MADRID -- Jessica Pegula had her Hologic WTA Tour 1000 breakthrough a year ago, reaching the final at the Mutua Madrid Open. And while you might think she’s feeling some pressure to defend those points, the 29-year-old said that’s not the case.
“I’m not really thinking about finals,” Pegula said last week. “I don’t think it’s this grand thing. I’m used to playing these events and going deep. I feel like my confidence and experience at these events has gotten better and better. It’s not like I only did well at this event and I have to do well again.”
And yet, after a grinding 2-hour, 16-minute Sunday match, the World No.3 has put herself in position to do just that. A 6-4, 7-6 (2) victory over Marie Bouzkova, sends her into Monday’s Round of 16, where she’ll meet No.18 seed Martina Trevisan.
74 - @JLPegula saved 12 of 14 break points faced in her win over Marie Bouzkova. At a rate of 60.2%, Pegula has now faced (123) and saved (74) break point more than any other player in WTA 1000 matches so far this year. Grit.#MMOPEN | @MutuaMadridOpen @WTA @WTA_insider pic.twitter.com/oikVSTPekQ— OptaAce (@OptaAce) April 30, 2023
Pegula displayed remarkable poise in the opening game that required 26 points and consumed more than 14 minutes. Sweat was already running down her cheeks when she executed a crisp drop shot, followed by a final forehand winner into the open court.
“I think that kind of set the tone for the match, and I was kind of like, ugh,” Pegula said. “But with Marie it’s always like that. She always makes you earn it -- a lot. I knew that going in. I’m just glad I was able to play some really good tennis."
Bouzkova kept up the pressure in the second set and eventually forced a tiebreak, which, oddly enough, offered little drama. Pegula won the first five points and coasted to victory.
Pegula is now 26-7 for the season, second only to Aryna Sabalenka (25) in victories. She’s into Madrid’s final 16 for the third consecutive year.
At the same time, she’s been quick to jump on break-point opportunities; Pegula has converted 67 so far this year in WTA 1000 events (three Sunday vs. Bouzkova), more than any other player and overall a tour-leading total of 149.
Pegula also saved 12 of 14 break-point opportunities against Bouzkova.
Among Americans who have played a minimum of WTA 1000 clay-court tournaments, only Serena Williams (88 percent) has a better winning percentage than Pegula’s 75 percent.
Pegula said that last year taught her to be more open-minded about the minor adjustments she and coach David Witt need to make on clay. She’s making a conscious effort to move more efficiently, hit more drop shots and accept that rallies are going to last longer than on other surfaces.
Coming in, Pegula had played more 10-shot-plus rallies (137) in this season's WTA 1000 events than any other player. Against Bouzkova, displaying remarkable patience, she weathered a number of long points and games.
This is only the second meeting with Trevisan. Back in January, Pegula won 6-4, 6-2 in a United Cup match in Australia.
“Going to be another really tough clay-courter, someone who’s going to make me earn it,” Pegula said. “Martina’s really loud and feisty and competes really well. She loves the clay, so it’s going to be a really big test for me.”