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Pegula sets up all-American quarterfinal at Australian Open

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Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 15, 2021 Jessica Pegula of the U.S. celebrates winning her fourth round match against Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina REUTERS/Kelly Defina
MELBOURNE – Jessica Pegula continued her dream run at the Australian Open on Monday with a 6-4 3-6 6-3 win over fifth seed Elina Svitolina to set up an all-American quarterfinal against Jennifer Brady, who beat Croatia’s Donna Vekic in straight sets.
Pegula struggled badly in the second set at Rod Laver Arena but regrouped in the decider, breaking former Wimbledon and U.S. Open semifinalist Svitolina in the fourth game before locking down her first win over a top 10 opponent.
Matching Svitolina’s power off the baseline, Pegula rushed the net to knock her opponent off her stride and sealed the win on the first match point when the Ukrainian netted a return.
Pegula, who considered giving up tennis after being sidelined for long spells due to knee and hip injuries earlier in her career, will play her good friend Brady for a place in the semis after the 25-year-old beat Vekic 6-1 7-5.
“Jen is an awesome person,” Pegula told a news conference. “She was texting me, ‘I’m so happy, I’m so proud. This is awesome’.
“We’ve all been pushing each other. Why not push each other into a quarter-final, then one of us be in the semis?”
Vekic was hampered by an injury to her right leg and took a medical timeout at the start of the second set after being blitzed by Brady in the opener.
She emerged with fresh strapping above and below her knee and though she managed to take the fight to Brady in the second set the Croatian was barely moving in the final two games.
With the score tied at 5-5 Vekic surrendered her serve to love, a double fault handing Brady the chance to serve for the match.
The American made no mistake, sealing victory when her opponent fluffed a forehand.

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Azarenka says quarantine took a toll after early exit

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Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka in action during her first round match against Jessica Pegula of the U.S in the first round of the Australian Open on February 9, 2021. REUTERS/Jaimi Joy
MELBOURNE —Victoria Azarenka said she did not get her post-quarantine preparations right for the Australian Open after the former champion was knocked out in the first round of the Grand Slam by main draw debutant Jessica Pegula on Tuesday.
The Belarusian 12th seed, beaten 7-5 6-4, was one 72 players unable to leave their rooms to train for 14 days ahead of the tournament after passengers on their flights to Melbourne tested positive for COVID-19.
Azarenka, who won both her Grand Slam titles at Melbourne Park in 2012 and 2013, said the isolation had taken a toll.
“Was that the best preparation for me? No,” she told a news conference. “The biggest impact for me personally has been not being able to have fresh air. That really took a toll.”

Fearless 💪@JLPegula breaks through to the second round after overcoming a Victoria Azarenka sized challenge 👏
7-5 6-4 #AusOpen | #AO2021 pic.twitter.com/JRLDMI4uoC
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) February 9, 2021

The 31-year-old said she had been unable to get her game in shape less than a week after being freed from lockdown.
“I don’t know how to prepare after two weeks in quarantine … I don’t have a blueprint how to prepare,” she added.
“It’s all about trying to figure it out and I didn’t figure it out. Not this time.”
Azarenka started the match on the front foot and was in complete control after racing to a 5-2 lead in the first set.
However, things quickly fell apart as American Pegula, the world number 61, took the next five games to seal the set.
Azarenka’s troubles continued in the second set and she took a medical timeout while trailing 4-2 after appearing to have trouble breathing.
The Belarusian did not reveal the reason for the medical timeout, making a plea for privacy in her post-match interview.
“I don’t really know why we’re getting asked about medical conditions,” she said. “All this is going out on the internet after for people to talk about, to judge about.
“I truly don’t ever understand why, when somebody is sick, injured or whatever, they have to give their medical reason out in the world. I think that should be changed, unless players do want to talk about it.”
After the timeout, Azarenka returned to the court to hold serve and followed that up with a break to draw level at 4-4, but Pegula broke straight back before serving out the match, sealing victory with an ace.
“I’m just disappointed, not being able to perform at my best,” Azarenka added. “Leaving Australian Open so soon is also disappointing, but it is what it is.”

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