Jessica Pegula shares emotional moment with Cancun crowd after WTA Finals loss
Jessica Pegula was visibly moved after losing her WTA Finals grand final to Iga Swiatek when the crowd in Cancun chanted her name in support of the beaten American. World No. 5 Pegula had seen off top-ranked Aryna Sabalenka and US Open champion Coco Gauff to reach the season-ending finale, but she ran into an inspired Swiatek who steam-rolled to a landslide victory 6-1, 6-0 in just 59 minutes.
The result saw French Open champion Swiatek return to the world No. 1 spot ahead of Sabalenka but there was plenty of love for Pegula around the Mexican court after the final had to be delayed by 24 hours because of poor weather.
During the official tournament presentation, Pegula was told by the co-tournament director Gus Santoscoy: “Jess, I know you’re not unbeaten in Mexico but you will come back stronger and you will win this someday.”
The comment prompted a huge cheer from spectators before a chant of: “Jessie, Jessie Jessie” reverberated around the court. A visibly touched Pegula stood up to acknowledge the support she was receiving from fans in Mexico.
The holiday hotspot of Cancun was only chosen to host the WTA Finals weeks before the tournament was due to begin after a deal to stage the season-ending event in Saudi Arabia fell through.
Pegula’s defeat was humbling but she accepted that she had been beaten on the day by a superior opponent.
Speaking to the WTA Tour, Pegula said: “She played really solid. I felt like she really was putting a lot of pressure on me. And I think I just was overplaying a lot today. I don’t know why. But it just was one of those days where I felt like I was going for too much.”
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Pegula and Swiatek had already faced each other on three occasions this season, with the American twice coming out on top. But when Swiatek won her first title of the year in Doha, she dropped only three games in a straight sets win against Pegula.
That she was able to produce an even better result against the same player in Cancun demonstrates the level of performance the Pole has returned to since losing her No. 1 ranking to Sabalenka in September.
Instead, it is Swiatek who finishes the season as she started it at the summit of the women’s game, sending a clearing warning to her challengers ahead of 2024.
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