Buffalo, NY native Jessica Pegula took the court at Newport Beach Tennis Club on Saturday morning with her eyes on the prize. Making her second Oracle Challenger Series semifinals appearance in as many events, the World No. 113 was determined to make the Newport Beach outcome different than Houston, where she fell to eventual champion Peng Shuai of China in straight sets: 6-4, 6-3. Today would be different.
Pegula managed to eliminate Houston finalist and Road to Indian Wells leader Lauren Davis in an hour and 17 minutes. Her 6-4, 6-3 victory came despite the unpredictable wind and the crowd, who was clearly in Davis’ favor. Pegula’s calm on court demeanor surely contributed to her ability to cut through the distractions and pull out the win.
Even with this win, Pegula trails Davis on the Road to Indian Wells leaderboard, but only by a single point. The Oracle Challenger Series awards two wild cards per tour at the end of each series to the top American points getters and both Davis and Pegula, based on their stellar performances at both Houston and Newport Beach, sit comfortably in those positions. Still, a finals victory on Sunday would send Pegula far ahead of Davis and the rest of her fellow Americans, all vying for a wild card to the BNP Paribas Open. The race for the wild card continues in Indian Wells from February 25 – March 3.
Up next for Pegula is the World No. 106, Bianca Andreescu of Canada. Andreescu has been experiencing great success in Newport Beach this week, beating American Katie Volynets followed by Czech Marie Bouzkova, both in straight sets. In Friday’s all-Canadian quarterfinal, it was Andreescu who got the better of Eugenie Bouchard, advancing to Saturday’s semifinals. After a week of tw0-set matches, the 18-year-old battled hard on Court 2, ultimately upsetting the number 2 seed, Tatjana Maria in three hard-fought sets: 5-7, 7-5, 7-6. Andreescu, who achieved her career high ranking weeks ago after a finals appearance in Auckland, looks to continue her early 2019 successes.