I just played every point super tough, which I think you have to do against her. Jessica Pegula after her 6-1, 6-1 win over No. 4 seed Elina Svitolina
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On an impressive day for U.S. tennis at Indian Wells, Rogers outlasts Fernandez, Pegula routs Svitolina and Fritz beats Berrettini
Published Oct 13, 2021
As well as this week has started for Kim and Terry Pegula, its ending could be even sweeter.
On Sunday night (which stretched into Monday morning), the National Football League team the Pegulas own, the Buffalo Bills, put together one of their most complete and convincing regular-season wins in years, defeating the Kansas City Chiefs and their star quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, 38-20, on the road in the hostile confines of Arrowhead Stadium. The Bills’ star quarterback, Josh Allen, punctuated the victory with a meme-able leap over a Kansas City defender on third down, late in the contest:
Surely watching the game after her own victory that night in Indian Wells, Kim and Terry’s daughter Jessie tweeted, “Both getting the dub tonight.”
Two days later, it was another dub for Pegula, and it’s worth considering if we’re witnessing the start of Jessie’s own leap. The 27-year-old from Buffalo entered the prestigious BNP Paribas Open with a 36-18 record on the year and a ranking just one spot off her career-high (which she set in September). Pegula hasn’t won a title this season, but has been building toward a momentous result since the start of the year, when she reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the Australian Open. Since then, Pegula has been a consistent threat around the world and on different surfaces: semifinals of the loaded Qatar Total Open in Doha; a quarterfinal at the Dubai WTA 1000; round-of-16 showings in Miami and Madrid; quarterfinal in Rome; third round of Roland Garros; semis in Montreal; third round at the US Open. It seems like only a matter of time before something even bigger happens.
Could that something happen, like her Bills, at one the most significant “regular-season” tournaments in her sport?
It’s impossible to discount considering Pegula’s play in the California desert. She began her tournament last Friday with a 6-2, 6-3 dismissal of Sloane Stephens, and after her aforementioned straight-set win over Jasmine Paolini, Pegula put forth her most complete and convincing showing, a 6-1, 6-1 rout of No. 4 seed Elina Svitolina.
“I just thought I played really smart; I stuck to my game plan from what I remembered when I played her last time,” Pegula told Tennis Channel afterward. “I just played every point super tough, which I think you have to do against her.”
Tuesday’s encounter was Pegula and Svitolina’s third meeting this year, with the American taking their most recent and most important match, in the round of 16 at the Australian Open. (Pegula lost her opening match of the year to Svitolina in Abu Dhabi).
With the win—her seventh over a Top 10 player this season—Pegula has now reached her seventh quarterfinal of the year; she’ll face Victoria Azarenka or Aliaksandra Sasnovich next. For Pegula, it hasn’t just been a physical or mental adjustment that’s seen her reach new heights—rather, they’ve gone hand in hand.
“I think it was just a mental thing—I was hurt a lot of the previous years,” said Pegula. “I think I gained a lot of momentum and was able to build off of it, really the past two years. So I think that was really important.
“The year before this year, I had a lot of firsts, too. Before COVID I did pretty well. I just was able to build off that and keep getting better. David [Witt, her coach] has really helped me a lot.”
Regardless of how this week ends for Pegula and her parents, next week will be even sweeter—she’s getting married. But even so, I’m sure Jessie wouldn’t mind comparing the feeling of lifting a winner’s trophy and receiving a wedding ring.—Ed McGrogan
I think they just got a good picture. Just training, fitness five times a week, trying to eat well. Taylor Fritz after his 6-4, 6-3 win over No. 5 seed Matteo Berrettini
Taylor Fritz joined Pegula in stringing together a straight-set victory over a notable opponent. Taking on world No. 7 Matteo Berrettini, Fritz refused to allow the Wimbledon finalist to command the court with his forehand and was rewarded with a 6-4, 6-3 victory, his first against a Top 10 player in five attempts this season.
“I don’t really think about it too much when I’m playing. Obviously a good confidence booster to beat a top player,” Fritz told Tennis Channel's Steve Weissman when asked about the significance of knocking out an opponent ranked inside the Top 10. “I thought I stuck to my game plan pretty well today. Took care of the things I wanted to take care of.”
After eliminating Italy’s top-ranked pro, Fritz will next go up against the nation’s No. 2, Jannik Sinner. The 20-year-old arrived in Indian Wells on the back of winning the indoor event in Sofia for his third title of the year, and continues to strengthen his case to reach the ATP Finals, which Turin will host for the first time in November.
The two have never faced off in a match before, though as Fritz notes, there won’t have many secrets between them in a clash he expects to deliver on the quality front.
“Jannik’s an incredible player. He hits the ball just big off of both sides. Kind of like what I try and do,” said the American, who is bidding to make a quarterfinal on the ATP 1000 stage for the first time. “We’ve practiced together several times. It’s always a very high level, us just going back and forth ripping the well.”
Asked about the shirtless photo he posted on Instagram ahead of his opening match here, Fritz downplayed his toned physique.
“I think they just got a good picture. Just training, fitness five times a week, trying to eat well.”—Matt Fitzgerald
I can’t wait to dig in. Good thing I burned some calories out there on court today. Shelby Rogers after defeating US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez in a final-set tiebreaker
One player who won’t have any problem eating well today—and tomorrow—is Shelby Rogers.
The Mount Pleasant, S.C. prevailed over US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez in thrilling fashion by doing what so many couldn’t figure out in New York: how to finish off the feisty left-hander. At Flushing Meadows, Fernandez won all five tiebreakers she played, including three in win-or-go-home situations.
On Stadium 1 this afternoon, however, it was Rogers who completed a terrific turnaround, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4), to get through to the last eight. At 5-5 in the third set, Rogers staved off three break points, before Fernandez saved a match point to force the decisive breaker.
“I thought it was an incredible battle today. I thought we both played really well at times,” Rogers assessed in her virtual press conference. “It was a sort of tug-of-war kind of match, one that's really fun to play actually. It's a special sort of challenge.”
Set to celebrate her 29th birthday on Wednesday, Rogers was presented a treat she had mentioned to Weissman over the weekend when stopping by the Tennis Channel desk at Indian Wells.
“I asked for brownies the other day, and you actually made it happen. Thank you so much Steve,” she said. “I can’t wait to dig in. Good thing I burned some calories out there on court today.”
For a place in the semifinals, Rogers meets No. 24 seed Jelena Ostapenko. The Latvian won a battle of past Roland Garros champions, 6-4, 6-3, over No. 2 seed Iga Swiatek. Another form of sweet—revenge—may be on Rogers’ mind after coming out on the losing end to Ostapenko in the doubles event this past Saturday.—Matt Fitzgerald