“Nice match on clay, first match. Jeez! First match here, tough.”

Jessica Pegula’s post-match reaction said it all Tuesday night. The world No. 5 lost the first five games of her clash with fellow American Amanda Anisimova, before battling to a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3) victory at the Credit One Charleston Open.

“It was so close. I kept looking at the screen, the points won. It felt really even the entire time. Obviously she came out firing, really hot there at the beginning,” Pegula told Andrew Krasny on court.

Anisimova jumped out with the type of tennis that propelled her to the Roland Garros semifinals nearly five years ago. At 1-0, Anisimova set up a pair of break points with a backhand winner down the line, then followed that effort up by carving an untouched backhand dropshot. Pegula avoided the bagel set from 15-30, and while she regained one break deficit, Anisimova served it out with an overhead winner—her 15th of the set against seven unforced errors.

Beginning the second set with a love hold, Pegula strung together three games in a row from 2-2 to take command. Though Anisimova took a medical timeout down 2-5, the 22-year-old eventually found herself back on serve when a deep backhand drew a netted forehand from Pegula. The top seed showed her resolve by immediately resetting, putting on a defensive clinic to generate the re-break in forcing a decider.

Pegula is seeking her first title of the year.

Pegula is seeking her first title of the year.


Having missed a break point in the fourth game, Pegula capitalized in her next return game to move ahead 4-2. But Anisimova dug in to bring some of her finest striking to the court. An inside-out forehand return winner denied Pegula a game point and a crosscourt forehand winner followed suit to give Anisimova another break point look—one she would take when Pegula’s attempt to cut a dropper off her opponent’s return fell well short.

Anisimova kept fighting off pressure moments to stay with her countrywoman. At 3-4, she needed every bit of her 108 m.p.h. serve to wipe away break point. At 4-5, having originally led 40-15, Anisimova later saved a match point by bringing Pegula in with a low backhand slice and curling a crosscourt forehand into the open court. At 5-6, she hung tough after being pushed to deuce.

In the tiebreak, Pegula surged. A drilled forehand return set her up to put away a convincing backhand for 2-1, igniting a five-point run. Anisimova saved two more match points, but she yanked a forehand wide to drop her fourth consecutive point on serve—and ultimately the hard-fought battle after two hours and 25 minutes. The two shared a warm embrace at the net.

“It’s always nice when you can get through those tough matches early on,” said Pegula. “I think that actually preps you later in the tournament if you get there. I’m going to try and use that tonight.”

Pegula is looking to build off her semifinal run a year ago, when she fell to Belinda Bencic. The 30-year-old faces Magda Linette Thursday for a spot in the last eight.