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February 17, 2021

Jessica Pegula

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference

J. BRADY/J. Pegula

4-6, 6-2, 6-1

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Talk to us about how you're feeling after your performance.

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, I think I honestly feel fine. It was a tough match. I'm happy for Jen. She played really well, really stepped it up, stepped up her level.

I'm just excited that I proved I'm playing at a top level. Actually I feel good.

Q. You looked super composed the first set. In the second set was it just something that Jen did, raise her level?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, to me it was definitely the serve. She I don't think was playing that great the first few games, I was winning a lot of free points. I also think I was serving pretty well to start. Then I could definitely -- I mean, I was putting a lot of pressure on her serve, which I don't think she's used to.

I don't remember if I broke early, or I think I broke back for 3-2, that service game was like the second set to me. I knew that she was running me a lot, but she was getting frustrated and I wasn't making a lot of errors.

But I think the fact that I just couldn't win any free points on my first serve and my first-serve percentage dropped was to me the match basically. Then it kind of just spiraled from there.

That's the difference between these top players. When she plays Naomi, it's one break. That's what they're looking for.

To me it's awesome to say I know I can break back, which I don't think a lot of girls can say that. Again, I'm just going to keep working on my serve. I think it let me down. I think my legs let me down a little bit on my serve today.

Q. This has been quite a journey for you. You played in Abu Dhabi before?


Q. You were lucky enough to not be on the plane.


Q. Talk about some of the strangest things you've experienced in the last couple weeks. What have been the harder and more difficult things?

JESSICA PEGULA: To be honest, it's been fine. Nothing really was that different to me. I know Jen had to go through the strict quarantine, so I think that's really impressive that she's been able to come out and play well.

I can say it honestly didn't surprise me because she told me she thinks she kind of needed it. But again, it's just mindset. It shows you you have to adapt and adjust. You never know what can happen.

To be honest, I didn't really have any strange experiences. I would just say, of course, when we all had to get tested again, that was a little nerve-wracking. It's unfortunate we couldn't have fans and I couldn't have fans the last two rounds, because I think that would have been super fun, especially today.

Yeah, I honestly can't really say anything bad. I just have to take it one day at a time and adapt to the situation. I think everyone in the world is having to do that right now. So no complaints from me.

Q. You mentioned the day you all had to get tested. Take us through that day, what you were feeling.

JESSICA PEGULA: That feels so long ago. I think we were just a little nervous. We were just all hoping that we all tested negative, and we did. Yeah, I think, again, we were nervous, what's going to happen next. We don't know what's going to happen. We know a lot of it is kind of in the hands of the health department and the government.

Just feeling like we didn't know what was going to happen was scary. But we got tested, did what we were supposed to do, went down, locked down till we got our test result. That was it. We were lucky, grateful that everyone was negative.

Q. Can you become a fan tomorrow and watch Naomi and Serena?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, I've been watching, to be honest, all the matches. It's kind of been fun. I think what I've done a lot better is learning how to pick apart people's games. You kind of see who is winning, who is losing, what they're doing right, what they're not doing, what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Of course, Naomi has been the top player now. She's the one to beat. It will be fun I think to see them play. Then obviously Serena I think is looking fitter than she ever has. It will be fun to see them compete, then obviously see Jen play, how she is going for her I think second semifinal. Pushing to get into the final match I think will be really fun to watch.

Q. Our job is to chronicle history. How much is the history that's lurking at this tournament with Rafa on the men's side and Serena on the women's, how much does that permeate your bubble?

JESSICA PEGULA: As in like? Watching it?

Q. Do you feel like people are more interested in their matches or do you find yourself checking how they're doing?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, I think there's a lot going on right now just with Naomi and Serena. Serena, of course, always going for that next slam. Then the men chasing down. I think now it's a pivotal tournament for them, for Nadal and Djokovic, to see who can pull ahead. It's a big difference now.

Of course, seeing Djokovic was hurt and then what happened at the US Open, it's like Nadal could pull ahead here two slams, and that's a lot. It's crazy to think it's just two slams. Like I wish that was my life, but it's not (smiling).

To see them, like, pull ahead, it's crazy. I just think it's so impressive how dominant they've been. I think everyone's kind of in shock as to how dominant the top men have been. It's insane to see the level that they produce.

Then, yeah, I think we're all looking at that. There's a lot of storylines to follow. Then you have Jen kind of solidifying herself. Then you have Muchova who has done well at slams, get the big win today. There's so many storylines to follow, I think it's been pretty cool.

Q. You have a neat perspective on how other sports operate amid COVID. What do you think in terms of tennis players moving forward? More bubbles can exist, quarantines?

JESSICA PEGULA: I mean, it's so tough with an international sport having to travel, do all the logistics of going to another bubble, figuring out I got to get tested three days before, I got to get my results, make sure I get tested when I land.

I think everyone has done a good job of communicating things. I think it definitely is starting to wear down a lot of players, that sounds bad because it's the start of the year. It's just stressful with the travel, which I think is the big difference maybe to the NFL, NHL, where they can kind of be in a bubble and kind of move the bubble around. We can't really do that as easily.

But I think it's just a learning experience. I think, again, I've done a good job of adapting to that and not getting upset about things I can't control. So I think that's what we're all having to do.

I mean, I think it's been cool to see the US Open and here put everything in one place, which I think is ideal for most players, without having the stress of if I travel, am I going to test positive, am I going to be stuck somewhere.

Of course, that's ideal, but you can't do that every time. I don't know. I think we're taking it week by week, see how it goes. It's kind of all you can do right now.

Q. What is the main thing that you take away from these two weeks? Ranking surge is going to help with respect to entries. Experience, matches.

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, I think the big take away is that I think I've proved that I have the level to play with the top players now, which I think is such a steppingstone. It's not that I haven't had bigger wins in the past, it's just the consistency I was able to put together even the week before this, beating two players that have been at the top before, then being up on Sonia Kenin when I could have won that match and I didn't.

I think I just proved that, okay, I'm sustaining that level right now. I think that's something I have to take moving forward.

Q. You've always seemed like an innately confident person. How does that translate to tennis? David was saying the other day a lot of this improvement comes with a lot of belief that you now belong, you're good enough to rub elbows with everyone.

JESSICA PEGULA: I mean, it's true, it's kind of funny. I've always thought of myself as pretty confident, not in an arrogant way, but I was always pretty sure of myself in tennis, what I was going to do off the court, on the court, everything else.

I think I've just kind of let myself, I would say, like be more myself on the court and kind of take that to the court, whereas before on the court I think I would be -- it sounds weird, but I didn't really know how to act. I didn't know if I should be fiery, if I should be quiet, if I should be calm, if I should be emotional.

It's hard to kind of find that identity on the court. I think off the court, I've kind of just be myself. It sounds kind of corny, but just be myself, not worry about anything else. Just go out there, know I put in the work, then the confidence kind of shifted into matches.

Obviously you still have to execute that and do it to give yourself the real confidence. I think I've just put my head down and have known that my time was coming. It kind of came together the last two weeks. Now I'm like, Okay, now I know I can do this. It feels good.

Q. Is the gap that exists now, in your opinion, not game, not belief, but just experience?

JESSICA PEGULA: I think experience helps. Also I don't know, because you see people come in and start winning. I think it's more belief and just mental. The gap is not that big I think with girls. It's literally like a game or two every set to me. To me, that's all it is.

You see, like, Osaka almost lost, now she's back, she won, she's in the semis, she could be in the finals in two days. The gap isn't that big to me. I think it's just playing the moments better, having the confidence moment to moment. There's so many ups and downs in a match, just how you can kind of put those together as best you can.

Even today, Jen was able to kind of keep going. Maybe I got a little too frustrated. But that was the difference, and the match kind of shifted. Now she's in the semis and I'm not.

I don't know. I think it's just managing the present every time the best you can is the difference.

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