TENNIS

Pegula stops Raducanu to advance to Cincinnati quarterfinals

ADVERTISEMENT

MASON, Ohio — No. 8 Jessica Pegula ended Emma Raducanu’s comeback at the Western and Southern Open, beating the US Open champion 7-5, 6-4 in the round of 16. final. The top-ranked American qualified for her fourth WTA 1000 quarter-final of the season.

Pegula will face France’s Caroline Garcia for a spot in her second straight WTA 1000 semi-final, having done so last week at the National Bank Open in Toronto.

ADVERTISEMENT

Three takeaways from Pegula’s strong performance:

Pegula’s WTA 1000 mastery continues: The numbers behind Pegula’s prowess at the highest level of the Hologic WTA Tour grow more impressive with each event. Arriving in Cincinnati, Pegula has reached the semi-finals in three of the last four WTA 1000s, having done so in Miami and Toronto and the final in Madrid.

Since the start of 2021, Pegula has now won 34 matches at the WTA 1000 level, two shy of world No. 1 Iga Swiatek’s mark of 36. She has now reached the quarter-final stage eight times at the top of the circuit since the start of 2021, ahead of Aryna Sabalenka (6) and Paula Badosa, Coco Gauff and Iga Swiatek, who each have five.

Showing the form that rocketed into the Top 10, Pegula broadcast Raducanu’s attacking baseline play keeping the Briton moving. After an early exchange of breaks in the first set, Pegula pulled away breaking Raducanu a second time to take the set. After breaking early in the third game of the second set, Pegula methodically groomed his service games to seal a clinical win.

Pegula finished the game with 21 winners for 10 unforced errors. Raducanu hit 15 winners, including seven aces, as well as 21 unforced errors.

Raducanu leaves Cincinnati with a boost: Raducanu will leave the Top 10 on Monday. But as she heads into her US Open title defense, her two dominating wins over Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka in Cincinnati should provide a much-needed boost of confidence. It was only the fourth time this season that she had posted back-to-back tournament wins and she played incredibly clean tennis to earn them.

No one is wrong that Williams and Azarenka were near their peak, but wins are wins. As Raducanu said herself, if there’s one thing she learned in her freshman year, it’s that wins on the WTA Tour don’t come easy. And as she continues to build her match and tournament fitness, playing three matches in a tournament will surely help her.

“I mean, having to beat Serena and Vika is definitely not easy, no matter how well they played or Serena didn’t do as well, whatever,” Pegula said. “I think managing the moment like that is really difficult. For her, she’s already had success, but for her to manage it, I think it’s really difficult no matter what. I don’t care what you say or how you play or whatever.Beating these two girls back to back is tough.

Pegula faces a difficult task: In a bid to make back-to-back semifinals, Pegula faces a scorching Garcia in the quarterfinals. Garcia, who picked up a solid straight-sets victory over Elise Mertens, beat Pegula at the start of the season in Sydney.

“I think she’s someone nobody really wants to play, because she hits the ball really hard, serves really well, super powerful,” Pegula said. “Has big groundstrokes and sometimes takes the racquet out of your hands. Hard to play when you can’t get the rhythm. She’s been playing really well the last few months which is nice to see because she was obviously at the top of the game for a while too.”

“Yeah, a tougher game than I think people will talk about or give credit for, but she played really well. It’s going to be a tough game.”

ADVERTISEMENT