Pegula and Jabeur seek breakthrough title in Madrid

MADRID (AP) — Steadily improving her game and slowly making her way to the top, Jessica Pegula gets a chance for a breakthrough title at the Madrid Open on Saturday.

The American has been consistently achieving good results in the top tournaments, and after another good run in Madrid, she is a match away from winning her biggest title and entering the top 10 for the first time.

The American faces No. 10-ranked Ons Jabeur of Tunisia in the final on Saturday.

This title would also be Jabeur’s biggest. Both players were outside the top 70 two years ago.

“For me and Ons it’s pretty crazy,” Pegula said. “It shows you what hard work and determination, playing week in and week out and just trying to get better, you can get to the top, as long as you believe it.”

Pegula, daughter of the owners of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, made it into the top 20 last November and reached a career high No. 13 last month.

Her only WTA singles title was three years ago. This is her first final in more than two years. But this year she’s enjoyed a quarterfinal run at the Australian Open and the semifinals in Miami.

To stay alive in Madrid, Pegula needed to save match point in her first-round match against Camila Giorgi. She then defeated Kaia Kanepi, Bianca Andreescu, Sara Sorribes Tormo and Jil Teichmann to reach the final.

Jabeur’s road included wins over seed Belinda Bencic and two-time champion Simona Halep. Jabeur has only one singles title, too.

Pegula and Jabeur are 2-2 in head-to-head meetings, with the most recent going to Jabeur this year in two sets in Dubai.

“It’s a tough match. I know she’s playing good,” Jabeur said. “She’s an aggressive player. I’m going to do what I did in Dubai. Whatever worked for me in Dubai is probably going to work here in the final.”

Jabeur is the first Arab woman to reach the top 10. A win against Pegula would move her to No. 7 in the world.


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