Pegula maintains perfect mark against Collins

The No.3 seed won an all-American battle with last year’s Australian Open runner-up

Jessica Pegula, Roland-Garros 2023, first round© Julien Crosnier/FFT
 - Nick McCarvel

While the spotlight shines bright on women’s favourites Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka and Elina Rybakina, No. 3 seed Jessica Pegula of the United States is flying under the radar – and that doesn’t seem to bother her one bit.

The 29-year-old American withstood a firm first-set test from compatriot Danielle Collins, the 2022 Australian Open runner-up, winning 6-4, 6-2 to book a round two clash with big-hitting Italian Camila Giorgi.

It was a fifth meeting between the two Americans, with Pegula having dropped only one set in four previous matches.

Pegula moved to 26-9 on the season and 7-3 on clay with the win, while having made the quarter-finals here a year ago (losing to eventual champ Swiatek).

Pegula, in fact, has been a picture of consistency at the majors over the last year: She’s made three of four quarter-finals dating back to her run to the final eight here, though the world No. 3 is yet to advance to a major semi-final.

Peeking ahead in the draw, she has a major chance to do so this fortnight: Her seeded quarter-final opponent was Maria Sakkari, the Greek No. 8 seed who was knocked out earlier on Day 1 on the same Court Suzanne-Lenglen.

A year ago, Pegula, the Buffalo, New York, native, made the doubles final alongside partner Coco Gauff. The duo are seeded No.2 this year behind last year’s champions, Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova.

Jessica Pegula, Roland-Garros 2023, first round© Julien Crosnier/FFT

Story of the match

It was a long wait for Collins and Pegula as the fourth and final match on Lenglen, the two taking to court under the lights after 8:30pm local Parisian time.

The opening seven games were a seesaw battle, with both players struggling to find their form off the ground. But Pegula was able to hold for 5-3 in the eighth game, the longest of the opening set.

Collins then held for 4-5, but Pegula would serve out the first set to love in the following game, totalling nine winners as Collins netted her 13th unforced error, a forehand return.

Pegula wasted no time in set two, breaking in the first game and then taking a stranglehold of the match with a double break lead at 4-1.

Collins did well to hold at 1-5 down, but the writing was on the clay wall: Pegula hit her 17th winner of the day – a forehand into the open court – to seal victory in one hour and 22 minutes.

Key stats

Service struggles for Collins haunted her throughout the match. She was broken in the first game out of the gates, then held just four from 10 service games, winning only 52 per cent of first serve points and a paltry 23 per cent of second serve points.

Pegula didn’t need to be flashy – and her stat sheet wasn’t, either: She won six from 10 break point chances while clocking 17 winners to 12 unforced errors. Pegula made good use of the clay: She tapped seven drop shots in the match, four of them for outright winners.

The No. 3 seed never let up on return, winning 57 per cent of return points in the match (36 from 63).

What the players said

“Playing Danielle first round, she's not seeded this week but it's really tough,” Pegula said on court to Alex Corretja. “I know that she hasn't been playing on clay, but I didn't think that mattered. I still thought she played at a really high level. I had to stay focused today to get the win.”

Pegula discussed waiting some nine-plus hours to get on court: “It's never easy, waiting all day. Especially after Karen [Khachanov] went five sets. Thanks to [Andrey] Rublev for not going five, that would have been tough. It was OK today. I felt like I needed some extra time, so I took a nap and luckily I was able to feel pretty good before coming out here."

Off until Wednesday now, Pegula is open to doing some Parisian exploring: “I love this city. I really like coming here. Hopefully I get to do some stuff the next few days.”

Jessica Pegula, Danielle Collins, Roland-Garros 2023, first round© Julien Crosnier/FFT