Jessica Pegula achieved her career-high singles ranking around a week ago when she rose to the third position after winning her maiden WTA 1000 tournament — Guadalajara Open.
However, when she and World No. 5 Maria Sakkari stepped on the court at the Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas, for the first round-robin match of the WTA Finals, they were greeted by an almost empty stadium. The last time the high-profile tournament was held in the US was in Los Angeles in 2005.
At the start of the match, journalist Jose Morgado posted a picture of a near-empty arena, expressing shock that no one was there even though America's top player was in action.
"Crowd for the first singles match of the WTA Finals in Fort Worth, featuring US's #1 Jess Pegula," Morgado tweeted.
Former American player and 22-time Grand Slam doubles champion Pam Shriver responded to the journalist's tweet by trying to guess the possible reasons for the low number of spectators showing up. She cited Halloween, an NFL match, and less promotion by the WTA as to why the arena was not filled with fans.
"A couple of reasons- Halloween is a huge family holiday here for kids and many people stay home to give candy or take their kids trick or treating. A Texas team is in the World Series and it’s NFL Monday Night football all played tonight. Plus just two months to promote is not a lot," Shriver replied.
Fans watching from around the world took to social media to express their disappointment at the sight of an empty arena. Sakkari beat Pegula 7-6 (6), 7-6(4) and improved her head-to-head record against the 28-year-old to 4-2.
Pegula will next face World No. 2 Ons Jabeur, while Sakkari will take on Aryna Sabalenka on Wednesday night. Sabalenka downed Jabeur in three sets yesterday.
"It’s weird playing each other so close together in such a short time span" - Jessica Pegula before her match against Maria Sakkari
A little over a week ago, Jessica Pegula defeated Maria Sakkari in straight sets to win the Guadalajara Open. While speaking to the media before their first match at the WTA Finals, Pegula admitted that Sakkari was going to be tough to beat and that the result in Guadalajara didn't matter.
“Maybe the thought process is, 'Oh, it should be an easy matchup,’” Jessica Pegula said. “But I think at the same time, it’s almost harder because obviously, she's going to go back and try to change things. The courts are totally different. The surface is different. The balls are different. Not at altitude. It’s weird playing each other so close together in such a short time span. Especially coming into here in such a big event. But I think we’ll always think of it as, it’s another week.”
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