Teens Ousted as “Elders” Pegula and Giorgi Advance to Finals at Citi Open

By Jane Voigt

Washington — Jessica Pegula and Camila Giorgi advanced to the women’s singles final at Citi Open on Saturday where they’ll meet in their inaugural bid for this WTA title.

“It doesn’t really matter who I play tomorrow,” Pegula told the press. “I’ve played both of them before. I haven’t played Camilla in a long time and I lost to Caty earlier this year.”

Giorgi is of a like mind, “It’s going to be another good match. I will focus on myself, but [tomorrow] is important.“

Pegula started the semifinals today, playing qualifier Anna Kalinskaya. The opening set started with a note of hope in the air that, perhaps, this 17-year-old qualifier could pull off the win after competing in two rounds of qualification and then three rounds of the main draw. But she stumbled on court toward the end of the set, then looked stiff as she went on. Soon she called for the trainer who treated her back. 

DownTheTee
Jessica Pegula Saturday in the women’s semifinals at Citi Open.
Photo credit Leslie Billman tennisclix.com.

“It definitely was at the end of the first set,” Pegula began. “I didn’t notice it at first, but then right before she called the trainer she wasn’t trying to reach or get to my returns. So I definitely started thinking about it. It’s definitely tricky when you play someone like that and to keep your focus. But then she started yelling ‘come on’ and I knew she wasn’t going to give up. I was trying to keep my focus.”

Pegula lost her serve once in the second set, which caused her to lose it. But she came out strong after the 10-minute “extreme heat” break. She didn’t want Kalinskaya to continue her momentum. The strategy was a good one, as she closed the match 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

At 25, Pegula could be considered a middle-aged player on the WTA tour and especially this week with all the attention on the teen triumphs. However, she turned pro in 2012. Pegula admitted, with a smile, that she didn’t start playing tennis well until she was 17.

“I always hit the ball really well,” she said. But when she began working with Michael Joyce, her first coach, “he taught me how to frame my game, like to take the ball really early.”

Over the years she has been off court some times as much as on court. After her hip surgery, though, she felt more confident because she could run better. 

“I’ve been playing pretty well and have had some good results,” she added. 

Four days before Citi Open Pegula started to work with David Witt, the former coach of Venus Williams.  

“We really just started a week before the tournament. I literally just practiced with him for four days, then we came here,” Pegula began. “It was just going to be a trial, but it’s been going pretty well. I like his mindset and attitude. He’s telling me to compete, focus on the simple things you can control, like serving first of all and playing a little smarter.”

Will their relationship grow into something more solid, because if this week’s results are an indication of their potential then by all means sign the contract. 

“We haven’t talked about it,” she began. “Once the tournament is over we’ll discuss it. But we’ve been focusing on this week. I did so well this week so I’m sure, as long as he’s okay with it, we’ll try to go through the U.S. Open.”

DownTheTee
Camila Giorgi of Italy playing in the semifinals Saturday at Citi Open. This is the Italian’s fourth main draw appearance at this tournament and her best performance to date. Photo credit Leslie Billman tennisclix.com

Giorgi, playing in her fourth Citi Open, has had a rough start to the season having played only seven tournaments due to a lingering injury to her right wrist. Therefore, today’s semifinal was her first big win and the first time she’d played Caty McNally, the other teen in today’s equation at 17. 

“I played a good match, very good. I played a bit more aggressive than usual,” Giorgi said, remarking on her win: 7-6(5), 6-2. 

Giorgi has played well all week, going under the radar with all the hubbub circling the young stars. The Italian’s style of play, though, is well known to players and fans. She hits hard, as hard as many men on the ATP tour, and goes for her shots sometimes to her detriment. She moves and runs well, as well.

“It’s about practice and training,” she said. “I’ve been improving everyday. The work is not difficult. It’s good I’m here [at the final] and focus on today.”

Giorgi served for the first set against McNally at 5-1, but won the set in a tiebreak. 

“It happens some times,” she began. “I did more mistakes in the first set so we went to a tiebreak.”

Giorgi will be the favorite in tomorrow’s final, even though her ranking isn’t what it was as 2018 ended: No. 26. She has two career titles and Pegula has yet to win her first. She reached the 2018 quarterfinal at Wimbledon, as well, losing to Serena Williams. The downside of Giorgi’s game … she’s not consistent, which Pegula is. 

The women’s singles final begins on Stadium Court Sunday after the men’s doubles final, featuring Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau versus Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus, who are seeded third.

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