When asked about tournament draws, most players will hold the line that they never look at them. They have no opinions about who else is in their section. They only know who they're playing next because a journalist told them in the press conference. Often, you feel that they're one step away claiming that they don't even know what a draw is.
Not Jessica Pegula.
"I don't know why it's like this thing in tennis not to look at your draw," she said after defeating Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-2, 7-6(5) in the second round of the Australian Open. "I don't know how you don't see who you're gonna play. I'm going to see on Twitter or on Instagram or anywhere, or someone is going to come up to me and say something, so I don't know why I'm trying to like act like it's such a superstitious thing."
Break Point: Netflix
“Break Point,” a new docuseries from the team behind “Formula 1: Drive to Survive,” showcases the sheer volume of blood, sweat and smashed…
Instead, Pegula feasts on tournament draws, poring over them and breaking them down just like pundits and fans do every week. There's a professional element to it -- Pegula likes to be prepared for who she's likely to face. But at heart, she's a tennis nerd who enjoys weighing up the long list of variables that go into making predictions.
"Not just my section," she said. "I like looking at it as a whole. I think it's fun. I think it becomes like a game, kind of like a problem-solving game."
Doing well at games requires knowledge, and it soon becomes clear just how much expertise Pegula brings to the table about her fellow competitors. She knows about their form, their possible injuries, their talent level. Her own section of the draw this fortnight was an intriguing one, featuring young talents Amanda Anisimova and Marta Kostyuk, and Pegula assessed it with a keen eye -- one that also went beyond the obvious names.
More from Day 3:
- Pegula takes down Sasnovich
- Gauff holds off Raducanu
- Slam champions Ostapenko, Krejcikova, Rybakina, Azarenka advance
- With Netflix cameras on her, Pegula shows off her punditry
- Krejcikova healthy and happy again
- Day 3 by the numbers
- Great Escapes 2023: Winning from match point down
"I saw that Marta was in my section. I thought she would beat Amanda because Amanda hasn't been playing. I was like, 'Huh, that will be interesting if she gets through.' I think she's really dangerous. I think she should be ranked a lot higher than she is. I think she's super talented.
"It will be interesting, though, to see her play a young Aussie who has a lot of power [Kostyuk's second-round opponent, wild card Olivia Gadecki]. I actually watched her play at United Cup. I remember watching her play a couple years ago, as well. She has a really powerful game and a big serve."
Having analyzed her own part of the draw, Pegula also took a deep dive into one of Day 3's marquee matches: No.7 seed Coco Gauff's clash with former US Open champion Emma Raducanu.
"I have to go with Coco," Pegula said. "I think she's just playing with a lot of experience right now. Even though she's so young, I feel like you just know she's going to go out there and win the matches she's supposed to win. At least that's what it seems like. I know she hasn't always had the best results here.
"I think it will probably help her playing at night where the ball is not flying as much on her. I don't know if that will necessarily help Emma in a way, but it's tough to say. With Emma, she's only played a few matches, and she unfortunately sprained her ankle in Auckland, so I don't really know where she's at physically."
There's an element of motivation to Pegula's problem-solving, too. At Roland Garros last year, looking ahead spurred her on to a first quarterfinal run.
"It's how I set goals, I guess you would say," she said at the time. "I look at it like chess. Like, you're kind of just trying to work your way through and see what happens. I like playing that game in my head where it's like, oh, this is a great little opportunity. Like, this person loses, I like playing this person. You see it break down and then you try to work your way through."
Power and finesse 👌@JLPegula • @wwos • @espn • @eurosport • @wowowtennis • #AusOpen • #AO2023 pic.twitter.com/hv1ZDhAhNS— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 18, 2023
In Melbourne, Pegula is being shadowed by the Netflix camera crew behind the "Break Point" documentary about life on tour. The first five episodes dropped last week, with the next five to follow in June. Should "Break Point" be renewed for a second season, Pegula is in line to be at its forefront.
"Are they here? Oh, I didn't even know," she said, jokingly. "That means they're doing a good job."
Pegula, who pops up occasionally in Season 1 in brief interviews, has already seen the impact of the documentary in her own social circle.
"I had a lot of friends that don't really follow tennis that much besides me, and they just felt it was really cool," Pegula said. "They felt like they got to know the players a little bit more, and then they could make the connection between me playing with these players."
The same ability to see the bigger picture makes Pegula an interesting pundit. It also makes her open to working with Netflix.
"I want to have more exposure, help the sport," she said. "I feel like you have to give back. I think we need to break into this generation of fans. It can be very traditional. I think tennis needs more of that. So I think going into Netflix, doing something a little bit different, is definitely going to be good for the sport."