Day 1 of the 2023 WTA Finals Cancun is in the books. Jessica Pegula and Aryna Sabalenka secured opening wins in the tournament’s group stage.
The fifth-seeded Pegula kicked off the event with a 7-5 6-2 victory over the fourth-seeded Rybakina in the Bacalar Group on a windy Sunday night. Rybakina was serving for the first set at 5-3, but Pegula then won ten of the last 12 games to clinch her first victory at the WTA Finals after going 0-3 last year in Fort Worth.
Both players finished with 12 winners, but it was the staggering disparity in unforced errors that proved pivotal: Pegula committed 16 unforced errors, while Rybakina struggled with over twice as many, registering a total of 35.
Pegula has won a Tour-leading 42 matches on hardcourts this year, winning titles at Montreal and Seoul; only two American players have won 40+ hardcourt matches in a season this century – Lindsay Davenport, 2001, 49, and Serena Williams, 2013, 47.
After the match, Rybakina cricitized the organization of the tournament and court conditions:
Overall, it’s not easy here. Everyone is struggling. Everyone is trying to do their best. As I said, I’m not really happy with the conditions and the set up of the tournament.. About the court, I don’t really want to talk. But of course, it’s not good. For sure not for the final 8. Because everything was late and there was no time to fix anything. You can see by the rallies and the shanks we both hit. I think the quality of the match wasn’t the greatest. But as I said, I tried to do my best.
Also in the Bacalar Group, world No.1 Aryna Sabalenka raced past late entrant Maria Sakkari, 6-0 6-1. In their previous two meetings at the WTA Finals in 2021 and 2022, Sakkari was the victorious one.
Just like Rybakina, Sabalenka voiced her frustration with the conditions and blamed the WTA:
I am happy that I was able to stay focused tonight, overcome the conditions, and play well. I have to say, though, that I am very disappointed with the WTA and the experience so far at the WTA Finals. As I said in my press conference tonight, as a player, I really feel disrespected by the WTA. I think most of us do. This is not the level of organisation we expect for the Finals. To be honest, I don’t feel safe moving on this court a lot of the time, the bounce is not consistent at all, and we weren’t able to practice on this court until yesterday for the first time. It’s just not acceptable to me with so much on the line and so much at stake.
All that said, I definitely want to show my appreciation for the local tournament organizers, everyone that built the court at the last minute, and everyone that’s working here at the event. I know it’s not their fault and I want them to know, as well as all the Mexican fans, that I love them and appreciate them. I’m very happy to be in Mexico, I’m just upset with the WTA and this situation.
The Chetumal Group takes stage on Day 2 of the WTA Finals: Iga Swiatek vs. Marketa Vondrousova and Coco Gauff vs. Ons Jabeur.