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January 23, 2022

Jessica Pegula

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference

J. PEGULA/M. Sakkari

7-6, 6-3

THE MODERATOR: Talk us through the match, what the difference was, how you handled the conditions.

JESSICA PEGULA: It was a little hot out there today, so I didn't really want to kind of play a lot of long points. I thought I really had to step up and be aggressive when I had the chances to. Luckily I was able to capitalize on that pretty well today and play a pretty clean match I think.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. I think we all remember the match you played against Maria in Miami. Was that on your mind today at match point up?

JESSICA PEGULA: I know that she's always going to fight and compete well. No, I wasn't really thinking about that during the match. Obviously I know that I need to step up and take my chances.

She did start to play better at the end. She started serving better. In that last game she made me earn it, which is what I thought would happen.

That last match in Miami, I think I took away from that that I know how to play her and I knew how to win. At the same time I wanted to be more aggressive than that match. I think for the most part the longer the match goes it probably favors her, to be honest.

I was trying to take the things I did well from Miami and put that in perspective for today. Yeah, that was a tough match (smiling).

Q. It's not always easy for players to follow up a big season. How pleased are you you started the new year?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yes, it's definitely something that I was thinking about as well, backing up a season. Tennis is kind of brutal that way where you can have a really great year and we're right back here again and it kind of forces you into the same position, puts a lot of pressure on.

I think, I don't know, I was able to keep my mentality pretty well coming into this tournament. I lost my first two matches. I knew I wasn't playing that great. I think winning that first round really helped me. I really had to dig deep. I played a good player who, I mean, definitely could have gone the other way.

I'm happy that I was able to kind of turn that into something positive and definitely played my best tennis today. Obviously the year is a long year. There's still a lot more tournaments. I did really well last year, which is great. I wish I didn't because now it's like every tournament there's points or something coming off. I'm like, Maybe I shouldn't have done that well.

Still a lot more tournaments. It's a long year. I'm excited I did well here and hopefully I can take that into the rest of the year like I did last year.

Q. Do you have a preference who you would play in the next round? Would you love to have a crack at Ash Barty on Rod Laver or a fellow American?

JESSICA PEGULA: I don't know. Both are going to be tough. I feel like Ash is so tactical in everything she does. Really a smart, like perfect kind of tennis player in that way.

Amanda, it's tough, she can kind of blow you off the court at any second.

I think it would be fun to see an American I guess. That would be really cool. I don't know. It would also be fun to play Ash on her home turf here, the best player in the world right now.

I don't know. I can't really answer that. I think both would be good scenarios.

Q. (No microphone.)

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, I don't know. I've never really been one to get too interactive with the crowd, not in a bad way, but their stuff doesn't really bother me.

Today the fans were pretty again for Maria. They're like, Double-fault, in between serves and stuff like that. I could kind of chuckle, Okay, I didn't double-fault so it didn't work (smiling).

I don't know. I don't really pay attention. I think it will just be a fun atmosphere.

Q. You said it would be good to see an American in the next round. You have a lot of players on the women's tour. What is it like being part of that group? You seem to root for each other.

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, I think it's really cool. It's so great to see first of all Amanda had a really tough year last year. She had a great win against Naomi. That match was neck-and-neck. Honestly she deserved to win. It's just great to see them play.

Honestly I took a lot of inspiration from watching that match as well because the hitting was incredible. Then to turn around to see Danielle and Tauson hitting in a crazy match really got me fired up for today.

I think we all root for each other. We have so many different scenarios. Amanda is kind of the younger, broke through, had a couple rough years, now she's back. Maddie we all know can play at a high level. Now she's back. Good to see her happy and relaxed on court. Then you have Danielle who kind of did a different route than all of us. I don't think she's really played anything. Now she showed up and she's already deep in the tournament.

All I think big hitters. It's cool to see. You love to see Americans do well.

Q. What do you make of Maddie in particular given she had a really tough year last year?

JESSICA PEGULA: I think it's just good to see her enjoying it a little bit more. It kind of makes you remember as well for yourself like going into this year for me, tennis is so up and down. I saw the quote where she said she already won more matches this year than she did last year. Tennis is just like that.

It help it puts things in perspective that maybe you'll have some rough patches but always keep your goals there, keep your head up, not get too down on yourself. You can see how it can kind of spiral.

Is been really cool just to see her happy out there competing. After she won Adelaide, I messaged her. I was like, Comeback season.

She's like, Yes.

I said, She's back.

Then she said, Comeback season.

Now she's even done better. Cool to see. You always want to learn stuff from other people's experiences.

Q. You have a Grand Slam quarterfinal to prepare for. How do you schedule and watch the Bills potentially in the Playoffs?

JESSICA PEGULA: Luckily I won. I think they play tomorrow morning this time. I will take time to make sure I watch them, then hit later in the day afterwards. It's nice that it's on TV here, the Playoffs is. It's been pretty easy to watch.

It will be easy. I'll just wake up tomorrow, get to watch the game, then practice afterwards.

Q. Is it nice having the Bills as a distraction?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, I think it's a fun little thing that I get to look forward to. My whole family is there. I FaceTimed them earlier. They're all in Kansas City. My sister is here, but the rest of my family is in Kansas City. It's cool to kind of see them in another big situation, then me in a big situation today.

Obviously it's better when you're winning in those positions. But it's a cool thing to look forward to. It's fun to get the fans involved because there's not a lot of tennis in Buffalo. It's nice that everyone is fired up about me winning and fired up about the game. It makes it really fun.

Q. You're in pole position at the moment to end this tournament as American No. 1. Given how well you get along with everybody, what would it mean to you?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, I've looked at it. I'm like, Okay, there's still a lot of Americans that could probably just win the Australian Open and take that over from me.

But I did see the live rankings. I am the highest. I'm just going to stay with the live rankings today, I am the highest-ranked American, in case that's not the case at the end of the week.

It definitely was not a goal, but something really cool I was looking forward to getting the chance to do that. Wasn't really expecting to make a quarterfinal again, so I'm glad that I put myself in that position to be able to do that.

Obviously to win the next round would help, but that's going to be really difficult. I'm happy that I did it today. I'm just going to keep it at that.

Q. Last year when you made quarters here, went to the Middle East, had good tournaments there, how do you compare to how you felt last year to this year?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, I definitely think I've gotten that competitive edge that I kind of maybe lost at the beginning of the year just from taking a couple months off, a lot of things happening. I'm glad that's back.

I think going into the Middle East, I would feel really good, feel ready to go, happy to be out there competing and stuff like that. I think as long as I have that mindset, I'm always going to be okay.

But last year was definitely -- I still had some tough matches in the Middle East last year where I could have lost as well. It's really so week to week. You try to take the positives and how you're doing into the next weeks as best you can.

I don't know. I feel kind of the same right now. I feel the same but a little bit more I think stability as in like I already did well last year. I feel maybe a little bit not as stressed about it.

Q. I'm sure you've gotten this question before, but I'm going to ask it anyway. You've been around American team sports, you're also obviously making your way on a global individual sport. Is it two different worlds in terms of how you see them both, how different they are, or are there way more similarities with the NFL and NHL?

JESSICA PEGULA: I would say I think there's always similarities as an athlete, but I would say tennis is so much different because like you're on your own team. You kind of have to do everything yourself, at least someone on your team is doing that, which is usually a smaller group of people. Whereas for the NFL and the NHL, a lot of people are doing things for you.

I would always -- probably going to get crap for this, but I always joked to my mom. I toured the stadium when we first bought the Bills. It's like they have like a training facility, a practice field, then a gym, then their own training room, the chef, all this stuff. I was like, This isn't fair. We have to go week to week in a different environment all the time plus traveling, all this stuff.

I think all of those intangibles make it so much different where you don't have as much stability of knowing where you're going, what's going to happen, knowing where you are a certain week, making the same type of trips or traveling based on the games that you're playing, going to the same environments.

I think us, we have so many different things we have to deal with, which to me is really what makes tennis stand out and differentiate from other sports.

Q. Put your pundit hat on for tonight's match.

JESSICA PEGULA: It's such a hard one. I did pick Amanda last match, which was barely, honestly 50/50. Naomi had match points. She could have easily won the match.

I don't know if I'm going with the upset. I don't have a pick. I can't. My pick today was Maddie actually. That was with my coach. I said, Maddie is going to win today. That was kind of my pick of the day.

The Barty pick, I'm not really feeling anything. I don't have an answer.

Q. What do you think the keys are for the Bills against the Chiefs? What is your prediction for that game?

JESSICA PEGULA: Oh, gosh. I don't make my picks as much in football.

I think for the Bills, I mean, obviously Kansas City can score with their offense. I think if our defense plays well, I think our defense is going to play probably good no matter what, but I think obviously it's -- I think it will be up a lot to Josh Allen, how he plays, his decision making out there. I think our defense was always going to be good, but we're going to have to score points to beat them. I think it's kind of up to him to see how he leads the team.

Yeah, I guess maybe handling the crowd and the home team there is going to be rough. Kansas City is always a hard place to play. I think it's just going to come down to decision making and competing like most games.

Q. And your prediction?

JESSICA PEGULA: My prediction? Bills win (smiling).

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