Pegula toasts WTA Finals debut with Guadalajara glory

Jessica Pegula, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Lorenzo Musetti and Holger Rune tasted silverware success over the weekend.

Jessica Pegula / US Open 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

It might be the finishing straight of the 2022 season, but there is still plenty of significant steps to take on both the ATP and WTA Tours.

Some exhilarating performances catapulted Next Gen stars and Top 10 talents to titles. Here is what you may have missed across an action-packed weekend.

Pegula pounces for Mexico milestone

World No.3 Jessica Pegula is targeting major moves in 2023 having lifted a maiden W1000 trophy at the Guadalajara Open.

The 28-year-old put in an astonishing shift, saving three match points to escape past Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina, which signalled the start of defeating four Grand Slam champions in a row.

In the final Pegula had all the answers 6-2, 6-3 versus Maria Sakkari. Sombrero on, trophy in hand. What a week.

"Just a lot of emotions, but super excited just to get a big title next to my name. That was something I really wanted this year, and I kept saying it was one of my goals, so to be able to accomplish it at the end of the year is really cool,” stated the American, eyeing Grand Slam progress.

“That's the next step, right? Hopefully, as long as I don't play Iga (Swiatek) in the quarter-finals (laughter). I think it's going to give me a lot of confidence going into the Grand Slams."

Over to home courts in Fort Worth, Texas, Pegula will make her WTA Finals bow from October 31st with a packed schedule.

“It’s been awesome to qualify for singles and doubles. I think as the year went on and I was doing pretty well, it definitely became more of a goal for me as the results kind of came,” added Pegula, who will partner Coco Gauff as the first Americans to play the WTA Finals in both singles and doubles events since the Williams sisters in 2009.

“I think it means a lot for us for our country to be the first Americans to do it in a really long time. Now that the Finals are in the U.S., I think it makes it extra special, so we're super excited.”

Caroline Garcia, Kristina Mladenovic, Jessica Pegula, Coco Gauff, trophées, finale dames, Roland-Garros 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Elite 8 lined-up for Texas

World No.1 Iga Swiatek headlines the eight singles players competing in the prestigious season finale together with Caroline Garcia, Aryna Sabalenka and Sakkari.

Ons Jabeur, finalist at Wimbledon and the US Open, is one of four players making their WTA Finals debut alongside Pegula, Daria Kasatkina and teenage sensation Gauff.

The 18-year-old, finalist at Roland-Garros in singles and doubles, is the youngest player since Maria Sharapova in 2005 to qualify for the WTA Finals singles.

"It means a lot," said Gauff. "Honestly I didn't think about it until I realised how close I was and I think I went maybe a little bit nervous in the end but I'm super excited to be playing in the WTA Finals, especially in the USA, and qualifying in singles and doubles is definitely a good achievement.”

2021 semi-finalist Sakkari snuck into the elite eight once again courtesy of her final run in Mexico.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it's a lot tougher to do it twice in a row than just do it once. That's what I'm mostly proud about,” declared the world No.5.

“Yeah, as bad as my season after Indian Wells was, I still just gave myself this chance to finish the year strong. I think that's the best gift I can give to myself, just making it to Fort Worth.”

Aliassime strengthens grip on Turin ticket

Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime has now lifted back-to-back titles to bolster his ATP Finals debut hopes. 

The 22-year-old, heading from Florence, took the trophy in Antwerp following a 6-3, 6-4 scoreline over Sebastian Korda on Sunday.

Sat in seventh place, the last qualification spot in the ‘Race to Turin,’ Auger-Aliassime now enjoys a 340 points advantage over eighth-placed Taylor Fritz.

Can he hold on? It will be a pivotal week at two ATP 500 tournaments – the world No.9 is wielding his racket in Basel, whilst nearest ATP Finals rivals Fritz and Hubert Hurkacz will seek to make up ground in Vienna.

Next Gen double triumph

Lorenzo Musetti and Holger Rune continue to navigate their path to the top, claiming their second ATP titles at the weekend and surging up to career-high rankings.

World No.23 Musetti, celebrating aptly with a local pizza, edged compatriot Matteo Berrettini 7-6(5), 6-2 in the Naples final.

“I think it was the perfect week,” said 20-year-old Musetti, reaching the Next Gen ATP Finals for a second successive season. “I didn’t lose a set so I’m really happy about that, and I’m really happy about the game I showed. Sometimes you have to work hard to bring success and consistency in my game, so I’m really proud of myself and my team.”

Rune also rubber-stamped his name in the draw for the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.

The Dane, who launched into the limelight with a Roland-Garros quarter-final in June, flourished in another standout event with a 6-4, 6-4 Stockholm silverware showdown victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas