Jessica Pegula and Magda Linette have become good friends in recent years. They often train together in Boca Raton, represent their peers on the WTA Players’ Council and sometimes share off-court activities.
But on Monday at the Miami Open, when they played an official match for the first time, Pegula was in frenemy mode. The No.3 seed scored a 6-1, 7-5 win over No.20 Linette to advance to her fourth quarterfinal of 2023.
"Everything was working, and then in the second set things got tough," Pegula said in a Tennis Channel interview. "I felt like I was going for too much at times. But I’m glad I was able to get some energy there and finish in two."
Next up for Pegula is No.27 Anastasia Potapova, a 6-4, 7-6 (4) winner over No.23 Zheng Qinwen. It’s a rematch of their third-round match at the BNP Paribas Open, won by Pegula only 16 days ago in three sets.
“It’s going to be really tough,” Pegula said of Potapova. “I just played her in Indian Wells and we really had a battle. She was playing at a really high level. She has been, for the last two, three tournaments she’s been playing well. She’s confident right now, she’s swinging for the fences.
“I think she probably likes these conditions a little fast. I’m going to take what I learned from playing her last time and I’m sure she’s going to do the same thing and we’re going to have a good match.”
In the midst of another strong start to the season, Pegula has 18 wins at this early juncture of the season. Only Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina, who had yet to play their fourth-round matches, were in the same conversation, with 19 and 18, respectively.
The 29-year-old American has cornered the market on quarterfinal berths in the WTA 1000 events; over the past three-plus years, she’s reached more of them (12) than any other player. Since 2009, only Serena Williams (30) and Venus Williams (21) have had more such appearances. Pegula was a semifinalist here a year ago, falling to eventual champion Iga Swiatek.
Linette, now 12-7, is playing some of the best tennis in her career. She reached the semifinals of the Australian Open earlier this year, but seemed out of sorts on the breezy court in Hard Rock Stadium. Linette is now 4-19 in matches against Top-10 opponents.
Pegula, who was unhappy with a pair of slow starts in Indian Wells, seems to have corrected the problem. Nine minutes into the match with Linette, she had already stroked seven winners – and won the first three games. It was 5-0 only 19 minutes in and the first set was in hand after 28 minutes.
The second set swung in an entirely different direction, with Linette taking a 5-2 lead. But, twice serving for the set, she was broken and Pegula leveled it at 5-all. In the end, Pegula won the final five games.
Potapova advances to second WTA 1000 quarterfinal
Heading into the match with Zheng, Potapova knew she would be operating in an unusual space. After playing the role of the aggressor to best Coco Gauff in the last round, Potapova flipped the script on Monday.
“Today was such a different match because I was on the defense,” she explained later. “She hits stronger than me, and I saw her struggling when I was getting back all the balls to her.”
Although Potapova and Zheng finished with 68 points each, Potapova was more efficient in the critical moments. She converted four of five break opportunities and held her nerve in the second-set tiebreaker.
The first set featured three breaks of serve, the last going to Potapova for a 5-3 lead. Serving for the set at 5-4, she emerged from a love-30 hole and won the final point with some terrific defense and a forehand that Zheng couldn’t handle at net.
It was 4-all in the tiebreaker when Zheng committed three straight backhand errors to send Potapova through.
Potapova, who turns 22 on Thursday, is looking forward to the rematch with Pegula. At Indian Wells, Potapova led the American 3-1 in the third before Pegula stormed back to secure a 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 win.
“I was pretty close to getting this win, but she was better that day,” Potapova said. “I worked on some things since then, and I really hope it’s going to work.”