Pegula unable to maintain momentum, falls to Vickery

Sachia Vickery defeated Jessica Pegula in three sets Monday at the Family Circle Cup.

When a player ranked in the 600s in the world makes the main draw of one of the WTA Tour’s Premier level events, it’s a golden opportunity to make a move in the rankings.

That’s the world of the point-chasers, the big difference maker on the pro tour. Jessica Pegula is currently ranked 614th and set to move up approximately 150 spots as the result of her two victories in the Family Circle Cup’s qualifying tournament over the weekend. Not bad for a player who started the year ranked No. 775.

But a win in Monday’s first round in the $731,000 tournament’s main draw could have sent Pegula’s ranking soaring into the 380s. Therefore, her 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) loss to Sachia Vickery could be a significant momentum-changer for the 21-year-old Pegula in her return from her 2013 knee surgery.

Once ranked as high as No. 123 in the world, Pegula played well in her third match in as many days on the Althea Gibson Club Court. But as hard as Pegula tried, Vickery simply wouldn’t let the local resident of the MWTennis Academy win anything easily in front of her legion of fans.

“I fought hard … I gave myself a chance to win the match,” said Pegula, the daughter of Buffalo Bills/Sabres owner Terry Pegula.

But it was the endless array of short floating balls by Vickery off Pegula’s deep, penetrating groundstrokes that probably decided the match. Pegula failed to put most of those balls away and allowed Vickery to continue fighting.

“I’ve got to work on coming in more,” Pegula admitted.

There also was an inordinate number of line-painters by Vickery, a 20-year-old from Hollywood, Fla., who is ranked No. 137.

“I think she hit five lines in one game,” Pegula said. “She did that the last time we played, too (another three-set loss to Vickery earlier this year on hard courts). She came up with some big serves.”

Yes, like two Vickery aces to the same spot on back-to-back break points with Vickery serving at 4-2 in the second set.

Every singles match at this year’s Family Circle Cup will be live-streamed on ESPN3, giving fans in 143 countries access to the tournament, with a total of 93 matches over 130 hours of airtime available on TV and the web. ESPN2 will carry matches from 1-2:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Tuesday is Ladies Day Out at the Family Circle Cup, with giveaways, shopping and dining available. Renowned Charleston foodie Nathalie Dupree will host a gourmet lunch and presentation from 11 a.m, to 12:30 p.m. For information, call 800-677-2293.

Kids under 15 are admitted free to the Family Circle Cup all week with an accompanying adult.

The Family Circle Cup is off to a fast start in attendance, with crowds of 6,314 and 6,340 coming out for qualifying matches on Saturday and Sunday, and 5,486 on hand for Monday’s first day of main draw play.

Former champions Samantha Stosur and Jelena Jankovic and defending champ Andrea Petkovic highlight Tuesday’s action on Stadium Court.