Half-Korean Jessica Pegula wins WTA tournament in Seoul

The U.S.-born half-Korean tennis player Jessica Pegula captured her second WTA title of the season in Seoul on Sunday.

Pegula, world No. 4, defeated Yuan Yue of China in 6-2, 6-3, in the final of the Hana Bank Korea Open at Olympic Park Tennis Center for her fourth career WTA singles title.

The top-seeded Pegula dropped just one set during her run to the title in the country of her mother's birth.

Pegula's mother, Kim, was born in South Korea but was adopted by an American family as a baby.

Kim and her husband, Terry, are wildly successful entrepreneurs. They own the Buffalo Bills in the National Football League and the Buffalo Sabres in the National Hockey League, among other assets.

Jessica first played at the Korea Open in 2019, but she lost in the first round then. She was only world No. 60 at the time but has since taken huge steps to become one of the top female players at age 29.

"My mom is Korean, and she was adopted from here, so it's really special to be able to win here," said Pegula, one of the biggest fan favorites throughout the tournament thanks to her Korean connection. "In the last few years, as my ranking has gone up, I've definitely felt so much more support from the fans, a lot more than I expected coming back here from five years ago. So it's really special."

Sunday's win was Pegula's 53rd victory of the season, tying her with world No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka for the second-most wins on the WTA Tour in 2023, 10 behind Iga Swiatek.

From 2-1 down in the opening set, Pegula reeled off eight consecutive games. The American took a 3-0 lead in the second set before Yuan took one break back. But Pegula held her ground from the baseline and secured her first title outside North America.

Pegula is the first American since Venus Williams in 2007 to win a WTA event in Seoul.

This year's event was WTA 250, the lowest level of tour events, below the Grand Slam events, season-ending WTA Finals, WTA 1000 and WTA 500 events. The 250 tournaments offer 280 ranking points to the champions, compared with 2,000 points for the Grand Slam events.

The Korea Open will be elevated to the WTA 500 next year.

"I'm really excited for this tournament next year to be a 500," Pegula said. "Hopefully, we can get even higher-ranked players and more girls to come here and play. The city is amazing, and I've had so much fun here."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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