Pegula targets first Grand Slam semi-finals berth at Australian Open

Pegula targets first Grand Slam semi-finals berth

Jessica Pegula, a third-seeded American, will take on two-time champion Victoria Azarenka today in an attempt to go past that stage for the first time in her Australian Open career.

After first-week surprises eliminated Iga Swiatek and Ons Jabeur, Pegula is the highest seed still standing in the women’s draw.

Pegula, 28, claims she feels “strange being a favorite,” but she also claims to feel more assured and at ease than in the past.

“I have a great shot here. Throughout the whole tournament I’ve been playing the best I have than in any of my other Grand Slam quarterfinals. That I think helps,” Pegula said.

“I think I feel more experience coming in here… I would say I definitely feel very confident going into this quarterfinal, that I’m playing the best tennis and I have a very good chance of making a semi.”

Azarenka is back in the quarterfinals in Melbourne for the first time since she became a mother and the 33-year-old is out for revenge after she was knocked out by Pegula in 2021.

“She’s an amazing player… She got me here, so I definitely want revenge,” said the Belarusian, who won the title in 2012 and 2013.

“She’s a great friend of mine, I absolutely adore her. We have really tough battles every single time. We practice with each other. There’s going to be no surprises, absolutely.”

Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan toppled world No 1 Swiatek and faces another former Grand Slam champion in Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia.

Ostapenko won the French Open in 2017 two days after turning 20, but she has only reached one more Grand Slam semifinal since as she struggled to replicate that form and consistency while she came to terms with the sudden fame.

“My life changed a lot (after winning the French Open), so I needed a few years to really get used to what happened because I was really young,” Ostapenko said after knocking out another American favourite, Coco Gauff.

“You became more popular in your country. Everybody is watching you. Of course, it’s great, but I needed some time to get used to it.

“Sometimes I can go a little bit too much, but I’m an emotional person in general. So it’s always hard to find this balance.”