Jessica Pegula causes a major upset by defeating world number one Aryna Sabalenka at the WTA Finals.

Jessica Pegula caused an upset by defeating the top-ranked Aryna Sabalenka 6-4, 6-3 in her second match of the group stage at the WTA Finals in Cancun. This victory secured her spot in the semi-finals. In the evening match, Elena Rybakina narrowly defeated Maria Sakkari 6-0, 6-7(4-7), 7-6(7-2).

Pegula entered the competition with a poor 1-4 record against the strong-hitting Sabalenka, but was able to handle her strong serve and prevent her from making a comeback.

Sabalenka expressed concerns about playing at the recently built Estadio Paradisus and appeared uneasy during her match against Pegula, making 29 unforced errors on a sunny day in the Mexican city by the coast.

In the first set, the number one seed made a comeback after being down 5-2. She hit a powerful forehand winner to break Pegula, followed by a successful service hold, bringing her within one game of the American.

Pegula maintained her composure and won the initial set following a tense exchange that concluded with Sabalenka hitting a backhand into the net on set point. In the second set, Pegula quickly gained a 4-0 advantage, but Sabalenka fought back again, breaking Pegula’s serve to narrow the gap to 5-3.

Pegula needed seven opportunities to win the marathon final match, but she ultimately sealed the victory when Sabalenka made a mistake on her backhand, securing Pegula’s fifth consecutive win against a top-10 opponent.

Following the match, Pegula refuted the idea that her playing style is deficient in strength in comparison to players like Sabalenka.

“I have a strong hit,” she informed Tennis Channel. “It seems like people don’t believe that I hit hard, even the commentators. Honestly, I don’t understand why they say that. Perhaps it’s because it doesn’t look like I do? My hits are more flat, not as heavy as Aryna’s, but they are still powerful.”

The sun sets over Paradisus Cancun during the match between Pegula and Sabalenka.

Pegula secured her second consecutive win in the group stage, guaranteeing her spot in the semi-finals later that evening. Meanwhile, fourth seed Rybakina fought off a late comeback from Sakkari to claim her first victory in the competition.

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Rybakina routed her Greek opponent 6-0 in the first set, but Sakkari fought back, taking the subsequent sets into tiebreakers despite Rybakina’s commanding start in the third set that had her 4-2 up.

Sakkari was able to break Rybakina’s serve for the first time and evened the set at 6-6. However, Rybakina kept her composure and expertly won the tiebreaker, ultimately winning the intense match that lasted two hours and 26 minutes.

Rybakina stated in a post-match interview that Maria may have needed some time to adjust to her speed during the one-sided first set. She also acknowledged that the surface was not ideal and all players were facing challenges.

On Thursday, the fourth-ranked Kazakh player will compete against Sabalenka in order to advance to the semi-finals. Pegula, who has already secured a spot in the semi-finals, will play against Sakkari in their last group stage match.