PARIS (Reuters): World number three Jessica Pegula’s hopes of hoisting her maiden Grand Slam trophy ended in despair on Friday after a 6-1 6-3 defeat by Belgian Elise Mertens in the French Open third round.
The 29-year-old Pegula had no answer to Mertens’ versatile game. Former doubles world number one Mertens used her complete arsenal of shots, including sliced forehands, drop shots, lobs and deep groundstrokes to move her opponent around and pin her back.
Mertens, ranked 28th, was near flawless at the start, breaking the American twice in a row to race to a 5-0 lead and bag the first set in just 26 minutes.
Pegula, who had advanced into the third round after her ailing Italian opponent Camila Giorgi retired after the first set, broke Mertens early in the second but the Belgian responded in the next game. Pegula earned another rare break point at 3-2 but sunk a three consecutive backhands into the net.
The 27-year-old Belgian took advantage of Pegula’s low first serve percentage to break her again and move 5-3 clear, leaving the frustrated American to shake her head and look at her coaching box for any help.
Her ordeal was over after 82 minutes with her 28th unforced error.