Pegula beats Gauff to reach WTA Finals championship match

CANCÚN, Mexico: Unbeaten Jessica Pegula defeated US Open champion Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-1 on Saturday in an all-American semi-final to reach Sunday's championship match at the season-ending WTA Finals.

Pegula, who has not lost a set on the outdoor hardcourts in Cancun, shook off a late rain delay and windy conditions to dispatch her doubles partner in an hour.

"I executed what I wanted to do really well," Pegula said. "In the windy conditions, I think it worked even better.

"I was just trying not to get frustrated with my serve or returns or any funky kind of points that we had and just to keep my feet moving."

The victory sent Pegula into a Sunday title match against the winner of a later semi-final between world number one Aryna Sabalenka and second-ranked Iga Swiatek of Poland.

A triumph for Sabalenka would clinch the year-end world number one ranking for the reigning Australian Open champion from Belarus, but a loss would allow French Open winner Swiatek to capture the year-end top spot by winning Sunday's final.

Sabalenka beat Swiatek in last year's WTA Finals semi-finals and has split two clay meetings with the Pole this year, winning at Madrid while falling to Swiatek in the final at Stuttgart.

Pegula is 2-4 in her career against Sabalenka, but beat her earlier this week in round-robin play, and 3-5 against Swiatek.

Gauff, a 19-year-old who took her first Grand Slam title in September on the New York hardcourts, and Pegula met in the first all-US semi-final at the WTA Finals since a round-robin format for the event was restarted in 2003.

Pegula, who captured her seventh consecutive triumph over a top-10 rival, won 10 of the last 11 games and broke six times in a dominating performance, stretching her overall win streak to nine matches.

"The wind is so tough, I feel like I hit hard and flat. If I do that up the middle it's hard for people to create," Pegula said. "If you're going to go out and hit winners in this it's ,like, too good.

"But I don't think anyone can really do that that efficiently."

Windy and rainy conditions for many matches and issues with the playing surface brought complaints from players all week, prompting WTA Tour chief executive officer Steve Simon to respond to players.

"It is clear you are not happy with the decision to be here in Cancun. I understand that and you have been heard," Simon said.

"It is not a perfect event. We understand the conditions are a challenge and the WTA accepts responsibility for that."

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova called for a change in leadership.

"It shouldn't have come that late in the year making the decision. It was a sequence of bad decisions," she said of the choice of Cancun for an outdoor final.

"Players adjusted. They had to. To come to Cancun in the rainy season? You cannot be hoping it isn't going to rain on the premier event for the WTA Tour.

"You have to own the bad decisions you made and make tough choices after that.

"Maybe it's time for new leadership." --AFP

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