Top-seed Pegula rallies into Charleston quarters

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CHARLESTON, S.C. — Top-seeded Jessica Pegula lost 10 straight games and trailed 4-0 in the final set before rallying Thursday to reach the Charleston Open quarterfinals.

Pegula, an American ranked No. 3 in the world, led the top four seeds including No. 4 seed and defending champion Belinda Bencic, into the round of eight in the season’s first clay-court tournament.

No match was the equal of Pegula’s fight with Irina-Camelia Begu, who was down 4-0 in the second set and two games away from a quick exit until finding her game.

Begu, the 15th seed, strung together a 10-game win streak to turn things around. Pegula dug in to win the final six game and the exhausting match.

That was a pretty crazy match,” Pegula said.

No doubt. Pegula will try to find more consistency against 12th-seeded Paula Badosa, a 6-3, 6-1 winner over Diana Snaider, for a spot in Saturday’s semifinals.

Others moving on were No. 2 seed Ons Jabeur, No. 3 seed Daria Kasatkina and Bencic, who topped Jabeur to win last year’s event on the Charleston’s green clay.

Jabeur topped Caroline Dolehide 6-3, 7-5; Kasatkina defeated Bernarda Pera 6-3, 7-6 (3); and Bencic bounced back after losing to opening set to oust Shelby Rogers 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.

Pegula didn’t totally understand how things went so wrong, then turned right again.

“What was going through my mind is, ‘I can’t believe I’ve lost six games in a row, seven games in a row, eight, nine, 10,'” she said.

“I can’t remember the last time I’ve been up like that and consecutively lost like that many games as well. So I was just frustrated, but was able to relax and played a pretty good game [down 4-0 in the third].”

Pegula thought she could stop Begu’s winning streak, she could come back. “And then it just switched really quickly,” Pegula said.

Jabeur will take on Anna Kalinskaya, who defeated two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azerenka 6-4, 7-6 (5).

Jabeur, who reached the finals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open a season ago, likes where her game early in the run up to Roland Garros next month.

“I’m getting used to the clay more,” she said. “And I’m just … the most important thing [is] I’m enjoying myself on the court and hopefully, it will continue to be better and better.”

Kasatkina will take on either Magda Linette or past Charleston winner Madison Keys on Friday.

Bencic will face Ekaterina Alexandrova, who defeated Julia Grabher 6-4, 6-2.

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