Iga Swiatek is “definitely not invincible” despite her dominance as world No. 1, reckons Jessica Pegula ahead of what could become the signature women’s tennis rivalry in 2023.
Pegula stunned most observers with her rampant win over Swiatek at the season-opening United Cup back in January, but the Pole did get her own back to take the title in Doha in February.
The pair, in opposite sides of the draw at the ongoing Indian Wells, could meet in the final at ‘Tennis Paradise’, and Pegula is bullish about her chances when she next has to take on the powerful Pole.
“She’s definitely not invincible in my mind,” Pegula said, after a hard-fought, three-set victory over Anastasia Potapova in the Round of 32.
“I have played her in pretty close matches. But obviously, with her winning, you know, a lot of matches and the streak she went on last year, yeah, she definitely was feeling it for a while there.
“But it definitely helps. I think it helps just knowing what I have to do to win, knowing what worked, what didn’t work.
You know, I played a pretty flawless match, to be honest, that match [at the United Cup]. I kind of did everything I wanted to do was just working. Some days are like that and you take it.
“But I think, you know, obviously there was a lot of different, the conditions were different, courts are pretty fast, and I think it maybe favoured me a little bit.”
Seven-time Grand Slam winner Mats Wilander recently elaborated on Swiatek and the types of opponent she has lost to of late, detailing what it is that makes Pegula – and others – so dangerous.
“[Barbora] Krejcikova (who beat Swiatek in Dubai) is an inspiration in terms of the way that she is hitting a tennis ball because the way that she hits it is so clean and it’s so natural and it’s as good on both sides.
“When you look at someone like [Elena] Rybakina (who knocked Swiatek out of the Australian Open), you’re looking at the same kind of consistency off both sides.
“When you look at Pegula, she is the same kind of player, consistent on both sides and hitting the ball hard from both sides.
“I think the best thing for Swiatek is to be able to approach every surface, every match in the way that she always has, which is ‘it’s about Iga, but it’s also about my opponent, and I know that I’m one of the best players in the world, but nothing is taken for granted. I’ve got to show up’.
Pegula, the third seed at Indian Wells, has experienced a steep rise into the top 5 of the WTA rankings, but insisted she is dealing with the inherent changes that brings with it.
“At first I felt a bit of pressure, but at the same time I feel the same,” the American said.
“Now maybe people talk about you more and you become a favourite more. But at the end of the day, I feel like I’m out of all that, it’s not on my mind.
“I’m just trying to win the game I’m going to play. I think I’m good at thinking that you don’t have to take anything for granted or over-think where a game is going to go.
“I think that has helped me not to feel too much pressure from being in the top 5 and to be able to lower it.”