Jessica Pegula came into the new year on a six-match losing streak and only won one match since winning her maiden WTA title at the Citi Open last year, but after a strong off-season, the American roared into another WTA final in her first tournament of 2020 at the ASB Classic, beating several strong players along the way and stunning former world number one Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinals.
With a highly-anticipated final between good friends and doubles partners Wozniacki and Serena Williams looking to shape up, Pegula defied her underdog status to triumph in three sets and hand Wozniacki a bagel in what was the penultimate tournament of her career.
Winning the baseline battle and painting the lines during the latter half of the match, Pegula was able to overpower the Dane, who looked to reach the final on her last appearance in Auckland. Wozniacki is still alive in the doubles competition, though, after advancing into the final a day earlier.
Wozniacki survives the highly-competitive opening set
An error-strewn start saw Wozniacki getting broken in the opening game, but quickly regained her composure and found her rhythm. Showcasing her finesse, the fifth seed displayed her outstanding movement and took the upper hand in the encounter. Pegula was unfazed by the rise in level of her opponent, blasting two backhand winners to save break points in the fourth game.
The American would rue her missed opportunities in the fifth game as Wozniacki dug deep to survive the challenge, ultimately snatching three games on the trot to effectively seal the opening set. 43 minutes after the start of the match, Wozniacki found herself just one set away from sealing her place in the final.
Pegula roars back into contention
Overcoming the disappointment from losing the tightly-contested set, Pegula showed no signs of negative body language and completely turned the tables in the second frame. She dominated the backhand wing and won 12 of the opening 15 points to open a commanding 3-0 lead within a blink of an eye.
Wozniacki threatened to bounce back from 0-3, 0-30 down as she rattled off another three-game streak, holding multiple break opportunities in a decisive seventh game. An errant second serve return proved to be her biggest downfall of the match as Pegula escaped from trouble and retained the lead.
Serving to stay in the set, Wozniacki committed two uncharacteristic unforced errors which ultimately sealed her fate as Pegula condemned several weak second serves to return level on the scoreboard.
Pegula seals the upset
The deciding set was a little of a letdown from Wozniacki considering that it was a high-quality match and a one-sided decider would undermine the level of play in the encounter. Pegula was full of confidence and firing on all cylinders while the 2018 Australian Open champion seemed out of gas.
Winning only 10 points in the entire set, Wozniacki was unable to prevent a bagel as she was outplayed by an inspired Pegula who took the final eight games to triumph after an hour and 53 minutes of action. She will contest her third career WTA final and will face the legendary Serena Williams in a battle of Americans.