Tennis-Pegula books clash with Kudermetova in Tokyo final

Tennis - WTA 500 - Pan Pacific Open - Ariake Coliseum, Tokyo, Japan - September 30, 2023 Jessica Pegula of the United States celebrates after winning her women's singles semi final match against Greece's Maria Sakkari REUTERS/Androniki Christodoulou

TOKYO (Reuters) - Second seed Jessica Pegula produced a near-flawless display to power past the resurgent Maria Sakkari 6-2 6-3 on Saturday to reach the Pan Pacific Open final in Tokyo.

The 29-year-old American, gunning for her second title of the season following her triumph in Montreal, will take on Russian Veronika Kudermetova on Sunday.

Pegula made a blazing start to the contest with a couple of early breaks to peg back Sakkari, who has rediscovered her best form this month after claiming the Guadalajara title.

World number six Sakkari found her groove late in the first set after going 5-1 down, but the 28-year-old could not stop the fourth-ranked Pegula from closing it out.

The pair traded breaks early in the second set before Pegula stepped up the pressure again, firing a sizzling forehand winner en route to a 4-2 lead.

Pegula finished the job when she forced Sakkari into making a mistake from the back of the court.

"The faster courts here probably help me a little more than the slower surfaces I've played her in the past," said Pegula, who beat Sakkari for the fourth time in their ninth meeting.

"I tried to take advantage of that."

Earlier, Kudermetova outlasted former French Open runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-6(6) 6-7(2) 6-3 in a gruelling battle lasting three hours and 25 minutes to make her second final of the season.

Russian eighth seed Kudermetova, who stunned world number two Iga Swiatek in the quarter-finals, sealed the victory on her fifth matchpoint to deny Pavlyuchenkova a place in what would have been her first final since Roland Garros in 2021.

"Physically I feel OK. I can play another match like that," said Kudermetova. "Physically I'm always strong. Mentally maybe sometimes not enough.

"But today I'm really happy that I managed to win the match and to be in the final."

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by William Mallard)

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