Jessica Pegula and Maria Sakkari: Will either win a big tournament?

Maria Sakkari
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

To stay in the top 10, you have to continue to improve each month, on and off the court. There will be some challenging days, some so-so days and some fantastic moments.

Maria Sakkari and Jessica Pegula have had a very good year, but they are not spectacular yet. Oh sure, they can rise quickly, and rarely miss their strokes. They can smash the backhands and, when the get a short ball, then they can bash their forehand as a winner.

But, for the most part, Sakkari and Pegula are steady, which is fine, yet they have been failing to impress at the Grand Slams and the other huge events.

Perhaps in the next four weeks, one of them can win San Diego, and possibly the WTA 1000 in Guadalajara, Mexico. If one of them does it, then it will be there most impressive win ever.

Sakkari, 27, looked wonderful at Indian Wells in March, beating Paula Badosa in the semis. But, there was no stopping No. 1 Iga Świątek took her down in straight sets in the final. It looked like the current No. 7 was going to be so consistent, and even better, but she began to stutter. She just has one title, in Rabat, three years ago. This year, after March, she went all the way into September, when she won just one in the semis in Berlin. She lost early in Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open.

However, in 2021, she reached the semis in Roland Garros and the US Open. She was so confident then, but this year, she is not making the right decision. Believe it or not, the Greek will have to change the tactics again.

“It’s disappointing, it hurts, because I was feeling better, I was enjoying myself, feeling good on the court and it was just very disappointing,” Sakkari said, who just reached the Parma semifinals by betting Maryna Zanevska..

Pegula is 28 years old, and really, she has had a very proper year. The No. 5 American managed to go deep a lot. Unfortunately, she played Świątek three times this year, and she lost each time. It was pretty close, but the Pole is too aggressive and faster, too. Also, her first serve is much better than Pegula’s. Plus, Świątek has now won three Grand Slams, and she believes that when she is locked in, then she can step on anyone.

“I’m kind of a perfectionist so I feel my expectations of myself are always high. At the same time, I think you have to set a lot of small goals,” Pegula said. “It’s tough. I always feel like I have very high expectations and I’m always like constantly in between trying to enjoy myself and then how do I get better? I feel like a lot of top players are like that. It’s a really hard balance to try to get. So, balancing that is, it’s hard, especially during a Slam. Small goals, I try to do the best I can, take it day by day. I think that helps.”

She reached in Madrid on clay, beating Jil Teichmann and Bianca Andreescu but lost to the stylish Ons Jabeur in the final. Close enough.

She also has won just one title, in 2019 Washington. So, in the future, she has to round out her game. At the Grand Slams, she has never gone into the semis. Her coach, David Witt, who worked with Venus Williams for many years, must be pushing her to really believe in herself. Just like the seven-time Grand Slam champ Venus.