Australian Open Day 9: Unseeded Jessica Pegula upends No. 5 Elina Svitolina into quarterfinals

Liz Roscher and Jason Owens
·4 min read
United States' Jessica Pegula celebrates after defeating Ukraine's Elina Svitolina in their fourth round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, Feb. 15, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
Jessica Pegula has never advanced this far in a Grand Slam. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

Jessica Pegula has done it again.

The unseeded 26-year-old American who opened the Australian Open by ousting No. 12 seed and two-time champion Victoria Azarenka, won her fourth straight match in Melbourne on Monday. This time she upset No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina to advance to the quarterfinal round.

The daughter of Buffalo Bills and Sabres owners Kim and Terry Pegula has never advanced this far in a Grand Slam event. She showed the composure of a Grand Slam veteran against Svitolina, bouncing back from a second-set loss and rallying from a 30-0 deficit in the final game of the decisive third set to secure a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory.

The win earned Pegula some love from her hometown Bills after the match.

While Pegula had never before advance beyond the third round of a Grand Slam, she has won on tour, securing the Citi Open championship in 2019.

Americans thriving in women's draw

Pegula will face fellow American and No. 22 seed Jennifer Brady, who defeated Croatia's Donna Vekic, 6-1, 7-5 later Monday to advance to the quarterfinals. The pair join No. 10 seed Serena Williams among three Americans to advance to the quarterfinals, three wins away from claiming the Australian Open crown.

Another American, Shelby Rogers, will face No. 1 seed Ashleigh Barty later Monday with a chance to make it four Americans out of eight women to advance to the quarterfinals.

"We're pretty similar in the way -- we all hit pretty big, always looking for a forehand," Pegula told reporters after her win. ...

"The last year or so, we really all pushed each other. Maybe we haven't said it to each other, but I think we all can feel it. ... It's a big deal. It's pretty cool."

Russians rule on men's side

On the men's side, No. 4 seed Russian Daniil Medvedev defeated unseeded American Mackenzie McDonald, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 early Monday to set up a quarterfinal matchup with seventh-seeded countryman Andrey Rublev.

Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev advanced on Sunday to the quarterfinals, where he will face eight-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, giving the country three quarterfinalists in Melbourne.

Nadal eases into quarterfinals

Rafael Nadal, ranked No. 2 in the world, continued to dominate on Monday. He defeated Italy's Fabio Fognini, ranked 16th, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. Despite coming into the tournament with a potential back issue, Nadal looked as good as ever against Fognini.

Nadal hasn't lost a single set at this Aussie Open, but on Wednesday he'll face his highest-ranked opponent yet: No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas, who will be incredibly well rested. Slated to play Matteo Berrettini, Tsitsipas didn't even have to raise his racket. Berrettini pulled out with an abdominal injury, giving Tsitsipas a walkover.

Now that Nadal is facing Tsitsipas, you could say that his Australian Open is really starting now. You could say that, but as Nadal helpfully pointed out, you'd be wrong.

Barty keeps winning

Barty also hasn't lost a set during the Open, easily beating American Shelby Rogers 6-3, 6-4 on Monday. The only serious challenge Barty has faced so far was against fellow Aussie Daria Gavrilova in the second round. She needed a tiebreak to defeat Gavrilova, but has cruised ever since.

Barty's path to the finals is as clear as it could be. She faces No. 25 Karolina Muchova in the quarterfinals, the highest-ranked competitor she's played so far. With how the bracket has shaken out, she won't face anyone ranked higher than 22 until she gets to the finals.

After falling in the semifinals in 2020, this is a golden opportunity for Barty. If she can win out, she'll become the first Australian to win the Open on home soil in 44 years.

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