Jessica Pegula has been climbing rapidly up the ranks this season, and says that's partly because she's found the right combination of offense and defense.

The 27-year-old began the season ranked 62nd and has reached the Australian Open quarterfinals, where she fell to friend and eventual finalist Jennifer Brady, and then reached the semifinals of Doha. This week, she reached the quarterfinals of Dubai, though her exit will surely sting: she held four match points before falling to 10th-seeded Elise Mertens, 7-5, 5-7, 0-6.

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"I definitely think I’ve surprised myself a little bit," she told press earlier this week in Dubai. "It's hard to follow up a breakthrough. But once I got through qualification in Doha I started to relax a little bit more.

"It was tough mentally to do that—playing on Rod Laver [Arena] and now I’m on a side court and playing three rounds just to get into the tournament. It was a weird feeling, but I think I’ve settled in a little bit now."

Pegula has scored three Top 10 wins during her run, including back-to-back defeats of Karolina Pliskova in Doha and Dubai. She credits her improvement with learning to combine her traditional strengths with better defense.

"Australia and here I have been playing really aggressive," she told press in Doha. "The US Open, I definitely wasn't playing as aggressive. I think because I'm moving so much better that I was relying a lot on my movement and my defense. So I think now I'm almost kind of balancing both of those aspects of my game, whereas before I wasn't really a good mover, like my footwork wasn't really that great."

On the cusp of Top 30, Pegula lets large lead slip to Mertens in Dubai

On the cusp of Top 30, Pegula lets large lead slip to Mertens in Dubai

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Pegula has been coached by David Witt since 2019, winning her first career title in Washington at the start of their pairing.

Having been sidelined by some significant injuries during her career, she is now benefiting from competing consistently.

"My fitness, staying healthy, and then mentally I think staying healthy has really helped me," Pegula said. "Knowing that I feel good pretty much every match, knowing that I don't have to be too concerned about injuries or anything like that."

Currently, Pegula is at a career-high No. 36 in the rankings, and is expected to rise to No. 33 with this week's results.

On the cusp of Top 30, Pegula lets large lead slip to Mertens in Dubai

On the cusp of Top 30, Pegula lets large lead slip to Mertens in Dubai