Ash Barty’s opponent Jessica Pegula has revealed what it’s really like to play the world No. 1, and why she felt “helpless”.
American tennis star Jessica Pegula has revealed what it is like to play world No. 1 Ash Barty, saying she felt “helpless” against her.
Australia’s Barty knocked Pegula out of the Australian Open 6-2 6-0 on Tuesday night, racing through to her second semi-final at Melbourne Park in just 63 minutes.
The feat is something no Australian has ever achieved previously with even Aussie tennis icons Lleyton Hewitt and Pat Rafter only making one semi-final appearance each.
Barty is the first Aussie to play two semi-finals at her home grand slam since the tournament was moved from Kooyong in 1978.
Pegula said she felt “pretty helpless” playing Barty at Rod Laver Arena.
“I think when she gets into a rhythm, she can kind of run away, her game just kind of picks you apart a little bit, and it can be really frustrating because you don’t feel like you can get a lot of free points,” Pegula said in a press conference after the match.
“I didn’t feel there was a lot I could do and then even games where I was up really easy I still didn’t win the games. She just doesn’t give you any free points.”
As for playing Barty in general, Pegula said she doesn’t think any tennis player feels good when they go out on the court to play the Aussie.
“I think she’s definitely living in everyone’s head a little bit,” Pegula said.
“Honestly, she just does everything I think a little bit better than everybody. Just for like women’s tennis as well, she kind of plays more like a guy, maybe a different kind of style that we’re not used to playing day in and day out.
“So it’s really hard to come from someone that hits the ball really hard to someone that’s giving you all these different shots that you don’t normally see.
“So if you’re not really playing that all the time, it’s really hard to go out and kind of play that way with her and figure it out.
“I think she just does everything better honestly than most people. And just for her size, the fact that she serves so well I think is a big difference.”
It is evidence that Barty’s plan to make her opponents feel “uncomfortable” works.
“All in all I think a lot of the time I think I’m going out there and trying to play with freedom, trying to enjoy it and trying to get creative, and almost make my opponent uncomfortable with not giving them too many patterns or things they can predict,” Barty said in her post-match press conference.
“I enjoy that challenge. I enjoy having options with each shot. But I also love the discipline of doing the right things in the right moment and trying to sticking to our tactics and sticking to our plans. I think the way that Tyzz is able to communicate that with me has been second to none.”
Tyzz is Barty’s coach Craig Tyzzer, who she says is “the best coach in the world”.
Barty also had great things to say about Pegula, saying her opponent forced her to play her best stuff.
“Jess made me work very hard and I think the scoreline definitely wasn’t an indication of how the match felt,” she said. “All in all I knew I had to play my very best tennis tonight to match up with Jess and put her under the pump.”
American tennis great Jim Courier, commentating on Channel 9, had huge compliments for Barty during the match.
“It’s unquestioned she’s the best player on the planet,” he said.
Courier singled out Barty’s backhand slice which repeatedly forced Pegula to play uncomfortable shots from well behind the baseline.
“Here comes a break point and again, the slice, just stays so low Ash’s slice technique is arguably the best backhand slice technique in the world, period, men’s (or) women’s tennis,” Courier said in commentary.
“Roger Federer if you’re back in Switzerland listening, that’s right, I said it bud let’s call it a draw.”
But humble Barty said her slice backhand was “a long way off” Federer, when the compliment was mentioned to her by media after the match.
“Absolutely, no stretch of the imagination we are even on the same page at all,” she said.
“But I love to use my slice, I love to get creative with it, to use it offensively and defensively. Over my career I’ve learnt it is a weapon for me.”
Barty will next play American Madison Keys in the semi-final.