‘Confident’ Pegula one step from first Slam semi

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Jessica Pegula thinks she is more settled and more confident than ever heading into her third straight Australian Open quarterfinal, but she admitted she is hungry for more after the women’s draw opened up in her favor Sunday.

Pegula, the No. 3 seed in Melbourne, was too strong for Barbora Krejcikova, winning 7-5, 6-2, and now finds herself as the highest seed left in the draw after world No. 1 Iga Swiatek fell to last year’s Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina.

Pegula has yet to reach a Grand Slam semifinal but made the quarterfinals at the Australian, French and US Opens in 2022.

“I definitely want to reach a semi. It will be my first semi. I mean, I have a great shot here,” Pegula said. “I feel more confident, I feel more experience being in this position. I think I definitely feel maybe a little bit more settled than I have in the past in those tournaments.

“I’ve been playing the best I have than in any of my other Grand Slam quarterfinals. That I think helps. I think I feel more experience coming in here. I think my win today will give me a lot of confidence.”

Pegula, who will face either two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka or China’s Lin Zhu on Tuesday, has been stopped at the quarterfinal stage in Melbourne twice before: in 2021 as an unseeded player by close friend Jennifer Brady and in 2022 as the 21st seed by then-world No. 1 and hometown hero Ashleigh Barty.

“I can’t believe I’ve made quarters here three years in a row,” Pegula said. “It’s gone by so fast. It feels like I was just here last year doing all of this. I’m really proud of myself, how I’ve been able to take it one match at a time.

“Yeah, I’m excited about [the prospect of moving on]. I’m excited about trying to get through that. To get to a semi would be amazing.”

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