6-3 victory over China’s Xu Yifan and Yang Zhaoxuan.
The Czech duo of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova is already in the semifinals, facing Pegula and Gauff later Friday.
Sabalenka didn’t qualify for the season-ending event until the last week of the regular season in Guadalajara, and was two points from defeat in her opener before rallying to beat Jabeur, a U.S. Open finalist this year.
“That’s what I was thinking about, that no matter what happens, just win another match,” said Sabalenka, who has won nine of her 10 career titles on hard courts. “Just do it for the future. Even if I’m not gonna get through this group, I’ll take positive things from this one.”
She gets to play for more now.