Pegula Sets Up Quarterfinal Showdown With Svitolina In Washington, D.C.

Jessica Pegula (photo: Dustin Satloff/Mudabala Citi DC Open)

WASHINGTON, August 4, 2023 (by Michael Dickens)

Washington, D.C. is like a second home for Jessica Pegula. She won her first WTA Tour singles title in the nation’s capital city four years ago and it began her “awesome journey” that has seen her rise to World No. 4 in the rankings.

On Thursday, under ominously cloudy skies and windy conditions, just moments before play was suspended by a typical  – albeit lengthy – D.C. summer rainstorm, the top-seeded Pegula in her fifth D.C. appearance, advanced to her eighth quarterfinal of the season after defeating fellow American and 59th-ranked lucky loser Peyton Stearns, 6-3, 6-4, in an hour and 23 minutes at the Mubadala Citi DC Open at William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park. It was just the ninth career main-draw on the WTA Tour by Stearns, 21, a former University of Texas star, who was elevated to the main draw in Washington earlier in the week to replace injured Sofia Kenin.

The 29-year-old Pegula, who was playing for the first time since bowing in the Wimbledon quarterfinals, hit 12 winners to 19 unforced errors and broke Stearn’s serve six times. Stearns was undone by 29 unforced errors. Pegula outpointed her opponent 66-53.

Pegula’s 34th win of the season (and 20th on a hard court) — and 10th career main draw win in D.C. — advanced her to face unseeded wild card Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in Friday’s quarterfinals as she continues her pursuit of winning her first tournament of the season and third of her career. She is 2-1 lifetime against Svitolina, who reached the quarterfinal round after confidently beating former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and World No. 11 Daria Kasatkina of Russia.

She’s kind of come back and reset really nicely,” Pegula said of Svitolina, during her post-match news conference. “She’s been competing really, really well and playing very fearless. … It’s going to be a tough match. She’s been playing at a high level, and I feel like she hasn’t really missed a beat much coming back.”

Both of Pegula’s two career singles titles have been won on North American hard courts. The first was in Washington in 2019 and the second was last fall in a WTA 1000 at Guadalajara, Mexico. She’s just three wins shy of another D.C. crown as her tune-up for the year’s last major at the US Open has begun in earnest.

“I won my first title here with my coach (David Witt) in our first week together and since then we’ve just been rising and it’s been an awesome journey,” Pegula, a Buffalo, N.Y. native, said in her in-court interview. “That was a very big turning point for me.”

Kostyuk pulls off superb upset of No. 2 seed Garcia

No. 34 Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine cruised to victory over World  No. 6 and second seed Caroline Garcia of France, 6-2, 6-3, in just 64 minutes to grab her fourth quarterfinal berth of the season.

“I was preparing for this match, as it was a difficult and important match,” Kostyuk said. “I’m glad everything worked out, and I’m happy to be in the quarterfinals.”

It was Kostyuk’s first win over Garcia in three meetings and her second straight triumph against a Top-10 opponent after going 0-14. Last month at Wimbledon, Kostyuk upset Maria Sakkari in the opening round.

“I gained a lot of confidence out of that match, because I had been hunting the Top 10 win for a long time,” said Kostyuk, who won her first WTA Tour title in Austin, Texas last March. “Once I got it, it kind of gave me the boost and belief that I can win these kinds of matches. Hopefully, it’s going to stay like this for a long time.”

After needing to save three match points in her first-round win over Bianca Andreescu, Kostyuk fared better against Garcia. She hit 14 winners to just six unforced errors and saved the only break pin she faced. Garcia managed just five winners and made 23 unforced errors.

Next, Kostyk will play No. 8 seed and defending champion Liudmila Samsonova of Russia in the quarterfinals on Friday. Samsonova won both of their previous meetings in 2020.

Dimitrov first into men’s last eight

World No. 20 Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria is through to his first D.C. quarterfinal since 2013 after defeating No. 55  Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland, 6-4, 6-3, on Stadium Court. It was the No. 5 seed Dimitrov’s third win on as many surfaces this season against Ruusuvuori. The Bulgarian won on clay at Roland Garros and on grass at Queen’s Club in London.

Next, Dimitrov will face No. 13 seed Ugo Humbert of France, who is through to his third straight North American quarterfinal after similar success in Newport and Atlanta (in which he was a semifinalist at both events). The No. 36 Umbert beat 99th-ranked Yosuke Watanuki of Japan, 6-0, 6-2. The loss for Watanuki came a day after he achieved the biggest win of his career over World No. 12 Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Also advancing in the men’s ATP 500 event:

No. 16 seed J.J. Wolf defeated Michael Mmoh, 6-4, 7-6 (5), in an all-American battle on John Harris Court. The win was Wolf’s second of the season over Mmoh following an earlier victory at the Australian Open. He is through to the D.C. quarterfinals for the second straight year.

Next, Wolf will play either French wild card Gaël Monfils or No. 12 seed Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands.

McDonald/Shelton proving to be a formidable doubles team

Both Mackenzie McDonald and Ben Shelton were eliminated from the singles draw in the second round earlier this week. However, the American duo have made a formidable doubles team. They are through to the semifinal round after pulling off a thrilling 6-4, 3-6, 10-8 victory over Juan Sebastian Cabal of Colombia and Matthew Ebden of Australia. They dropped just six points on their first serve and saved seven of eight break points. Next, McDonald and Shelton will face third seeds Lloyd Glasspool of Great Britain and Harri Heliovaara of Finland.

Looking ahead to a very busy Friday

A six-hour rain delay Thursday, which washed out the the evening session on all courts and left two late-afternoon men’s second-round matches hanging in the balance, means there will be a big day of matches Friday to get back on schedule for the weekend.

By the numbers

Taylor Fritz is aiming to become the fourth player on the ATP Tour this season to win 40 matches while Andy Murray is trying to earn his first Top 10 win since June of last year when he defeated then-No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas in Stuttgart.

“Quotable …”

“She’s an amazing competitor, obviously an amazing player. What she’s done after coming back after giving birth and everything that her country is going through, it’s been really amazing.”

— Top seed Jessica Pegula of the United States on her quarterfinal opponent, Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.