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January 20, 2023

Jessica Pegula

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference

J. PEGULA/M. Kostyuk

6-0, 6-2

THE MODERATOR: Jessica, congratulations. Back into the fourth round here at the Australian Open. Can you give us your thoughts on your performance today?

JESSICA PEGULA: I mean, I think the score obviously looked dominant, but there was a lot of really tough games in that match. She can be really a dangerous player.

I think I just did a good job of playing every single point, every single game, really tough, not letting her kind of get any free points or free games. I made her really have to earn it today. I think that paid off.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Generally, how easy or hard is it for you to analyze your own game and the quality of your own play, sort of generally? More specifically, if you can do it, is this the best you've ever played tennis?

JESSICA PEGULA: I mean, I am kind of a perfectionist, so for me it doesn't take much for me to have to analyze my game. Even today, I was annoyed. I didn't think I served very well. I had that game to go up 5-1. I was up 30-Love. I missed a couple of first serves.

I don't have a problem analyzing my game (smiling). Usually I'm trying to do the opposite because I can overanalyze and be kind of a perfectionist in that way.

As far as how I'm playing, I mean, I'm definitely playing a lot better than I was last year here. A lot better. I don't know, I think I just got better on the off-season as well. We worked on a couple things. I felt coming out of off-season like I actually improved.

Sometimes it's hard to really say that because it's such a short off-season, it's like how much can you really improve. At the same time I did pretty well last year. You don't really want to go in saying you have to change all these things and all this stuff.

I think the stuff that I worked on even at the end of the year last year, that kind of trickled into the off-season. I did well and I was able to kind of execute it through United Cup. I think that just gave me confidence coming in here.

Q. How in your career have you tried to manage being a perfectionist in a sport where you can't really be perfect?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, it's tough 'cause definitely when I was younger, it came off as kind of a bad attitude. I'd get really negative or down on myself. It's tough.

But I also think you have to use it as a strength somewhat. I definitely started using that as a strength a lot with a lot of my off-court stuff, a lot of my rehabs I had to go through, a lot of my workouts, my warm-ups and stuff like that.

I've kind of been able to take my personality, which even though I'm a perfectionist, I'm still pretty laid back, kind of use that during the matches.

I think it was just balancing my strengths and weaknesses, I felt like, and how I can put those together to make the best situation because, yeah, being a perfectionist I think can be a strength. Like everything, there always can be a downside to that. Definitely, yeah, not being so hard on myself during the matches.

At that point there's really nothing you can change. Try to be a perfectionist off the court, but when it comes down to playing, you just have to understand that things aren't always going to go your way.

Q. When did you start to believe that the sky was sort of the limit with you? Was this something that you thought when you were 15, 18?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, I mean, my goal always, even when I was seven or eight years old, was to be No. 1 in the world, to try to win Grand Slam titles, be a professional tennis player. That was always my goal very young.

I don't think I quite grasped, like, what it took maybe when I was a teenager. I think then, I don't know, you don't really know what it takes, I guess. Then obviously through the course of injuries and stuff like that, I felt like I learned a lot about myself, what I had to do to kind of reach the top of the game.

I mean, I don't know, when I was 17, 18, I don't know if I ever really thought I could do it. I don't think I had that belief at that age. Maybe some people did.

It definitely came to me I think later maybe than most people. Maybe that's why I'm doing better later on in my career than I did when I was younger. Not sure.

Q. Do you remember any time specifically?


Q. When you started to have the belief? Was there something, This is clicking, this is working?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah. I mean, definitely the first year I probably cracked the top 100, I'm like, Okay, I'm putting myself in great position to do really well.

I feel like there was a lot of mini breakthroughs. Then it was like, Okay, doing well at the slams. Then I was like, Wow, I broke through there, because I didn't have a great slam record. Then after that, it was, like, I think, I don't know, winning my first WTA event. That was a big one.

So there's all these little, like, I don't know - what are they called - milestones I guess you could call them. I think it just kept building my confidence as I went along. I wouldn't say there was like a huge turning point.

Even like last year winning Guadalajara was another one of them, or making quarters of French Open, US Open. I feel like it just keeps kind of building.

Yeah, I'm not sure.

Q. How and why at seven years old did you think of tennis, I want to be No. 1 and win Grand Slams?

JESSICA PEGULA: I don't know. I really don't know. My older sister played collegiate tennis. I would always be around the courts, be there. But I don't really know what drove me to want to say that (smiling).

It was definitely always a goal. It was something I was good at, that I did a lot of, even at that age. I was playing quite a bit for like seven, eight years old.

I really couldn't tell you. It was just like a dream that I had. Luckily I was able to have a lot of passion and love for the game throughout my career, as well, to keep it going.

Yeah, I don't know. Maybe because my sister played. I don't know. I didn't really see anyone play and decide that's what I wanted to do. It was just I started playing and I was good at it.

That's kind of all she wrote, I guess.

Q. A lot of people are coming to your story later in your career. Maybe they weren't following you when you were 18, 19, 20, whatever. Was there ever a time when you came close or the thought came close of this isn't worth it?

JESSICA PEGULA: Definitely. Definitely. When I was a teenager and I started traveling for ITF events, that was hard because I was missing out on a lot of things. I wasn't doing that well.

I was going to these places that were, like, I mean, you're grinding when you're playing Grade 5 ITFs in Panama and Ecuador. It's hard. So being a teenager doing that, I definitely had moments of doubt.

I think probably after, like, my hip surgery, I was really down that I had to get a surgery. Again, I think all my moments, though, were very brief. I think I always came back to the game really quickly. It was never, you know, I quit for six months or something, or I needed to quit for a year. It was literally like a week and I feel like I would get over it really fast. Kind of just put my head down and get back to work.

I definitely had those moments, for sure.

Q. I imagine you weren't up at 4 a.m. last night watching Murray. Just wondering, Murray was quite critical, saying he doesn't think that players should play at 4 a.m. What do you think of that? I know it doesn't happen as much with women, but a few years ago Konta and Muguruza were playing at 3 a.m.

JESSICA PEGULA: It's crazy. There's no sport that does that. I don't think it's very good. I mean, I don't really know. It was a great match, but who really wants to watch a five-, six-hour match? How long was it?

Q. Almost six.

JESSICA PEGULA: Almost six, right? That's long, even for TV. I don't know who wants to do that. I don't think they want to do that. I think that definitely is something that needs to be talked about and changed.

I know it doesn't happen that often. But when it's happening at a Grand Slam, at the biggest stage, those guys, that could be the next round for them or the tournament. Doing that is not healthy. Like, the recovery I can't even imagine mentally and physically.

People also don't realize, you can't sleep after that either. You're so wired. Like, I don't even know if he probably could get any sleep after that.

I definitely think it's something that needs to be talked about because, yeah, I don't think any of the players think that should be happening at all.

Q. Not to put any club on blast or anything, but what was the worst conditions you played in on the ITF tour?

JESSICA PEGULA: Probably Ecuador. Like, there was like a Grade 5. No, I'm sorry, Paraguay. It was Paraguay. It was a Grade 5. It was like there's no AC, there's nothing. You're calling your own lines. It was, like, on clay. It was bad. It was tough out there in those days (smiling).

Q. You beat Iga 2-2 barely a week or two ago. Do you feel like your best is better than anyone's in the world?

JESSICA PEGULA: I hope. I hope that on my best day. I guess it depends on how their day is going as well.

I definitely played obviously very well against Iga. But I think I've also played a lot of great matches this week, as well. I've backed up my level.

Yeah, I think when I'm playing on, yeah, I think I can beat anybody. But, again, in the moment, under pressure, with nerves, on a different stage, depending on the conditions that day or how they're playing as well, that can always change and shift throughout a match.

But, yeah, I feel very confident that my game is at a very, very high level right now.

Q. I get the whole perfectionist thing. At the same time two of these three matches have been really lopsided scorelines. Do you take a moment at all to pat yourself on the back and say, Yeah, that was pretty good?

JESSICA PEGULA: I have a hard time, though. Like I always want to justify like why it wasn't that good like in my mind. Oh, well, you know, if she would have won that game, though... I got lucky. I shanked a return and got back in that game. That's just how my brain... I always feel like I'm justifying not giving myself enough credit.

But I think I'm just really proud of how I've played every single point. Whether I'm down Love-30 in the game, Love-40, 40-15 on a return game, I'm not just throwing that game away. I'm making them earn every single point. I think that is definitely what I'm really proud of this week.

Even in Sydney, I was just not letting people breathe. I'm not checking out, like, on any single point. I think you have to do that if you want to be at a high level.

The more you do it, even playing against girls that aren't that high, the easier it's going to be when you play a really top player and you really need to dig in and you need it, it's kind of like building a good habit.

I'm definitely really proud of myself because that's been really good the last few weeks.

Q. On doubles yesterday with Coco, it was a fun match. How did it feel to get the band back together?

JESSICA PEGULA: I think, yeah, right after we won, Coco was like, Oh, we're finally past Fort Worth or something.

I'm like, What? Why were you thinking about that?

She was like, Well, I wasn't really, but you know what I mean. It's in the past now officially.

We did the same thing after I think US Open. We won our next match after that. I forget where we were.

She was like, Thank God, it's in the past.

It was definitely nice. I actually didn't really practice with her much at all I think in the off-season. We were kind of on different schedules. So I haven't really seen her that much. Then she was in Auckland.

It was fun to get back out there. I definitely felt like - not rusty - but sometimes you're a little out of sync. I think we got it going there in the third, were able to pull out a pretty tough win.

I think Donna and Martincova were playing really solid. We knew it was going to be a tough match. Hopefully we can kind of get through that one and have some confidence throughout the rest of the tournament.

Q. How does it feel to be a top three seed in all three disciplines? We sometimes focus on the physical toll of playing at a major, but just the mental, competitive toll, getting up mentally for these matches all the time.

JESSICA PEGULA: I've always sort of enjoyed it because, like, I'm here to play tennis. To me, sitting in my room not doing anything all day, like, I find myself more anxious or overthinking things.

When I have something else to focus on, like doubles or even mixed doubles, where I'm still getting in practice, I'd much rather do that than come to the courts and practice for an hour, then overthink about how I didn't feel that great.

To me it's just another chance to, like, build confidence and to work on things and stay in that competitive mindset. For me, I really enjoy it.

Obviously mentally sometimes there can be long days. If you play a lot in one day, I think that's where sometimes it can get difficult and hard. But I felt really great physically honestly.

The last few years really I haven't had any major issues. I know what I need to do to feel good. Again, it's only half the court. Mixed, as well, because you're returning the guy's serve, so it goes pretty quick (smiling).

But again, like I said, I enjoy playing. The more chances I can get to play at these big events, I think I just appreciate it and I enjoy that.

Q. You've made a lot of fourth rounds and quarterfinals in a short period of time. How experienced do you feel as a Grand Slam player? Do you feel that experience or...

JESSICA PEGULA: Definitely. I definitely feel like now I can walk out there and I feel like I'm winning before I step out on the court. It's a weird feeling to have that because before, you know, I didn't feel like that. I've always wondered what that felt like.

Now I feel like the last few Grand Slams, more than that really, you get so much more comfortable. I think you start your confidence level of going out there and controlling the match. Even when it's not going great, I feel like I'm in control the whole time.

Again, you're in charge of the moment. The moment's not really getting to you. Sometimes I do feel, now that I'm on the other side, I can feel the girls kind of panicking a bit, maybe not playing to their full potential because maybe it's a little overwhelming, they feel like they have to do more against me.

It's a different feeling, for sure.

Q. How much is the Damar Hamlin and his situation driving you?

JESSICA PEGULA: It's been really inspirational. It's obviously been a huge news story. Everyone has kind of heard about it around the world.

It definitely affected me in a way obviously during United Cup where I was a little, like, you just feel weird because you don't know what's happening. It was a Monday night game, such a big deal.

Now I think that he's recovered so quickly and so fast that it's just taken a lot of weight off of the teams, the players, the sport, other players. It's just been a really amazing story.

Any time I can kind of ride that amazing kind of story and feeling, I think it's good to try to take that with you into your matches.

I think definitely some part of it has inspired me a lot. It's cool. He's wrote me, like, a few times as well after I've won here. It's just amazing. I think it just shows you that people's lives are at stake. It's so much bigger than sport. Sometimes we lose sight of that.

I think it helped me, again, put things in perspective, like, of what the big picture is. Sometimes it's not a tennis match. At the same time that can help you kind of play free and not get so stressed I think.

So I definitely have carried some of it with me, for sure.

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