En route to one of the biggest titles of her career at the Omnium Banque Nationale in Montreal, Jessica Pegula navigated her way past several impressive obstacles including the World No. 1, her own doubles partner, the rain, and even the 90s arena hit Cotton Eye Joe. It was certainly a week to remember for the highest-ranked American woman on the WTA Tour.
Over the week, 219 677 fans passed through the gates in Montreal to witness the game's best play, an attendance world record for a single-week women's event.
Pegula had some good fortune as the last woman standing. She defeated Liudmila Samsonova 6-1, 6-0 in the final in a match that saw the effects of a tough schedule just too much to bear for her opponent.
The rain delays forced her to play her round of 16 match against Belinda Bencic and her quarter-final match against No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka both on Friday which assuredly emptied some of the tank for Samsonova.
The 24-year-old had to play her semifinal against Elena Rybakina and the final against Pegula both on Sunday and with only a couple of hours between them to recharge her batteries.
For Pegula, remarkably considering her incredible consistency and Top 5 presence over the past couple of years, it is only the third singles title of her career and a second WTA 1000 title after her victory in Guadalajara in 2022.
As for “Cotton Eye Joe,” a song that randomly blared during the second set tiebreak of the Pegula/Swiatek semifinal, the DJ clearly had a sense of humour in Montreal, as he played the song once more in the immediate aftermath of Pegula’s win on Sunday in the final as well. The victory song choice did not go unnoticed by the Champion.
“I don't even think I heard it the whole week, and it just came on in the middle of the match at a really important point. So it was interesting. I've come to learn that I lost a lot of points consecutively after "Cotton Eye Joe" came on, so I'm glad I got over the "Cotton Eye Joe" jinx or whatever you want to call it and was able to overcome that. So today, it was just funny after I won because it was almost my downfall yesterday, but not anymore.”
Rest of the Field
The draw in Montreal generally saw success for the top seed. Three of the top four seeds made the semifinals while seven of the eight quarter-finalists were seeded as well.
The one unseeded player who made it to that stage was American Danielle Collins who now famously told Maria Sakkari to, “Shut your mouth” during a heated moment in their second-round match. Collins came through qualifying to get to the main draw and played a total of six matches in Montreal that included wins over two Canadians in Genie Bouchard and Leylah Annie Fernandez.
She also defeated one of the hottest players on the WTA in recent months in Elina Svitolina as well as pushing the No. 1 player in the world Iga Swiatek to three sets in her eventual loss in the quarters.
In terms of the match of the tournament, one candidate had to be the quarter-final match between the 10th seed Daria Kasatkina and third-seeded Elena Rybakina that began just before 11:30 pm on Friday and ended three hours and 27 minutes later at nearly 3:00 am local time with Rybakina the winner, 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(8).
Leylah Annie Fernandez made it the furthest out of the Canadians in singles action, reaching the third round before falling at the hands of Danielle Collins. Fernandez had a big win over 11th seed Beatriz Haddad-Maia in the second round in a match that went three sets. It was the biggest win ranking-wise of 2023 for the 20-year-old Fernandez.
Bianca Andreescu had the misfortune of facing an in-form Camila Giorgi, who in that match was back in the form that saw her win the title in Montreal two years ago.
Shortly after her exit from the tournament, Andreescu released a statement that she had suffered a small stress fracture in her back during the Mubadala Citi Open in Washington, DC, the week before Montreal and was going to need to take some time to get healthy. She hopes the injury heals up quickly allowing her to compete at the US Open at the end of the month.
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A final Canadian, Rebecca Marino, also fell in the first round to Katie Boulter of the UK, 6-3, 6-1.
The Doubles title in Montreal was claimed by the seventh-seeded duo from Japan, Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara who took a close match 6-4, 4-6, [13-11] over the fifth-seeded tandem of Desirae Krawczyk and Demi Schuurs.
A Canadian pair that made it further than expected was that of Marina Stakusic and Carol Zhao who advanced to the round of sixteen and were in fact the last Canadians standing in either Montreal or Toronto this year. Stakusic is only 18 years old and definitely benefitted from the experience as well as playing alongside the veteran Zhao.