CHARLESTON, S.C. – Top seed Jessica Pegula has done it again to make the “final four” of the Charleston Open.
But so did No. 2 seed Ons Jabeur, No. 3 Daria Kasatkina and No. 4 Belinda Bencic. That’s right. The top four seeds in the WTA Tour event all advanced on Friday to Saturday’s semifinals on Daniel Island.
The only one that didn’t wrap up the berths in straight set was former champion Kasatkina, a 25-year-old Russian who has climbed back to No. 8 in the world. She wore down another former champion, Madison Keys, 5-7 (5), 6-4, 6-2, with a variety of shots that kept Keys out of synch with her awesome power at times.
PEGULA CAME CLOSE TO THREE AGAIN
Pegula, the world’s No. 3 player who had rallied back from a 4-0 third-set deficit a day earlier to win six straight games against Irina-Camelia Begu, came close to another third set this time.
But talented Spaniard Paula Badosa helped Pegula out with a pair of mistakes on the last two points of Friday night’s match to allow Pegula to escape with a 6-3, 7-6 (6) victory.
The always patient and under control Pegula was cruising with a 5-3 lead in the second set when Badosa suddenly discovered her game to win three straight games to force Pegula to hold service in the 12th game to force a tiebreaker.
BADOSA ERRED ON THE LAST TWO POINTS
With the score at 6-6 in the 12-point tiebreaker, Badosa went for too much with a forehand and then netted a backhand to end the match.
Pegula had been all business all the way, showing no emotion while committing few errors, playing great defense, and stepping inside the court to hit winners. She had won five straight games at 3-3 to finish off the first set and take a 2-0 lead in the second set.
But Badosa was too talented to let Pegula off the hook that easily. The 5-11, 25-year-old was going to lose, but she didn’t want to without a fight.
“She made me earn it in the end,” Pegula said. “The conditions started getting really tricky. I know there’s some rain coming, so I’m glad I was able to get through that, especially in straight sets.”
MATCH ALMOST BLEW AWAY
“I was serving at 1-0 in the second set, and all of a sudden the wind just shifted going this way, and it dropped like 10 degrees,” Pegula said.
“It was crazy. You could just feel it kind of in the air, so I kind of looked at my coach, like okay, I need to hold, because you never know what’s going to happen in the conditions. I was playing really well and it got tricky there.”
Pegula next goes against Bencic, the 26-year-old defending champion who made quick work of Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova for a 6-3, 6-3 victory in the quarterfinals.
Bencic is a solid player who doesn’t waste many strokes or much time, but has all of the shots and seems to control the court with her instincts and excellent movement.
BENCIC TOUGH MATCHUP FOR PEGULA
“Belinda is really tough,” Pegula said. “She’s a really tough matchup for me. I haven’t played her in awhile, but I think I’ve improved a lot since the last time I played her.
“We play kind of similar, hit kind of low flat, take it early, and she tends to kind of feed off my pace and like how I play. She’s obviously very confident right now, defending champ, and it’s going to be really tough.”
Bencic, a 5-9, 26-year-old Swiss player, also has great respect for Pegula’s game.
“I feel like Jess is very consistent. I feel like she does anything with the ball,” Bencic said. “She redirects very well, and you always feel like she’s not even moving, but still she makes it very effortless.”
JABEUR HAD THE EASIEST DAY
Perhaps, the fifth-ranked Jabeur, the 2022 runner-up here as well as a Wimbledon and U.S. Open runner-up, had the easiest time on Friday. Anna Kalinskaya won only one game before taking a 6-0, 4-1 retirement against Jabeur.
Tunisia’s Jabeur will oppose Kasatkina in Saturday’s semifinals. “We’ve (Kasatkina) had a lot of three-setters together. It’s going to be definitely a physical match,” Jabeur said.
“She’s someone that loves clay. She’s someone that her game suits clay a lot. I think the key tomorrow (Saturday) probably will be patience.”
Looking ahead to possibly rainy weather, Jabeur said, “It’s definitely going to be tricky. It depends how it’s going to rain, if it’s the whole day, if you go in and out the whole time. For me, the most important thing, I will try to use the conditions to my benefit.”
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award as the tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspapers. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
Asian Games Champion Qinwen Zheng Reveals Shock Departure Of Coach Fissette
China’s Qinwen Zheng says she feels ‘hurt’ by the decision of her former coach to end their collaboration in order to work with another player.
The US Open quarter-finalist had been working with Belgium’s Wim Fissette in recent weeks following the departure of Pere Riba who is now the coach of Coco Gauff. Fissette has a wealth of experience in women’s tennis after working with the likes of Kim Clijsters and Naomi Osaka. However, Zheng says she is now looking for a new mentor.
“I understand his decision, but my family and I feel hurt. Right now I don’t want to talk about this person (Fissette),’ journalist Bendou Zhang quoted her as saying.
Fissette is yet to comment on his departure. He had previously coached former world No.1 Osaka between 2019-2022 and during this period she won two of her four Grand Slam titles. The American-based Japanese player is on maternity leave from the sport and gave birth to her first child in July.
20-year-old Zheng is currently ranked 23rd in the world and won her maiden WTA title in Palermo earlier this year. She is the youngest player from her country to have reached the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam in the Open Era following her run at Flushing Medows. This year she has beaten top 10 players Ons Jabeur and Daria Kasatkina.
Zheng’s latest career milestone is winning gold at the Asian Games on Friday. in the final, she defeated Zhu Lin 6-2, 6-4, in the blistering Hangzhou heat.
“The feeling was incredible,” Zheng said. “I’m really happy about that. That was not an easy match today and also yesterday (in semifinal against Alex Eala). All of them are good fighters.”
It is not clear who Zheng will be working with during the Asian swing.
Daria Kasatkina Criticises Decision To Not Use Roof At Sweltering Pan Pacific Open
Daria Kasatkina has taken a swipe at organizers at the Toray Pan Pacific Open for not using the roof to cover their premier court on Thursday due to the heat.
The Russian played her second round match against Despina Papamichail in temperatures around 30 degrees with the humidity making it feel even warmer. Kasatkina battled to a 6-4, 6-4, win after spending more than two hours on the court. She dropped serve four times in the match but managed to break Papamichail seven times en route to victory.
Speaking on the court following his latest tour win, the world No.13 admitted that she struggled in the conditions and implied that she believed the roof should have been closed to shield the players from the sun. Tokyo, which is where the tournament is staged, has experienced a record-breaking number of ‘extremely hot’ days this year with their autumn season being warmer than usual. Something that some warn could be a more regular occurrence due to climate change.
“We cannot do much about it. We are using the ice towels and some supplements to keep you hydrated. By at the end, you cannot fight with something you cannot control,” Kasatkina commented on the conditions during her on-court interview.
“I think in these kinds of conditions, if you have a roof, better maybe to close it. If you have these opportunities, better to use it than to make players almost die on the field.” She added.
Kasatkina is through to her seventh Tour quarter-final of the season. Awaiting her in the next round will be second seed Jessica Pegula who beat Spain’s Cristina Bucșa 6-1, 6-2, in her second round match on Wednesday. It will be only the second Tour meeting between the two players and their first on a hard court.
Elsewhere in Tokyo, another player to reach the last eight in France’s Caroline Garcia who beat Anhelina Kahlinina 6-4, 6-3. Meanwhile, Anastasia Pavlychenkova defeated Czech Republic’s Linda Noskova 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.
Barbora Krejcikova Does The Double In San Jose
After what has been a challenging past few weeks on the Tour, Barbora Krejcikova has returned to the winner’s circle by claiming both the singles and doubles titles at the San Diego Open.
The world No.13 battled to a marathon 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, win over Sofia Kenin in what was a clash of the former Grand Slam champions. Krejcikova was pushed to her limits throughout the two-and-a-half-hour clash with there being no break in the decider until the final game. It is the second singles title the Czech has won on the WTA Tour this season after Dubai and her seventh overall.
“Normally I wouldn’t be here,” said Krejcikova, who received a wild card to play in the tournament “I really want to thank them (the tournament organisers). It was very special. I really enjoyed my stay here.”
Krejcikova’s run to the trophy has also seen her score wins over Beatriz Haddad Maia and Danielle Collins earlier in the week. She is the first player from her country to win the tournament.
Following on from that triumph, the 27-year-old then clinched the doubles title alongside compatriot Katerina Siniakova. The duo beat Collins and Coco Vandeweghe 6-1, 6-4.
Krejcikova came into San Jose on a four-match losing streak which started at Wimbledon where she was forced to withdraw from her secound round clash due to a left leg injury.
“I came here with not really good statistics after my injury, I didn’t actually win any matches,” she said. “So I just came here and I pretty much was hoping and believing that I could get the first win and go from there. It’s pretty special to be sitting here having won [the title].”
It is only the second time in Krejcikova’s career that she has won both the singles and doubles titles at the same event. The first time she did so was at the 2021 French Open where her partner in the doubles was also Siniakova.
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