Thursday, April 6, 2023

Top seed Pegula goes down 0-4 in the third set, wins match

Jessica Pegula (photo by Daniel Ward)

Watching top seed Jessica Pegula and Irina-Camelia Begu play their round of 16 match this afternoon in Charleston caused me to flash on that third round match that Petra Kvitova and Alona Ostapenko played in Indian Wells--the one with the crazy 0-6, 6-0, 6-4 scoreline. The scoreline for today's match wasn't like that, but the momentum dynamics were similar--and much riskier. 

15th seed Begu, who has played some very good matches in Charleston over the years. was down a set and 0-4, then won ten games in a row. This meant that top seed Pegula found herself down 0-4 in the third set. She then proceeded to win the set--and the match. The final score was 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, which looks way more "normal" than what it took to arrive at it. 

Jessica Pegula (photo by Daniel Ward)

When asked what was going through her mind in the last set, Pegula replied:

"Like dead serious, like what was going through my mind is 'I can't believe I've lost six games in a row, seven games in a row, eight, nine, ten.' And then I was just, like, communicating that to my coach, like, 'oh, it's eight now, it'll probably be nine.' Like it wasn't very positive, to be honest. Also, like that really hasn't happened to me in like, a long time. Like I can't remember the last time I've been up like that and consecutively lost like, that many games as well.

"So I was just frustrated," Pegula explained, "but was able to kind of relax and played a pretty good game at 4-0. I knew if I could just get one game, like kind of stop the bleeding, that I think I had a chance to get back into it. But, yeah, it didn't come until that 4-0 game. And then the next game, I played like, a good game, and then she played a bad game at 2-4, and then it just like, switched really quickly. But, yeah, my thoughts weren't very positive for a few games there."

Next for Pegula will be 12th seed Paula Badosa.

In the meantime, hometown favorite Shelby Rogers fell to 4th seed and defending champion Belinda Bencic, who defeated her 4-6, 7-5, 6-2. It was a bit strange, having the crowd cheer for the defending champion's opponent, but it was just the luck of the draw. 

Belinda Bencic (photo by Daniel Ward)

After the match, Bencic reflected on her history in Charleston. In 2014, when she was only 17 years old, she wound up in semifinal thriller against Jana Cepelova. "It was like the toughest match of my career," Bencic said. "I thought, 'I'm never going to have a chance to be in the final again.' It was like all these emotions that you just have as a 17-year-old that you don't reach the first time something. And it's just so nice like, to see how far I've come in these years."

Far indeed. Eight years after playing that semifinal, the Swiss star won the tournament, defeating Ons Jabeur in the final. 

Daria Kasatkina (photo by Daniel Ward)

Another former champion who advanced today was 2017 Charleston winner Daria Kasatkina. Kasatkina, who is seeded third, defeated Bernarda Pera 6-3, 7-6. The Russian star will play yet another former champion in the quarterfinals--2019 champion (and 9th seed) Madison Keys. Keys defeated 8th seed Magda Linette 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.

Here is the quarterfinal draw:

Jessica Pegula (1) vs. Paula Badosa (1)
Belinda Bencic (4) vs. Ekaterina Alexandrova (7)
Madison Keys (9) vs. Daria Kasatkina (3)
Anna Kalinskaya vs. Ons Jabeur (2)

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