July 19, 2024

Swiatek returns to world No. 1 with WTA Finals win over Pegula


CANCUN, Mexico — Iga Swiatek earned her first WTA Finals title and the year-end No. 1 ranking by overwhelming Jessica Pegula 6-1, 6-0 on Monday in the latest in a series of dominant performances.

From 1-all at the outset, Swiatek seized complete control, collecting the next 11 games with her high-quality baseline game, rarely making an unforced error and repeatedly pressuring Pegula into mistakes.

Swiatek, a 22-year-old from Poland, went 5-0 at the tour’s season-closing championship, winning all 10 sets she played and ceding a total of just 20 games. That’s the fewest by the tournament’s winner since 2003, when it returned to a round-robin format; the previous low in that span was the 34 games dropped by Justine Henin in 2007.

“We’ve had many ups and downs, but this is, for sure, an up,” Swiatek said, addressing her team during the post-match ceremony.

She is also the youngest WTA Finals champion since Petra Kvitova was 21 in 2011, extending her winning streak to 11 matches and improving to 68-11 with six trophies in 2023, including at the French Open in June for her fourth Grand Slam title.

Pegula called it “an amazing year.”

“You continue to push me to be a better player every single year,” Pegula said. “I wish I could have done better today, but that’s not how it goes sometimes.”

This victory allows her to return to No. 1, a spot Swiatek held from April 2022 until this September, when she relinquished it to Aryna Sabalenka at the U.S. Open. In Cancun, Swiatek defeated Sabalenka in a semifinal that began Saturday, was suspended by rain, then finished on Sunday.

Pegula hadn’t dropped a set entering Monday and eliminated her doubles partner, US Open champion Coco Gauff, on Saturday. Pegula, a 29-year-old born in New York and now based in Florida, was bidding to become the oldest first-time WTA Finals champ and to pick up what would have been the most important trophy of her career.

After beating No. 1 Sabalenka and No. 4 Elena Rybakina in the group stage, then No. 3 Gauff, Pegula’s matchup against No. 2 Swiatek made the American the first woman to face each of the top four players in the world at one event since the start of the WTA rankings in 1975.

“Playing against you has never been easy,” Swiatek told Pegula. But Pegula’s nine-match winning streak was stopped emphatically by Swiatek.

Swiatek finished with more winners, 9-6, and far fewer unforced errors, 23-6. She broke Pegula five times while only facing one break point herself — and it came as Swiatek served for the match in the last game.

Swiatek won 25 of 36 points in the first set, and 26 of 36 in the second. When it ended, Swiatek dropped to her back, then sat up and yelled. Some spectators waved red-and-white Polish flags. During the trophy presentation, fans showered her with chants of “Iga!”

They played under a mostly blue sky and with far less wind than players were forced to contend with throughout the week. And, most importantly, there wasn’t a drop of rain.

The singles and doubles finals both originally were scheduled to be contested Sunday, then were pushed back a day after a series of showers during the week.

“It hasn’t hasn’t been the easiest week,” Pegula told the crowd, “for any of us.”

Laura Siegemund of Germany and Vera Zvonareva of Russia won the doubles title by beating Nicole Melichar-Martinez of the U.S. and Ellen Perez of Australia 6-4, 6-4.

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