United States’ Jennifer Brady celebrates her win over Slovenia’s Kaja Juvan during their match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Hamish Blair)
- Jessica Pegula holds a 1-0 head-to-head advantage in her all-American matchup vs Jennifer Brady
- The match guarantees at least one American in the Australian Open women’s semifinals
- Brady, the higher-ranked player, is the favorite – we break down why she should prevail
Serena Williams will be looking for a semifinal berth at the Australian Open Tuesday night.
But while the 23-time Grand Slam champion plays another former No. 1 and major champion in Simona Halep, the all-American tussle between the less-heralded Americans Pegula and Brady Wednesday is a great career opportunity for both.
Jennifer Brady vs Jessica Pegula Odds
| Jennifer Brady (USA)||-4.5 (+116)||-250||O 21.5 (-103)|
|Jessica Pegula (USA)||+4.5 (-148)||+195||U 21.5 (-124)|
Odds taken Feb. 16 from DraftKings
Special Circumstances in Only Career Meeting
The fact Pegula dispatched Brady 7-6 (5), 6-4 in their only career meeting, last summer in the US Open “bubble” in the leadup tournament, has to be considered in context.
Brady had just won her first career WTA title in Lexington, Kentucky. It was the first tournament back for many after a six-month tennis shutdown because of the pandemic.
And it was a huge moment for Brady.
She arrived in New York and entered the bubble, and played the event. But the turnaround was too quick.
To further that point, Brady had the week to recover after the first-round loss – and went on to reach the US Open semifinals.
The two had played against each other in the World Team Tennis team event just a few weeks before.
Brady Takes the Plunge to Reinvent Herself
Both players were born in American cities where the winters are long and the tennis season short. And both were very good juniors in the U.S. context, but hardly can’t-miss prospects to make it as professionals. So in the big picture, they didn’t get a head start. And perhaps that’s why both are coming into their own in their mid-20s.
Brady, from Harrisburg, PA, was based in Boca Raton, Fla. when she decided to get out of her comfort zone, invest in her career, and take the next step.
With a new German coach and trainer, she spent most of the 2019 and 2020 offseasons in Europe. That’s a culture shock for most of the American players.
But she began 2020 a completely different player physically. And as a result, a far more confident one.
Before that, she had sort of plateaued in the 50-60 range in the rankings.
Brady vs Pegula Head-to-Head Statistics
|25 (April 12, 1995)||Age||26 (Feb. 24, 1994)|
|Harrisburg, PA||Birthplace||Buffalo, NY|
|1||WTA Singles Titles||1|
|No. 24 (Oct. 26, 2020)||Career High Ranking||No. 55 (Aug. 5, 2019)|
|$2,014,115||Career Prize Money||$912,198|
Pegula is the Comeback Kid
As a junior, Pegula’s best results came on clay. And you can see why. While she’s an able basher of the ball, she’s also equipped with a calm and patient personality that allows her to wait for those opportunities.
The patience came in handy. For years, Pegula battled career-ending injuries.
Hip surgery cost her a year and a half. Knee injuries cost her more time.
Even though she turns 27 in a few weeks, this is only Pegula’s second Australian Open main draw, and the first time she’s even won a match.
She lost in qualifying in 2013, didn’t return until 2016, and then lost in the first round in her main-draw debut a year ago, to old junior doubles partner Taylor Townsend.
Good Friends Square Off
From their northern beginnings, both Brady and Pegula ended up in the Boca Raton, Fla. area because of tennis.
Just a year apart, they have become good friends over the years.
Winning together on Day 8 🇺🇸 💪
Facing off next in the #AO2021 quarterfinals 😎 💥
This will be fun! @jennifurbrady95 x @JLPegula pic.twitter.com/WwPOJtEPxp
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) February 15, 2021
Those encounters can sometimes be fraught.
Pegula has upset both No. 12 seed (and two-time Australian Open champion) Victoria Azarenka and No. 5 Elina Svitolina in this Australian Open.
But despite her age, this is only Pegula’s ninth Grand Slam main draw. And it’s only her fifth outside the US Open.
As a seed, Brady has had a sweeter draw. So it’s harder to gauge her level.
But she does have her US Open experience to draw upon. This is all new territory for Pegula.
Prediction: Brady in three sets (+310)
Stephanie gets the straight dope from the tennis insiders. On court, she has represented her country internationally. A BA in journalism led to years on the MLB beat and a decade covering tennis globally. She’s written for Postmedia, the Guardian, the New York Times and also publishes OpenCourt.ca.