Fierce four: Pegula, Jabeur, Kasatkina, Bencic make historic run in Charleston

Fierce four: Pegula, Jabeur, Kasatkina, Bencic make historic run in Charleston

For the first time in 23 years, the top four seeds at the Credit One Charleston Open have advanced to the semifinals.

So long ago, in fact, that the tournament had yet to move to its current home here on Daniel Island. The year was 2000, and Mary Pierce, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Monica Seles and Conchita Martinez battled for the title over championship weekend at Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island.

Jessica Pegula, Ons Jabeur, Daria Kasatkina nor Belinda Bencic had yet hit double-digits in age in 2000, but this modern-day fierce four is set to make some history of its own, with Bencic looking to become the first player to successfully defend her title since Serena Williams did so in 2012-13.

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“I really love to play here,” the 26-year-old Swiss player said, moving to 17-5 in her Charleston career.

She’ll meet the lone remaining American in Pegula, who spent her childhood honing her finely-timed tennis strokes ironically on the courts of Hilton Head Island. She’s two match wins away from becoming just the ninth American to win this title.

“Belinda is a really tough matchup for me,” the 29-year-old world No. 3 said. “We play kind of similar, hit low, flat and take it early. And she’s obviously very confident right now being the defending champ.”

Bencic leads their head-to-head 3-0, though they haven’t met since the US Open in 2021 – and never before on clay.

“Jess does anything with the ball,” Bencic added. “She redirects very well; she makes it look effortless when she plays.”

While Pegula vs. Bencic are set to be a battle from the baseline, Jabeur vs. Kasatkina will use every inch – and angle – of the green clay court. Jabeur leads their rivalry 4-2, their most recent meeting an instant classic in the Rome semifinals last year, Jabeur saving a match point on her way to victory.

“I remember that match perfectly,” Kasatkina said. “[But] this is the only match which I’m not regretting anything… I’m not sure if I won [that match] I would make the French Open semifinal after.”

That run to the semis in Paris marked a resurgence for “Dasha,” who had been ranked inside the top 10 in 2018 before falling as low as No. 75 in 2020. She’s currently world No. 8.

Into a third straight semi here, Jabeur knows the challenge that awaits.

“It’s going to be a physical match,” she said. “Her game suits clay a lot, so I think the key will probably be patience.”