In an all-American showdown, No.22 seed Jennifer Brady charged past good friend Jessica Pegula 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 to clinch a spot in the Australian Open semifinals.
Brady continued her strong form on hardcourts. She marched into her second semifinal in the past two major events on that surface. On Thursday, she will face No.25 seed Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic, who upset World No.1 Ashleigh Barty in the day's first quarterfinal.
"I think I felt really good out there physically," Brady said during her post-match press conference. "I could maybe see on the other side of the net, maybe Jess was a little bit tired there. That definitely helped me mentally.
"It just gave me a little bit more confidence knowing that I'm doing pretty good, maybe she's a little bit tired, now is my chance to really step up here and take advantage of that."
Brady made her major breakthrough at the 2020 US Open, where she reached the final four before losing in three sets to eventual champion Naomi Osaka.
"I think both of us played a really good match in that [US Open] semifinal," Brady said. "I think we won match of the year on the women's side. I think that definitely solidifies the fact that we both played an impressive, high-quality tennis match from start to finish. I'm looking to hopefully replicate that in the next round tomorrow for my semifinal match.
"It definitely helps, just helps overall confidence. Really just knowing that I belong at this level, I can compete in the second week of Grand Slams consistently, and hope to continue to do that consistently."
The 61st-ranked Pegula was the last player to beat Brady before that US Open run, but it was Brady who commanded the final two sets as she picked up a win in 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Brady had dropped only 17 games on her way to the quarterfinals and was broken just twice in her first four matches. Pegula doubled that total, breaking Brady four times on the day, but Brady converted seven of her 10 break points. The first serve was again key for Brady: She made just under half of her first serves into play, but when she did, she won 82 percent of those points (including 12-for-12 in the third set).
Pegula won the first eight service points of the match while breaking Brady in the third to take a 4-2 lead. Brady, though, slammed four aces in a row to hold for 4-3 before leveling the set at 4-4.
Brady could not maintain her momentum and was stymied in the following game, dropping serve with a double fault before Pegula coolly served out the opener. Brady committed 17 unforced errors in the first set, while Pegula kept that number lower, with only seven miscues.
The second set was a turnaround for Brady, as she lowered her unforced error count to six, matching her winner count, and pulled her first serve percentage to a more manageable number (57 percent) to sweep to a 5-2 lead. Brady broke Pegula at love to tie up the match at one set apiece.
In the decider, Pegula gritted out a tough opening game, breaking Brady on her fifth chance of the battle to take the 1-0 lead. But that would prove to be a minor blip as an unfazed Brady broke back straight away, then held for 2-1 with two consecutive aces.
Brady’s ferocious forehands and steadily improving backhands forced errors from the racquet of Pegula as she reeled off game after game in the final set. With her power game clicking, Brady notched a love hold to win her sixth straight game and close out the victory.
"I think today I came out and was maybe pressing a little bit too much, trying to overplay, and was making a few unforced errors in the beginning of the first set," Brady said. "I was able to find my way towards the end of the first, but unfortunately got broken, then was a little bit frustrated, lost the first set.
"I found my way in the second set just playing more aggressive on my terms. I think towards the end of the third I was just really dialed in, tunnel vision, just kept going for my shots, playing aggressive."
Next up: Muchova.
"She's crafty," Brady said. "She looks to move forward, has an all-court game. She's really athletic. I hope it will be a good, competitive match. Yeah, I'm looking forward to it."