WATCH: The Break—Kicking off the 2023 Australian Open

New Year, New Me: Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula turned the page on a brutal end to their 2022 seasons with an emphatic start in 2023, each winning their opening rounds at the Australian Open in straight sets.

The Americans opened Day 1 Melbourne Park action in emphatic style: Pegula dropped just one game against Jacqueline Cristian, 6-0, 6-1, while Gauff roared back from a break down in the second set to defeat current WTA doubles No. 1 Katerina Siniakova, 6-1, 6-4.

Both women spent last season making meteoric strides towards the top of women’s tennis—apart and together. Pegula broke into the world’s Top 3 thanks to a consistent excellence that yielded three Grand Slam quarterfinal appearances and a maiden WTA 1000 title in Guadalajara. Gauff peaked just behind Pegula at No. 4 but the 18-year-old went a step farther on the major stage, roaring into her first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros.

As a dynamic doubles team, they reached four finals—including one at Roland Garros—and won two titles, helping Gauff top the WTA doubles rankings just before the US Open.

All that momentum came to a stunning halt at the WTA Finals in Fort Worth. Playing in front of a small-but-mighty home crowd, Gauff and Pegula went a combined 0-9 across both disciplines with the former failing to win a set in singles.

“It's not even about the losses,” a dejected Gauff said after a 6-3, 6-0 defeat to world No. 1 Iga Swiatek. “Just some of the ways that I lost. I feel like I didn't improve this week. I feel like I stayed stagnant.”

Where Gauff fought back tears, Pegula found ways to laugh through the pain, eager to embrace the absurdity of her no good, very bad week.


“The celebrations definitely get cut short, when you you show up here, and then ‘I'm like, okay, and then I lose three matches.’ And you're kind of like, kind of down in the dumps again about your performance. But I think that's how tennis is all the time. That's what makes it so difficult.”

That’s exactly how tennis is: one demoralizing week can undo a year of progress, can cause a backslide so severe that all of those accolades can feel like a funny memory.

But a refreshing off-season appears to have done both women a world of good. Pegula amassed an impressive 4-1 record playing for the United States at the inaugural United Cup, finally scoring a victory over Swiatek after taking four losses to the Pole in 2022.

First on Margaret Court Arena Monday morning, she kept the match against Cristian under an hour, striking a near-even 13 winners to 12 unforced errors while saving all three break points on her own serve.

“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,” Pegula said in her post-match press conference. “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.”


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. Jessica Pegula

Looking to make a third straight Australian Open quarterfinal, Pegula has effectively reasserted herself among the world’s Top 3, with designs of going even farther at the site of her first major breakthrough.

“I definitely think I have just kind of been a little bit under the radar, but I don't mind that,” says Pegula. “I think that fits me and my personality as well.”

Gauff has been equally efficient through the first month of the season, winning her third career title at the ASB Classic in Auckland to arrive undefeated to the Australian Open. The teenager faced down a far trickier first hurdle in Siniakova, who had beaten her last fall at Billie Jean King Cup on the heels of her Fort Worth disaster.

Still, the No. 7 seed showed no signs of that stagnant self on Rod Laver Arena, racing through the opening set and winning the final four games of the second to book a mouth-watering second round against 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu.

If this is the form Gauff and Pegula, who are also seeded second in the women’s doubles draw, plan to maintain in Melbourne, then both fields better run for cover.