By: Ben Raby (www.twitter.com/benraby31)
American Jessica Pegula admits she had her doubts. Despite turning pro nearly eight years ago, Pegula arrived in Washington still searching for an elusive title.
She had reached finals before – seven times in smaller-tier ITF events and once at the Tour level last fall – but was never actually crowned a champion. When pressed, Pegula couldn’t even recall the last time she won a tournament at any level including juniors.
“It was a long time ago,” she said.
That finally changed Sunday afternoon. In the Citi Open final, Pegula beat Camila Giorgi of Italy 6-2, 6-2 on Stadium Court.
“It’s been extremely gratifying,” Pegula said after the win. “This is what you work for, to win tournaments.”
Pegula spent only 59 minutes on court Sunday but the path to her maiden WTA crown was much longer.
The 25-year-old turned pro in 2011, but hit several speed bumps en route to Sunday. Most notably, there was knee surgery in 2014, a leg injury in 2016 and hip surgery in 2017.
By October 2017, her ranking was down to 870th in the world.
“The journey makes it all that much sweeter,” said Pegula, who will hit a career-high of No.54 when the latest rankings are released Monday.
“I’ve worked really hard. So, to push through this week and really push myself to the limit to [be] stronger than I thought I was at times, really makes it amazing, yeah.”
Given the injuries, the disappointments in prior finals and all the time missed on court, Pegula began to wonder if that title would ever come.
“There was a definitely a point where I was thinking about it,” she said. “It’s definitely something I had to fight through.”
She began working with a new coach in David Witt- who has previously worked with Venus Williams – and won five matches in seven days.
“This final, I felt like I was just ready. I was like, ‘You know what? You’re going to go out there and win.’”
From the get-go Sunday, the American was dialed in. Pegula broke Giorgi in the opening game and cruised from there. She won 81 percent of his first service points and saved the only break point she faced.
Once Pegula secured the match in just under an hour, she fell to a knee and her eyes welled up.
“I got a little emotional,” she said. “It was more almost relief because it was another final that, you know, I really wanted to get this time.”