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January 21, 2022

Jessica Pegula

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference

J. PEGULA/N. Parrizas Diaz

7-6, 6-2

THE MODERATOR: Initial thoughts on being back in the second week of a slam.

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, initial thoughts are just really excited. Glad I was able to win today. It was a really tough first set against someone that I really didn't know. I was a little kind of, just kind of wary, but yeah, really happy to be back. It will be a tough match next match, but happy to be here.


Q. On today's match, like you said, you didn't know very much about her. How did you kind of feel your way through that match, and at what point did you start to feel comfortable with what you needed to do on the court to get the win in straights?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yes, I knew that she was probably going to play pretty well. That was what I was expecting. She didn't really have anything to lose. She did have some good results last year and playing a lot better.

But it was weird. She hits super flat and I actually usually hit flatter, but I honestly think at times she was hitting flatter than me, which really caught me off guard, I wasn't used to that. I tried to just not get frustrated, just really stay tough, try to play a little bit smarter, tried to mix it up a little bit, which won me some points.

I had a feeling if I could pull out that first set maybe her level would drop a little bit and I was able to capitalize on that and get one early break and really kind of take control of that set.

I would say after I broke her the first game of the second set I was feeling like I was in control.

Q. That feeling of -- well, that idea of match management, of kind of understanding how you can -- yeah, maybe her level would dip and things like that, how much of that comes from experience of playing so many matches last year, seeing what it's like to be at times a higher-ranked player playing a lower-ranked player who comes out blazing but can't sustain, how much does that help in these sort of situations?

JESSICA PEGULA: I think that's something that I've gotten a lot better at the past, especially the past year, is managing the matches. Sometimes maybe you're not playing well or maybe something isn't working right, but I think you kind of know when to kind of step up and when, you know, you need to make something happen, when you don't need to force it, you can kind of almost feed off of how they are feeling and stuff like that.

I think against maybe the girls who aren't as experienced that that's really a huge factor in getting those wins or maybe pulling out a close set where -- I mean, it really could have gone either way, but I think maybe I just played the moments a little bit better.

That's definitely something I have learned the past year, and I think I've been able to use that in my matches as another tool, maybe not something, like it's not a stroke or anything but it's definitely something that has gotten a lot better.

Q. Lower-ranked players can sometimes, like when you haven't had the breakthrough, you can be a little bit too stuck in your own head and focusing on yourself, and as the experience comes of being a top player, I feel like top players are more aware of their opponent.


Q. Does that resonate with you?

JESSICA PEGULA: Definitely. I really felt like that even last year, making quarters here, even like through all the matches, I was just trying to do better at slams really, because I kind of had that feeling with slams. Like, I would build it up as it was this amazing, huge thing, and then once I kind of broke through that at the US Open last year, all of a sudden, it was like, Why was I making this such a big deal or this huge thing, when it really wasn't. I mean, it is but at the same time it's not.

It's like everything, once you finally get through that hurdle, and maybe you need a little luck, maybe you need something else to happen sometimes, I think. And, you know, for me, breaking through -- I remember last year I won a really tough match first round US Open, and I felt like that was kind of my breakthrough. Even playing Vika here last year first round, and I know she got a little sick or whatever in the second set, but sometimes that's what you need to kind of give you that confidence boost and all of a sudden you become so much more aware of what's going on and how to play the moments and don't get so caught up in your emotions, I think.

Q. First week in the books, three solid wins. Can you just kind of reflect on the week? What do you think, especially coming in, having not had a win in the season, what have you been particularly pleased with this week that you take into the second?

JESSICA PEGULA: Definitely think I have been playing better every match. Got through a really tough match first round where it was kind of just, you just had to compete to kind of win. Could have gone either way. Second match was dealing with a lot of conditions. Then third match today I think I played pretty solid. The second set I think probably is one of the better sets of tennis I have played since I have been here.

That's obviously very comforting that I feel like I'm playing better. It's good timing because I'm going to play Maria next, and I know she's going to compete really well and she's got a lot -- she does everything really well. Like, when she's firing on all cylinders she can be really tough, and we had a really tough match last year in Miami.

I'm glad I'm playing my way into the tournament a little bit, hopefully it's enough for next round. I'm just happy with the way I have been able to handle it. I know I didn't play a seed today or anything like that, but I think just getting through the challenge of, okay, I was supposed to kind of win was a different kind of challenge for me, and I think it's important for me to get through that.

Q. Speaking on playing Maria, yeah, your Miami match, I think a lot of people remember it quite well, I don't know how much you want to or don't want to...

JESSICA PEGULA: That was an insane match. It was crazy.

Q. It was. She was very complimentary of your maturity and just kind of on-court presence of staying calm and things like that, which she appreciated, she said. I'm curious, for you, from that Miami match, what do you take in terms of your ability to match up with her and the confidence of being able to get that win next. And, yeah, that's the main question there.

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, I know last time I had match points, but, I mean, I remember, credit to her, I didn't really do anything wrong on those match points, she literally was just like hitting the line like winners. I remember she hit like four backhand down-the-line winners or something crazy. I was just, like, this is insane. I wasn't even really giving away free points. I just remember she's always going to compete well, I know she can get really hot.

I remember the first set when I played her she was kind of blowing me off the court a little bit and then I was able to work my way into the match. I think I just, again, need to keep kind of that levelheadedness with these top players and not get too down on myself. And she's obviously really broken through at the slams. Last year she did really well I think in all of the slams and had match points I think at the French or something like that.

I know she's going to be tough, and I just have to go out there and compete, and, you know, think freely out there and think about what I'm doing, and like you said, be aware and stuff like that, which I feel has worked really well today. Hopefully it gives me a good chance.

Q. What are you doing throughout the first week in Melbourne off and away from the courts that seems to be keeping you in a good mind frame, good stead, you know, taking your mind off of all the hullabaloo of a slam?

JESSICA PEGULA: Honestly, I have been going to the casino a lot.

Q. Amazing.

JESSICA PEGULA: No, literally I think I have been like six times. I was going every single night. I remember I played the next day, and it was -- there literally is like a little walkway, like a two-minute walk across to my hotel.

I would just go and play some blackjack. It sounds silly, but it got me -- it was good for me, because it kind of relaxes you but you have to think a little bit in blackjack what to play. It's good, because it got me kind of thinking about strategy and all this stuff, but at the same time, it would kill some time and relax me.

I'm not losing like a ton of money or anything. I'm not, like, crazy, but honestly it's been really relaxing. So that's what I have been doing, which is kind of sad (smiling).

Q. Fantastic. Just blackjack is your game?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah. We played Casino War a couple times with my sister. It's like a crap shoot. You put your money down, you get like a 2 -- it's literally like War. So it goes too fast, and so my tennis coach actually -- I think the other day I was, like, Just play it once. He's like, No, it's so stupid.

So he played it once and got like a 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, lost like a hundred dollars. He's like, I'm never playing this game again. He's like, I have no control of what I'm doing.

Yeah, mostly it's been blackjack.

Q. Well, good luck with that.


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