Australian Open favourite Jessica Pegula faces tough last eight battle

Jessica Pegula plays a shot

Now the clear favourite for the Australian Open title, Jessica Pegula faces a huge test in the last eight in the form of a former champion.

Victoria Azarenka awaits in the quarter-finals and pundits feel that the former World No 1 will pose the biggest test to Pegula’s run.

Pegula leads their head-to-head by 3-2 but only by virtue of a walkover win over the Belarussian.

Former British No 1 Laura Robson believes that Pegula’s earlier finish to her fourth round match will give the American the edge.

“It gives her [Pegula] a big advantage for sure but it might give Vika [Azarenka] that feeling that she’s got, even though she’s won here twice, she’s got nothing to lose against Jessica Pegula,” Robson said on Eurosport’s Australian Open coverage.

“As Pegula is the form player, she hits the ball so hard and clean and it would help Vika that she’s got to practice with Pegula.

“So Vika with the experience that she has and then also having practiced with Jessy, now with the time she might be like ‘oh I’m in the quarters, Jessy is too good, I’m going to relax’ because she needs to go for her shots a bit more against Jess.

“When you watch that, she wins this match because of experience, I felt she brought tennis back to where it was 10, 15 years ago but that’s tennis and she enjoys the fight of rallying and not hitting so hard but she’ll have to go up a level.”

Azarenka said after her 4-6 6-1 6-4 win over Lin Zhu that she was ready to give Pegula hell in the last eight.

“Me and Jess, we’ve practiced together, we’ve played so many great matches together so I’m going to enjoy that one,” said Azarenka.

“If I do lose I’d rather lose to Jess but I’m going to give her hell for sure!”

Pegula is looking good for a first Grand Slam title after her heroics helped the United States to victory in the United Cup.

She is playing at an incredible level in Melbourne, and Pegula is also brimming with confidence.

“I have a great shot here. … All around, throughout the whole tournament, I’ve been playing the best I have,” she said Sunday after beating 2021 French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova 7-5, 6-2.

Pegula faces Azarenka on Tuesday at a time yet to be determined.

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