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January 16, 2023

Jessica Pegula

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference

J. PEGULA/J. Cristian

6-0, 6-1

THE MODERATOR: Jessica, welcome back to Melbourne. How does it feel to get a first round win under your belt?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, it was obviously an ideal situation. Always feels good when you win a match like that. I think when those days come you just kind of take it and don't complain and don't critique. You kind of just move on to the next one.

Definitely first matches are always really tough, especially at a slam, there's so much hype and anxious nerves leading up. So I'm glad it just went very smooth.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. It's been a few matches that you've played now starting with United Cup that you've come off the court saying precisely that, Yeah, good day, move on. How does it feel to have this kind of run of matches, and how much is that impacting your confidence?

JESSICA PEGULA: It definitely gives me a lot of confidence. I think winning matches like that, knowing I'm playing really focused every single point and not letting any kind of points or games go to waste, I think that helps your game a lot. I think especially in these tournaments where you have to win a lot of matches, I think the more you keep doing that, the easier -- not easy -- but easier it gets. I think it's kind of, you know, having to keep your focus like that every time. I'm glad I'm able to do that very well and it's paying off.

But at the same time, you know, sometimes it's just matchups, sometimes it's just a good day, sometimes there's a lot of other factors that just kind of make it a perfect recipe or whatever.

I still try to take every match as a new match, and I go in honestly expecting it to be a really, really tough battle. So when it happens like this, it's just kind of a nice surprise.

Q. You didn't look nervous but you say there are nerves leading into a Grand Slam. How do nerves manifest themselves with you?

JESSICA PEGULA: I was really happy I was first on today. I think definitely waiting around at the site for that first round I'm like, Let's just get it over with. If I'm going to be out first round, I would rather know first match than not. I would hate to have to wait last day Tuesday to kind of get through that.

But I think all players it's always first rounds. It's hard. I mean, every round is hard, but first round especially, especially playing a girl I didn't know, I've never played her before, never practiced with her, don't know her much.

I think for me it's just like the waiting around, the buildup. I'm usually kind of freaking out in practice a little bit. Everything starts to bother me a little bit more. The strings start to bother me. Like certain courts I start getting very, I think, critical of all these different things going on.

Honestly, I'm always like that, I think. I have just gotten good at, Okay, match day starts, none of that really matters. That's what I've gotten better at.

I would say like the week leading up, I definitely get very hard on myself during practice.

Q. You've obviously made this incredibly sort of steady climb up the rankings. What do you think, is it harder to go from 20 to 10 or 10 to 8 and now you're at 3? How do you view the gulf between 3 and 1?

JESSICA PEGULA: Well, I think, I mean, that's a tough question. I think they were both very distinctive jumps where you realize you kind of have to go to this next level that you maybe haven't gone before. Top 20, that was, you know, going deeper in a slam or going deeper at a big 1000, and, you know, winning one possibly. Then obviously going into the top 10, it just gets harder, I think. It's just having to come up with a bigger result than maybe you're used to.

I mean, they all definitely had their challenges. I think at the same time you're at that mental state where you haven't reached those goals before, so they seem very distant or they seem very difficult. Once you reach them you're kind of are like, Okay, the stress, kind of monkey on your back falls off a little bit.

From 3 to 1, it's the same. It's, you know, maybe winning a slam, it's winning bigger tournaments more often. Going deeper more consistently. That's tough when you have someone like Iga or Ons who put up a lot of really big results. Winning Grand Slams or finals of Grand Slams and winning 1000s is tough to do.

So I think, again, every week I try to go in with a new challenge and mentality every single match. But, I mean, those are, I guess, my goals would be to win more of those.

Q. I believe you hit with Frances yesterday?


Q. Curious, in general what's it like to hit with Frances? Is there like for you an added, I guess, value to hit with a top male player?

JESSICA PEGULA: I also warmed up with him this morning, too. I think, during United Cup we just got, we were playing the same day, so we ended up to share like center court, we would just warm up together.

I think Taylor and Maddie also did the same thing because they were the same day a few times. I think we just got in that rhythm, and then we hadn't, like, lost a match since so we were like, We just need to keep it going.

I think also, like I said before, my nerves usually come out in practice where I'm not hitting well and I'm freaking out. And Frances is just so happy-go-lucky, the biggest hype person ever. I think it's good I hit with him yesterday because it kind of relaxed me a little bit. I'm a little bit more focused, which he needs, so I think it helps him in that way. And I think he likes hitting with me, he says, for the rhythm. He says he feels like the best player in the world when he hits with me (smiling).

We give each other a little confidence, I guess.

Q. Did you like the ball he gives back, the heavier men's...

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, he doesn't hit like full on heavy. I think it's so funny, at least most of the guys I know, when they go to warm up or they hit, especially before a tournament, they're pretty relaxed. They're just out there like trying to get a little bit groove, not like chasing down balls, they're not freaking out, they're not really working on anything.

So I think girls are a little bit different in that aspect except for I remember maybe warming up with Ash. I felt she warmed up like a guy. She takes like five serves, hits a couple of slices, and she's like done.

I have tried to do that more. I think hitting with Frances forces me to do that, because I'm like I don't want to look like I'm some crazy overanalytical player.

So I've kind of tried to take some of that from the guys and put that into my warmups. Because, I mean, if I'm not like -- I always say to my coach, if I'm not ready by now, I'm never going to be ready. I play in an hour. I've got to get over it. Yeah, I think it helps.

Q. In terms of, I think at some point the mics caught you on one of the changeovers at the United Cup saying that you were seeing the ball like a watermelon, you were seeing it so big.


Q. I'm curious, when you are in the zone, which it seems like is where you're at right now, what does the game look like to you? Is it that, that you're seeing the ball big? Is it you're reading it like Neo in "The Matrix"? What does it feel like for you?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, definitely for me I feel like I'm sitting on a lot of the right returns, I feel like I'm making every single return. I feel like second serves I'm being super-aggressive but also giving myself good margins. I don't feel like I'm going for anything that seems stupid.

Even if it maybe isn't the highest percentage shot on paper like when you're looking at it, to me I know I'm going to make it.

I think it's just sometimes you're seeing it very well, and for me that's just taking it early, changing direction, like at the right time and hitting good shots and definitely returning well.

Sometimes, though, it's hard when I'm playing like that. I remember when I was playing Harriet, I think that's probably when I was saying it, that it's hard, because I also want to overhit. I feel like I'm so, like, Oh, my god, it's slow motion, that I get a little bit more, I have to settle down. I think that's what I was telling my coach, I'm seeing it really good, I need to chill out.

Because at the same time you like want to go for every single shot, and then it can kind of flip if you're not careful. So it's nice, but then honestly sometimes like I don't like when I'm seeing it that well, because I feel like something is about to go off.

But, yeah, I mean, I shouldn't really complain about that, but it's true (smiling).

Q. Slightly different subject. I hope you're not too sick of getting asked about the Bills. It's obviously a big day for your parents with them in the playoffs. Were you able to catch any of that game? Have you been in touch with your parents at all today?

JESSICA PEGULA: I woke up around 7:00 and got to basically watch most of the second half, except when I was like driving here. And then the game finished before I started my warmup, so I was out there watching. There wasn't really many people out here yet, but I was here watching.

It was a tough game. Not the prettiest of wins, definitely an ugly win, I think. But same thing, it's like first game, playoffs, everyone is kind of nervous, a lot of tension. My coach is a big Jaguars fan so he had a crazy game yesterday, biggest comeback in playoff history or something and he was going crazy.

Yeah, it was fun obviously for them to get that win before I went on court. It wouldn't have really affected me, I don't think, but I would have just been annoyed that they lost.

I talked to them a little bit. We have a family group chat and they'll send updates and stuff like that. But I think everyone was like, Whew, got through that one, because they were struggling there for a bit.

Q. Tennis is a very mental sport, as we all know. I wanted to ask you about the word "choking." People have different ideas what that is. Some people say one thing, some say another.


Q. How would you define...

JESSICA PEGULA: "Choking"? It's very harsh. It's a harsh word. I mean, yeah, like the Chargers kind of choked yesterday against the Jags a little bit.

I think everyone kind of does to some extent. I think it's just because you get nervous. Some days there's no rhyme or reason. Some days you can feel like you're a little tense and for some reason you can feel like maybe the momentum is shifting in a match and you're just putting a lot of pressure on yourself to do the right thing. I think maybe instead of thinking clearly you're more panicking a little bit instead of trying to think of the big picture.

But, I mean, to be honest, to me it's nerves, I think. It's just nerves. It's just maybe "choking" leans more to you're letting your nerves kind of get the best of you more than you're playing.

Sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's people I think that don't play sports kind of just assume everyone is always choking with a lead. As a tennis player, I can call out matches, somebody would be, Oh, yeah, they totally choked. I'm like, Not really. That girl played really well. Completely raised her level and the other person wasn't really doing anything wrong.

I think there is a little bit of a misconception, where I think people usually that haven't playing the sport and sitting and watching it's very easy to say, Oh, they're choking, they're choking. When really I think it's more of a momentum shift and maybe more nerves and just how you're kind of handling those nerves.

Q. It can come out physically too.

JESSICA PEGULA: Oh, yeah. Definitely when you're nervous you freeze up. You don't want to move your feet. You get a little tense on your serve. I think physically you definitely freeze up more.

Q. In terms of the win over Iga obviously at United Cup, haven't had a chance to talk to you about that yet, but now a week and a half on or so, is that a big milestone to you in your head? Is it significant? Was it just another match? How do you process that result?

JESSICA PEGULA: I think for me it just kind of felt like another match. I was so focused on like our team winning that I didn't really acknowledge it as much I think as if it happened here or another event to me. To me it just felt like another match.

Again, I felt like I played pretty flawless in a way. It was just one of those matches where I really liked the conditions there and I was feeling it. She maybe wasn't totally comfortable yet with the courts and the conditions.

I think I just played a really high level. And to me, that was like the final, so not that I knew we were going to beat Italy, but I thought maybe we were like the two best teams all around in that event.

So to me, I really was just focused on winning. I just really wanted to get us a 1-0 lead and let the rest of the team do their thing.

It definitely didn't seem very big. I think honestly I was just trying to get the team to get a win.

Q. Do you feel at all underestimated? We were talking about it before, you have sort of had this steady climb, but in some ways, it almost feels like you still sneak up on people.

JESSICA PEGULA: Oh, maybe. Yeah, I think maybe a little bit. I think also just my personality, I think my age. You know, I think girls like Iga or Ons, I feel like maybe their stories are a little bit more, I don't know, grab more attention. Ons, for what she's doing for the region she comes from in Africa and all that stuff, and then obviously she made two slam finals as well.

Iga obviously being younger and bursting onto the scene and winning crazy match win streaks. I guess those maybe grab more attention probably than me.

I definitely think I have just kind of been a little bit under the radar, but I don't mind that. I think that fits me and my personality as well. I don't think I do too many things to really grab a ton of attention.

So, yeah, maybe. But I think it's fitting.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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