One played ‘solid’ tennis while the other exhibited a ‘smart’ game to reach the final of the Qatar TotalEnergies Open.
World No.1 and top seed Iga Swiatek yesterday eased past eighth seed Veronika Kudermetova of Russia 6-0, 6-2 to reach her second successive final in Doha. In the day’s first semi-final, Jessica Pegula of the US beat fifth seed Maria Sakkari of Greece in three battling sets to reach her maiden title clash in just her third appearance at the six-day tournament. Pegula, the only American left in the tournament, won 6-2, 4-6, 6-1.
“I was so solid,” Swiatek, the defending champion, said after her dominating show against Kudermetova on the centre court. Swiatek managed three service breaks in the first set and then quickly followed by taking the second after dropping just two games. The match lasted only 51 minutes. “I feel great,” she added with her cap in place.
Swiatek, who got a walkover in the quarter-finals after Belinda Bencic of Switzerland went down with ‘fatigue’, has been on court in Doha for just 104 minutes in total.
Pegula, on the other hand, has signed in for the final with a grinding Doha visit that has put her on court for seven hours and 43 minutes. “I think I played very smart,” Pegula said after her feisty clash against Sakkari. Pegula was indeed the smarter of the two as she won the key points in the deciding set to qualify for her first final in Doha.
Swiatek said battling windy conditions was on her mind before the match. “I was pretty worried about how I’m going to cope with the conditions today, so I’m glad that I could really, you know, play the smart way. I’m pretty happy that I did that,” Swiatek said.
When asked about her clash against Pegula, Swiatek said: “It always takes a lot to win against Jessie. She’s a great player, a really solid one. We’ll see. Honestly, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m not going to predict anything and over analyse. I’m just going to go and play my best tennis.”
With plenty of rest since her arrival last Friday, Swiatek said she is amazed with the development around the country. “It’s really nice here. I can see that Qatar is great and for sure they did a great job preparing everything for the World Cup. I can still see that because it’s so there’s like a lot of space. Yes, I really like it here,” Swiatek said.
Pegula played ‘smart’ tennis mostly from the baseline. Pegula, who turns 29 on the 24th, yesterday won her tense clash in a minute short of two hours on the centre court that had fans scurrying for warm blankets and overalls to beat the chilly conditions.
Battling the howling winds, Pegula produced her third win in seven matches against her Greek opponent. “I don’t know about you guys (the fans), or if you could tell, but that was probably the hardest conditions I’ve ever had to play in wind-wise. I mean, it was really, really tough. I’m glad I wasn’t able to get too frustrated,” Pegula said.
“I’m so excited (to play sixth career final). Finals tonight in doubles. If everyone’s sticking around, I hope you can watch with me and Coco. And then final tomorrow as well,” she added with a smile. Thank you, guys, everyone, for bracing these (chilly windy) conditions. Thank you for coming out and watching. Really, it means a lot. It’s already tough enough to play, but with you guys here, it makes it a lot more fun,” Pegula added.
Pegula broke Sakkari in the very first game to make a head start in the semi-final. In the fifth game, Pegula jumped to a 5-1 lead after Sakkari hit two unforced errors while trailing at 15-30. A horribly wayward return on match point by Sakkari handed the first set to Pegula in 39 minutes.
Trailing 3-4 in the second set, Sakarri broke Pegula in game eight to draw level at 4-all before taking the set at 6-4 in 48 minutes. In the deciding set, Pegula broke Sakkari in games three and six to seal her convincing win. Pegula will now be looking to emulate Monica Seles, the only American ever to land a singles trophy in Doha in 2002.

Semi-finals results

Iga Swiatek (POL x1) bt Veronika Kudermetova (x8) 6-0, 6-1
Jessica Pegula (USA x2) bt Maria Sakkari (GRE x5) 6-2, 4-6, 6-1
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