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Jessica Pegula solves Sara Sorribes Tormo, continues elite ascent with Madrid semifinal
The rising American star is improving on her breakout 2021 season with a first WTA 1000 semifinal on clay.
Published May 04, 2022
WATCH: Pegula is translating the game that has been so successful on hard courts to clay in Madrid.
Jessica Pegula is building on her breakout 2021 with impressive speed, adding a maiden Mutua Madrid Open semifinal to her fast-growing resume after posting a tense 6-4, 6-2 win over hometown favorite Sara Sorribes Tormo.
Semifinalist at the Miami Open in March, Pegula has reached the last four at three WTA 1000 tournaments in the last nine months and will likely rise to a new career-high ranking of No. 12 after surviving the Spaniard in an hour and 47 minutes on Manolo Santana Stadium.
That Pegula has become among the tour’s most consistent players stands in stark contrast to what had been a career blighted by injuries and major surgeries—only in the aftermath of the 2020 resumption from COVID-19 lockdown has Pegula been able to find this peak form, starting with a run to the 2021 Australian Open quarterfinals.
The American backed up that result this past January with a win over Maria Sakkari, and shook off early exits in the Middle East and Indian Wells to hit the ground running at the Hard Rock Stadium, where she lost to eventual champion Iga Swiatek.
For all her efforts on hard-courts, success on clay and grass have largely proven elusive heading into this week: of her 15 career previous quarterfinals, only one had come on clay—though a last-eight finish at the 2021 Internazionali BNL d’Italia undoubtedly indicated potential.
Pegula has made good on that potential at the Caja Magica, scoring wins over Camila Giorgi—who defeated her at the Omnium Banque Nationale in August—Kaia Kanepi, and 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu to book a meeting with Sorribes Tormo.
Undefeated against Pegula coming in, Sorribes Tormo was in the midst of her best run of the season after a similarly impressive 2021. Famed for her grueling matches and peerless stamina, Sorribes Tormo stunned then-world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in the opening round of the Tokyo Olympics last summer and translated her clay game to hard courts with quarterfinal appearances in Miami and Montréal.
With good friend Paula Badosa suffering an early defeat at the hands of two-time champion Simona Halep, Sorribes Tormo rode the crowd energy to victories over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Naomi Osaka, and Daria Kasatkina, and though she fell behind a (relatively) quick 0-4 deficit to Pegula on Wednesday, the Spaniard showed off her inimitable fighting qualities as the match continued to unfold.
Pegula moved ahead 5-1 only for Sorribes Tormo to score successive breaks to get the opening set back on serve. On the verge of evening things at five games apiece, Sorribes Tormo blinked and Pegula converted, taking a near-identical lead in the second set.
Looking to channel the crowd into a comeback, Sorribes Tormo broke in the opening game but lost the next five, mounting a brave last stand before Pegula ultimately edged through in under two hours.
Pegula completes the final-four line-up and will next face Western & Southern Open runner-up Jil Teichmann for what would be the biggest final in her career. Halep’s defeat to No. 8 seed Ons Jabeur guarantees a milestone title for the one woman brave enough to step through the door.
Armed with durable technique and easy power, Pegula is a credible pick—provided she can withstand Teichmann’s lefty spin—and after several near-misses in the last 18 months, Madrid may pack the missing magic the 28-year-old needs to hit a new plateau.