Jessica Pegula hits a return against Barbora Krejcikova
Melbourne (AFP) - Jessica Pegula surged into the Australian Open quarter-finals in straight sets on Sunday and now looks the woman to beat after world number one Iga Swiatek was knocked out.
The American third seed is the highest-ranked woman still standing after beating former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova 7-5, 6-2 in 1hr 41min.
Elena Rybakina’s victory over Swiatek means the top two seeds in the men’s and women’s singles are out before the quarter-finals for the first time since the Open era began in 1968.
Pegula will face either 24th seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, or China’s Zhu Lin for a place in the semi-finals.
“I thought I served really well and I had a lot of break-point chances in the first set and I didn’t really convert any of them,” said the American, who was always in control on John Cain Arena.
Pegula had an incredible 18 break-point opportunities across the two sets, mostly in the first, so was frustrated not to have clinched the win sooner.
“I had a few choice words towards my box in the first set,” laughed Pegula, who is closing on a first Grand Slam crown.
“But I was able to get it out and I’m pretty relaxed in general, that’s just my personality, but I also think that’s how I perform best.”
Pegula hit 20 winners to her opponent’s 19, but crucially only made 20 unforced errors to Krejcikova’s 36.
Pegula is into her third quarter-final in a row at Melbourne Park.
“They both hit big, so serve return is really important, first few balls are really important,” said Pegula, looking forward to a last-eight encounter against Azarenka or Zhu.
“I’ve played both of them before. I’m not really surprised Zhu Lin has made it this far.
“I had a really tough match at the French Open with her a few years ago and Vika obviously has had a lot of success here.”