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From the hunter to being hunted, consistent Jessica Pegula now chasing titles
"She's very good at competing and not putting pressure on herself," says coach David Witt ahead of his pupil's Toronto semifinal with Simona Halep.
Published Aug 13, 2022
QUARTERFINAL HIGHLIGHTS: Pegula defeats Putintseva
Jessica Pegula has found consistency—but now she'd like more trophies.
The American, who is into the semifinals of this week's National Bank Open in Toronto, is at a career-high No. 7 with a 29-14 record so far this season. What she doesn't have yet in 2022 is a title, and her one career tournament win was all the way back at Washington in 2019—her first event with coach David Witt.
"Consistency is nice," she told press following her quarterfinal win against Yulia Putintseva at Toronto. "But of course I always want to win the tournament. I always want to go in winning the tournament.
"But it's hard. It's so many matches. So many things can happen and change. So it's really day by day. But yeah, of course I'm happy to, again, happy to be able to put myself in a semifinal position where I have a chance to get the trophy."
And while Pegula will be looking to hit top form for the final two rounds, she can rely on the day-to-day level she's achieved to hold her in contention.
"I think I can be consistent and still win a title," Pegula said. "But of course it would be nice if something special did happen and it helped me win the title."
Getting to this point hasn't been easy, either this week or in her career.
Pegula fended off a match point to win a third-round meeting with defending champion Camila Giorgi, having come off a doubles title in Washington the week before and some training for the hard-court season.
"We got a couple good weeks practice," said Witt, speaking to TENNIS.com. "There are no easy rounds. It's the way she's competed, leaving Washington, winning the doubles [there] then a couple of tough matches. And when you come through tough matches, it just builds confidence."
That's something Pegula has done a lot of recently. Following an injury-interrupted start to her career, she has rapidly climbed from below the Top 50 in 2020 to a Top 10 regular. Now, she'll need it to adjust to her new status.
Having been a surprise semifinalist in Montreal in 2021, she's the top seed left in the field in Toronto. That requires a different mentality, says Witt.
"Confidence is everything," he said. "Now knowing she belongs here. Before she was the hunter. Now she's being hunted a lot.
"When she was the hunter, it was more believing in yourself that you can beat these people. And once you start beating these people, you become more confident. Now, everyone wants to beat you, but you know they have to have their A games. She's very good at competing and not putting pressure on herself.
"You've got to defend what you have done. She's done that this week."
Confidence is everything. Now knowing she belongs here. Before she was the hunter. Now she's being hunted a lot. —David Witt on Jessica Pegula
It's come from a lot of hard work on her game since they started together in 2019.
"Her conditioning is great," said Witt. "We're always working on serving, every day. And then, she's such a good ballstriker, just moving forward. A lot of strategies, learning to adapt to who she's playing."
The aim is winning that first big event, and a Grand Slam breakthrough.
Pegula was a round away in the final of May's Madrid Open, and her coach says that run has helped motivate her.
"All you can do is keep getting yourself in that position," he said. "Madrid, that was a great step.
"We have reached a lot of goals, there are a lot we still want to accomplish."
Still, there's one title Pegula has already secured—she is currently the top-ranked American on the WTA Tour. That wasn't unnoticed by player and coach.
"We did throw around a few little things, 'it's awesome, No. 1 American.' She's got there and she wants to stay up there," he said.
And it doesn't look like she plans on stopping there.