Jessica Pegula is back up and running—in more ways than one.

Making her first appearance since the Australian Open and with new co-coach Mark Merklein watching on, Pegula cruised Wednesday night at the San Diego Open.

Taking on qualifier Jule Niemeier, the top seed moved forward, 6-0, 6-4, to close out the day’s second-round action

“I knew I was going to be a little nervous and things were going to be weird. But then I came out playing really well and I don’t think she was playing her best,” Pegula said on-court afterwards.

Niemeier won the first two points, the only lead she would enjoy. Pegula flew out to a one-set lead after just 24 minutes as the much steadier competitor.

Three successive double faults from the German in the third game set Pegula up to snatch a double break advantage by coming forward to pick off a backhand volley winner. With the American looking to work points with baseline hitting, errors ranging from overswung forehands to undercut slices piled up off Niemeier’s racquet.

Pegula capitalized on five of her six break points.

Pegula capitalized on five of her six break points.


Another double fault handed Pegula a 2-1 advantage in set two. The Buffalo, N.Y. native continued piling it on, knifing a crosscourt backhand slice winner and following it up with a backhand return winner to break for 4-1.

Matters became slightly complicated when Pegula served for the match. Leading 30-0, she was broken for the first time and then fell behind 0-40 on her following service game after Niemeier confidently held. Five straight points went Pegula’s way to wrap up the contest, ending with a terrific scrambling finish that was capped by one final winning backhand.

“I know she’s the type of player where she can make some really good shots. She has a lot of power and she’s super crafty. I definitely thought if I gave her any chance, she was going to try to make a run there at the end.”

During her pre-tournament media interviews, Pegula revealed that she had begun working with Merkein and former doubles world No. 1 Mark Knowles after parting ways with long-time coach David Witt. The arrangement is an evolving one: Pegula is based in Boca Raton, Fla. where Merklein also lives, while Knowles primarily works out of the Dallas area. Neither are in a position to commit to traveling full-time.

Pegula is bidding to win her fifth career title this week and first on U.S. soil since her maiden triumph at Washington, D.C. in 2019.

Earlier, Katie Boulter ousted second seed Beatriz Haddad Maia. The Brit rallied to prevail, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Sixth seed Marta Kostyuk and Australia’s Daria Saville also advanced to the quarterfinals.