Lessons learned for Pegula from No.1 face-offs

American draws inspiration from recent defeats to Swiatek and Barty

Jessica Pegula, Iga Swiatek, Roland Garros 2022, quarter-final© Cédric Lecocq/FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Talk about bad luck. At the Australian Open, Jessica Pegula ran into then world No.1 Ashleigh Barty in the quarter-finals.

The home charge dominated proceedings for a 6-2, 6-0 triumph en route to lifting the trophy.

Competing in a third career Grand Slam quarter-final at Roland-Garros on Wednesday, the American was halted by the seemingly invincible world No.1 Iga Swiatek. The Pole powering 6-3, 6-2 into the final four.

It’s a pretty unique vantage point for Pegula, who wants to learn and evolve from these elite world No.1 encounters.

“Really tough match against Iga. It was just a couple points here and there,” said the 28-year-old, who couldn’t prevent the top seed from notching up a 33rd successive victory.

“She's the best in the world right now at keeping pressure on and not giving you a lot of chances.”

Pegula, on the brink of cracking the top 10, wants to build an aura like Barty and Swiatek, that would help her leave a lasting impression on her opponents.

“Today I felt like I'd come back and I would be in the game and it's like, ‘Okay, I got a second serve. And I can feel it, okay, I have one shot’,” explained Pegula, describing the mental predicament of facing the top seed.

“At the same time, you don't want to just hit the ball back on court, because you know she can also step in. But then you're also thinking, ‘Well I need to step up and go for my shots’.

“I think that's what's so difficult, same thing when I played Ash (Barty), you get those few chances and you kind of feel it weighing on you that if you don't take advantage you're like, ‘Shoot, my chance was gone and now I have to work so hard to either hold serve or get back in this game'. 

“That's kind of what you want to impose on someone, that you make someone feel terrible all the time.

“Mentally that's what they do so well and what I've been trying to do better, the pressure that they constantly keep on you. Definitely that can weigh on you mentally.”

Coco Gauff, Jessica Pegula, Roland Garros 2022, women's doubles quarter-finals© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Tennis multi-tasking

Pegula, through to the doubles semi-finals alongside countrywoman Coco Gauff, is delighted by her ability to juggle singles and doubles ambitions in Paris.

“It's definitely different going deep in both because I've never really done that before, it's usually one or the other," said Pegula, who will join Gauff in their semi-final against fellow Americans Madison Keys and Taylor Townsend on Friday.

"Obviously tiring, but for me one of my goals was to play with someone and do well this year in doubles,” she continued.

“A Slam for Coco and I is big, especially with the full scoring, because I felt like that's where we could really do well.

“I'm happy that I've gone deep in both. I know it's a lot, but it's also what I wanted to do so I'm never going to kind of shy away from the fact that I put myself in the situation.

"I'm not going to complain that I'm winning."

Building on an impressive couple of campaigns, Pegula has added to a last-eight ticket in Melbourne with a semi-final showing in Miami (losing to Swiatek) and also a Madrid final journey ahead of Roland-Garros.

Jessica Pegula, quarts de finale, Roland-Garros 2022ac©Cedric Lecocq / FFT

'My level's right there'

The trajectory for Pegula is going up and up.

“It hasn't always been my strong point, but I was very successful the last couple months and really proud of myself for that to put in a lot of hard work and grinding on the clay in Europe. It's usually tough for the Americans sometimes,” said Pegula who is from Buffalo, New York.

“I think really there's nowhere to go but up. Even this year I lost to Ash in the quarters of Australia, and then I lose to Iga here, which was more like a final, it is what it is.

“It's just showing my level's right there and obviously players like that, they've hit a different level where they're winning, and I hope I can get to that level at some point.”