Australian Open 2021: Pegula draws on energy of billioniare dad's Bills in Slam breakthrough

Pegula said she was inspired by the Buffalo Bills' run to the NFL playoffs in beating a top-10 player for the first time on Monday to make her first-ever Grand Slam quarter-final.

Agence France-Presse February 15, 2021 12:46:35 IST
Australian Open 2021: Pegula draws on energy of billioniare dad's Bills in Slam breakthrough

Pegula's win set up a last-eight clash with fellow American Jennifer Brady, who beat Croat Donna Vekic in straight sets. Image: AP

Melbourne: American Jessica Pegula said she was inspired by the Buffalo Bills' run to the NFL playoffs in beating a top-10 player for the first time on Monday to make her first-ever Grand Slam quarter-final.

The unseeded 26-year-old, whose billionaire father Terry owns the Bills, has been in scintillating form at Melbourne Park and she overwhelmed fifth seed Elina Svitolina 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

It set up a last-eight clash with fellow American Jennifer Brady, who beat Croat Donna Vekic in straight sets.

"It's definitely something I think I tried to take into my game a little bit, even watching the team getting that grit, that competitive attitude, having that mindset," she said of the National Football League franchise. 

"In tennis, it's like 90 percent sometimes of the matches. 

"I think it's been really cool to watch them and kind of channel that energy into how I've been doing."

Pegula's tycoon father, who made his money in natural gas, took over the Bills in 2014, outbidding rival suitors Donald Trump and rock star Jon Bon Jovi.

They made the American Football Conference Championship game last month but were pipped to a Super Bowl by the Kansas City Chiefs, who went on to lose in the showpiece Super Bowl to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Shout-out to parents

Pegula said her parents were her biggest fans and she wrote "Hi mom and dad" on the television camera after winning her match against the Ukrainian.

"They've been obviously the main support system my whole life. They're always the first to text me, watch all my matches," she said.

"Not just my parents, but my brother and my sisters, as well. 

"I wrote my sister's name last time. My dad was like 'when are you going to write my name?'. They're happy he got a shout-out today. They're really happy."

Ranked just 61 and playing only her second Australian Open, Pegula took out former world number one and 12th seed Victoria Azarenka in the opening round then dropped just four games in her next two matches.

Svitolina had won in straight-sets when the pair met at Abu Dhabi last month but it was Pegula who took the initiative Monday, creating three break points that were saved before a double fault on the fourth handed her a 4-3 lead.

She held serve to consolidate her advantage and take the set after some punishing baselines battles.

They traded breaks early in the second set before Svitolina held then broke again for 3-1 as Pegula temporarily lost focus.

But Pegula, who missed most of 2017 with a hip injury that forced her to consider retirement, bounced back in the decider and secured a crucial break in the fourth game with a backhand volley winner. 

A double fault allowed Svitolina back, but Pegula broke again for 5-3 and served out for her biggest win.

It was a disappointing end to a major again for Svitolina, who has fallen to players ranked outside the top 25 in the past three Grand Slams.

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