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February 13, 2021

Jessica Pegula

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference

J. PEGULA/K. Mladenovic

6-2, 6-1

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Making quick work of your opponents. Talk to us how you're feeling going into the second week.

JESSICA PEGULA: I can't really feel much better. Yeah, just going to enjoy the win. I think I have a day off tomorrow, then get back out there for the next round.

Q. You've only lost 13 games. To what do you attribute that? What are the one or two keys in your mind for playing so efficiently?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, I think I'm just playing really confident right now. I'm obviously seeing the ball and hitting the ball really well. I'm just trying to not kind of let up really at all. I think also at the same time I'm doing a good job of staying in the point when I have to, not going for too much, but still going aggressive at the right times.

Q. I believe it's only your ninth Grand Slam and this is your best performance. Do you still feel like a bit of a rookie?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, it's the first time I've been in the fourth round. It's a new experience for me. It's a new experience being second week of singles. I've done it in doubles. Maybe that helps a little bit.

Definitely it's all new to me. I'm just trying to enjoy it. At the same time I still want to do well, hopefully take this as a good opportunity to keep it going the next round.

Yeah, it's definitely still new, but that's what makes it fun. It's exciting.

Q. Taylor Fritz spoke as if getting to the second week is a hurdle. What did you take from the 6-4, 6-3 loss to Kvitova at the US Open that maybe helped you today?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, that was a night match on Ashe with no crowd. That was a tough match. She was playing well.

I think, to be honest, I'm playing a lot better now. I think just hitting the ball, kind of playing more my game. I think at the US Open I was kind of scraping by. I think that also was really good for me. I learned how to win when I wasn't playing well.

Now I'm playing much better this tournament. Again, hopefully I can keep it up for the next match. But I think I'm just peaking a little bit more right now with my game, whereas US Open I was just competing really well.

Again, I think doing that there really gave me confidence, you know, for this slam, that I can do the same thing. Hopefully maybe I'm hitting the ball a little bit better than I was there. It worked out that way.

Q. When you were in your early stages of your career, I understand you had some quite serious injuries. Did you ever contemplate giving up? Is that why you feel like you're still on the rise?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, I mean, I definitely had a couple injuries. The last one, my hip, was definitely the hardest, the hardest to come back from.

When it first happened, I first realized I was probably going to have to get surgery, I was like down and out for a couple days. I don't even know if I want to come back. This is just going to be so hard.

I don't really know what happened. I think I just got over it (smiling). I was like, Whatever, I'm just going to fight through it again.

I think that does contribute to me maybe feeling younger than I am. I think people still think I'm young. I'm like, I'm not that young. I think I turn 27 later this month. You're the young American. I'm not that young any more.

I think because I was out at such pivotal times when I was younger throughout my career, I do feel like I missed, and these are all new experiences. Maybe I would have gotten there sooner. I think it's just the journey, trying to get by I guess.

Q. You seem to have a full life away from tennis. You have your skin care line, a charity. Does that make it easier if you're keeping busy away?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, to me it's really helped. I think it was something I did in my off time when I was injured and rehabbing to kind of look at other things and find other ways, like what's after tennis.

I think it did help a lot. It definitely helped keep my mind on other things. When you're kind of grinding through rehab every day for three months, it gets tough. So definitely having something else to focus on I think really helped me mentally, for sure.

Q. When you look at the players who are consistently in the second week, is your sense of it is they have figured out how to peak at the majors at the right time? Is it some sort of mental experience of being mentally able to get through when you aren't feeling your best?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, I think it's both. I think you obviously want to peak. Again, a Grand Slam is two weeks long. I would think the top players probably want to be peaking second week.

Obviously with women's tennis, I think the depth is so good right now. Sometimes, yeah, figuring out how to scrape by those first weeks is really important when you're not playing well. I think the best players find ways to win on their worst days. That's something every woman is kind of always struggling with.

Obviously if you're not seeded, maybe you play a tough seed first round. There's so many other aspects. Maybe it was good I peaked against Azarenka because I needed to win that match. I'm not sure I would have scraped by her if she was in full form or something like that.

I think there's a lot of different aspects to that. But I think it's both. I think you want to peak when you want to, but at the same time you have to find out ways to win because you're not going to be playing your best for two weeks straight. If you are, then that's too good.

Q. Your family has links to other sports. Is there a sense you have always wanted to make a name for yourself? Does that drive you at all or you just love tennis?

JESSICA PEGULA: I think it's both. I think more when I was younger, it was more like I wanted to make a name for myself. Then I realized as I got older, you know, I should kind of embrace the whole family aspect of it instead. I think I actually shifted my mindset where it was more like, Okay, I want to differentiate myself, I want to be different, I want to break away. I think it was almost hurting me in a way because it wasn't going to go away. I think I learned to embrace that, kind of have fun with it.

I actually think it's helped kind of shifting that mindset. But obviously I still do like to keep things separate at times. Tennis is like my thing, it's my job, it's my career. It's very separate. My parents don't really have any say right now in anything I do on the court.

Yeah, it is in that way very separate, but at the same time there's the whole aspect of my family.

Q. I saw your notes on the lens in the previous match. You said, Hi, Ons. Today I think you gave a shout-out to your sister and Jen Brady. Can you talk about that?

JESSICA PEGULA: She came up to me after I wrote that I missed my dog. That's so cute. And then she's like, Hey, next time can you write my time? I'm like, Sure, if I remember to do it.

She said it to my coach. My coach told me. I saw her in the training room when I was getting taped before I went on and she said it again. So I had to give her a shout-out. Funny story, my sister didn't see what it was, and she thought it said, Hi, dad. She told my dad. My dad was really excited. Then he found out it wasn't him (laughter). He got really upset. So totally if I win, I have to give a parent shout-out next time.

Jen was, Why aren't you writing hi me and Kelly, my sister. So I won and I knew she was playing next, so I gave her a shout-out and I gave a shout-out to my sister.

Q. Jen Brady just won. I wanted to get your reaction to that. The two of you both made it into the fourth round here. One more win each you could play each other in the quarterfinals.

JESSICA PEGULA: I didn't know that. That would be fun. I mean, I hope that's what happens, to be honest. Yeah, I think we're probably just focused on our next match.

Jen is awesome. She's so funny. You guys know, she's hilarious. I'm always rooting for her to win. She's a great person.

Yeah, I mean, that would be ideal, honestly, for us. I think that would be really cool and good for American tennis. Hopefully Shelby gets a win tonight, too.

Q. Your impressions of playing out there at a Grand Slam tournament without fans? Unlike in New York, here there was a little bit of whiplash of going from having fans to today not. What maybe stuck out? Could you hear things you weren't in your earlier matches, not hear certain things?

JESSICA PEGULA: I mean, I was fortunate to play on Margaret Court with fans the first two rounds. That was really, really fun and a first for me.

Yeah, playing today with no fans, it's completely different. At the same time I think if you're focused and you're just trying to win, it doesn't make that much of a difference to me, again, because I'm not really used to playing on a big stadium with tons of fans like every single match like some of the top players are.

To me it wasn't that big of a deal. I played her last week. We had fans technically, but like no one was really there. It kind of felt the same as last match to me.

Yeah, obviously it's more fun playing with fans. At the same time when it happens, you kind of have to figure out ways to win. Yeah, it feels the same. The stadium looked really cool. Hopefully it will be really fun to play on that court with fans.

Q. I was curious about the difference between players who were not in hard quarantine and who are. Jen was one of the players in hard quarantine that made it into the second week of the tournament. Are you surprised that some players in hard quarantine were able to make it through? Have you talked to her about that challenge?

JESSICA PEGULA: I'm not really sure I was surprised with Jen doing well because she's just so, like, happy-go-lucky, whatever. She said she kind of liked having the two weeks to chill because she's been training so much, since when she was doing well, Lexington, Cincinnati and US Open, and then she kept playing.

I wasn't really surprised by her doing well. I honestly thought she would. So that's not surprising.

I mean, I guess it depends on the person. I think some people you kind of know maybe are going to be kind of carefree with it and play well, and some maybe it would have hurt.

Yeah, it's interesting to see who's done okay and who hasn't. But I'm not surprised by Jen.

Q. Sunday is Valentine's Day, the holiday most associated with love. How does love connect with tennis?

JESSICA PEGULA: I mean, I guess if you're not losing at love, I guess -- I don't know. That's a weird question. I honestly forgot it was Valentine's Day until my fiancé just texted me. He was like, We're going to miss Valentine's Day. I honestly didn't even know what day it was, if you asked me, like, honestly.

I don't know. I guess the score relates. I don't really know how to answer that. I'm sorry (laughter).

Q. You were one of the players who started really well last year before the lockdown. When it ended, you played pretty well to start. Did you kind of feel uniquely suited to having to stop and start over having dealt with it in the past? How did you maintain your level through the quarantine, into this new year?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, I actually was fortunate enough to play World TeamTennis before Lexington, Cincy and US Open. That really helped. I love playing on a team atmosphere. It was the first time for me. I ended up playing pretty much every match almost the whole season.

That I think kept my competitive spirit going. When that finished and I was winning, like, a lot of matches, even though it's different scoring, it gave me a lot of confidence going into this U.S. swing there. I think I just did well there, was able to take that confidence here.

I played well in Auckland here last year. I lost to Taylor Townsend, who is a good friend. I've played well here. I knew I could keep it up. I just kind of had to find my form. Luckily I was able to practice the last two weeks, which I was able to get some good work in, have a good mindset through it all, and take it one match at a time.

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