John McEnroe names his ‘mentally rock solid’ favourite to win Australian Open women’s title

Delight for Jessica Pegula

John McEnroe believes Jessica Pegula “is the one to beat” during the business end of the Australian Open, although there are still some “formidable challenges” remaining in the tournament.

The women’s draw has been hit by several high-profile exits with top seed and overwhelming favourite Iga Swiatek as well as fourth seed Caroline Garcia and seventh seed Coco Gauff losing in the fourth round. Sixth seed Maria Sakkari exited in the third round while second seed Ons Jabeur was beaten in the second round.

Third seed Pegula and fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka are the only top 10 seeds remaining and they are on the opposite sides of the draw.

Pegula dispatched former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova 7-5, 6-2 in her fourth-round match on Sunday and former world No 1 McEnroe is backing the American to go all the way.

“I think she [Pegula] is mentally rock solid, she’s got herself in a place where it’s intimidating how strong mentally she is,” the seven-time Grand Slam winner told Eurosport.

“Her game, it doesn’t feel like it’s going to break down where some of the other players [do].”

The world No 3 will face two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka in the quarter-final with the winner taking on either Elena Rybakina, who sent Swiatek packing, or Coco Gauff’s conqueror Jelena Ostapenko in the semi-final.

The American continued: “The people that can stop her… Rybakina for example, has got the firepower. She’s hard to beat, she showed that when she beat Iga. So that would be a formidable challenge [for Pegula].”

Sabalenka struggled with her serve in recent years, but it has clicked so far in 2023 as she is yet to drop a set in eight matches, having won the Adelaide International 1 tournament at the start of the year.

“Sabalenka, could she go all the way?” McEnroe added. “You would worry a bit about her when we’ve seen the last couple of years with her serve.

“Azarenka, she’s won this, she’s a two-time Australian Open champion, so that would be just incredibly important for her, an unbelievable way to end a career into her 30s, after everything that’s gone on with her over the course of the last four or five years.

“So there’s people out there that could do it. But I think Jessica, if you look at the overall picture right now, is the one to beat.”

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