Day 5 Diary: Pegula liking her odds, Halep vows to bounce back

 - Chris Oddo

Check out what you may have missed from an eventful Thursday at Roland-Garros

Jessica Pegula, Roland Garros 2022, second round© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

Jessica Pegula's career has been in blossom mode for the last two seasons.

She was well outside the top-50 two years ago, but has since steadily climbed the rankings, rising to her current perch at No.11. But it took until 2022 for her to expand her empire to the clay.

Prior to this season, the American carried an 11-12 record on clay. After her 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 victory over Anhelina Kalinina on Thursday, Pegula's record on clay is 9-3 on the season and she is into the third round at Roland-Garros for the first time.

The 28-year-old will next face Slovenia's Tamara Zidansek, the architect of a feel-good run to the semi-finals last year. It is an opportunity that the suddenly solid on clay Pegula relishes.

"I have a really good chance to kind of break through the draw," Pegula said on Thursday, of her wide open section of the draw. "I hope I can do that. But feeling good and I'm moving well and feeling I think more confident than I did last year."

Pegula defeated Zidansek in their only previous meeting, 6-3, 6-3 at Auckland in 2020, but knows that the 24-year-old world No.25 is a far tougher out on the red clay.

At the very least, she's hoping it will be easier than her two hour and 26-minute battle with Kalinina on Court 7. Pegula served for the win at 6-2, 5-2 but couldn't capitalise on a bevy of match points, including five in the final game before she tapped a volley winner to close the gruelling contest.

Jessica Pegula, Roland Garros 2022, second round© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

"That last game, I don't know, honestly I think I was just over it," Pegula said of the gut-wrenching battle. "I was just like, I don't even care anymore. I just either miss the shot, hit a winner, I was just kind of over it, to be honest.

"But I think in a way that kind of helped because it took the pressure off a little bit. I knew that I had to just not overthink the situation and just go for my shots."

Pegula credits her improvements on clay to good old-fashioned hard work. She and her coach David Witt targeted several areas of her game that she wanted to improve, and the results are coming.

"I definitely wanted to be a little bit more physical, work on my sliding this year on the clay, get more comfortable sliding up to short balls, sliding into my shots," she said, adding: "Not as an American slide on clay, sometimes we kind of look a little ridiculous out there, but I guess make it a weapon."

Not quite closing

Pegula could only laugh at her recent struggles with closing out matches on Thursday with reporters.

The American has needed a total of 18 match points combined to close out her two victories in Paris.

She needed 10 match points to get past Wang Qiang in round one, 6-2, 6-4, and another eight to slide past Kalinina on Thursday.

"I mean, of course you're sitting there thinking, 'Gosh, is this seriously happening again?'" Pegula said. "Because it wasn't even just that, it was also both matches you could feel all of a sudden like both girls were playing like way better, like just ripping, going for their shots.

"I don't know, what you want to say about that. I've had 18 match points in the last two matches, so I think that's a record."

Halep's tough moment

2018 champion Simona Halep told reporters that she suffered a panic attack on court during her 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 loss to China's Zheng Qinwen on Thursday.

Always dreaming of returning to the winner's circle in Paris, Halep confessed that she is putting too much pressure on herself.

"It's just a tennis match, so I have to see it a little bit more relaxed," said the former world No.1. "Probably put pressure on myself too much, because I really wanted to do well. I felt good. I practise. I work hard. But just didn't happen, and probably I got a little bit of panic during that thinking, overthinking."

Despite failing to reach the third round for the first time since 2015, Halep vowed to keep fighting to find her best tennis.

"I know it's like a cliché, but it's a new day, and I'll wake up motivated to keep working. Next tournament, I will have another chance, so I'm not giving up just because of today," said the Romanian.

The challenge of facing Bublik

After his 4-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-1 victory over Alexander Bublik, a match which featured a fair share of light-hearted exhibition-style antics from the Kazakhstani, Serbia's Miomir Kecmanovic talked about the difficulties of not only keeping a straight face, but playing his best tennis against his unpredictable foe.

"We're pretty good friends. It was difficult to stay focused, especially towards the end, you know, when he kind of started to have a little bit of fun," Kecmanovic, who is into the third round at Roland-Garros for the first time.

"I know that he's like that and you expect that, but, yeah, off the court we have really awesome time together and at the net. We always have a good chat - hopefully I avoid him on grass."

Miomir Kecmanovic, Roland Garros 2022, second round© Julien Crosnier/FFT

Iga's bakery shop

It's supposed to be about croissants and baguettes in Paris, but world No.1 Iga Swiatek insists on making it about bagels.

The 2020 champion eased past American Alison Riske 6-0, 6-2 on Thursday to reach the third round.

The Pole has now won 15 sets with a 6-0 scoreline in 2022, which puts her on a path to outpace a few icons of women's tennis by season's end.

Here's a look at the most bagels per season since 2000 on the WTA tour (courtesy of WTA and StatsPerform):


No couch surfing for Badosa

After her second-round win over Kaja Juvan, a reporter wanted to know if Paula Badosa ever finds time to simply relax and hang out on the couch for a day. Predictably, the Spanish firecracker says it is out of the question.

"That's a funny question, because my friends or my family all day are saying, 'Can you please calm down or stay on the sofa for one afternoon?'" she said.

"It's impossible for me. I have so much energy. That's what helps me as well on matches. I can't complain. But yeah, one of my challenges all my life has been that, to stay more calm, and to learn to enjoy, to be on a sofa, to be honest."

Gilles joins the 500 club

French veteran Gilles Simon plans on hanging up his racquet by the end of this season but not before he hits a new milestone or two along the way.

On Thursday, the 37-year-old notched the 500th tour-level win of his career, becoming just the third French man to achieve that feat.