Jessica Pegula, the world’s richest tennis player, was left gutted by her Australian Open exit – admitting it “sucks”.
The 28-year-old, was the highest seed left in the draw at Melbourne Park following shock exits for Iga Swiatek and Ons Jabeur. Tennis icon John McEnroe labelled his compatriot as the player to beat this past weekend, but she met her match in the form of Victoria Azarenka.
The determined veteran produced a fine performance akin to her title-winning campaign a decade ago to dispatch the American 6-4 6-1. Pegula has now lost her fifth consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final, her third in a row in Australia, and claimed the thought of overcoming that mental barrier did not impact her performance.
“I don’t really think it had much effect on me,” the American said post-match. “Obviously afterwards, now, it sucks because I wish I could have made a semi, but it is what it is.” The world number three would have pocketed around £1.6million if she went all the way in Melbourne – not that she needs it.
That’s because the tennis star is the heir to her father Terry’s enormous £5.4billion fortune – with the Buffalo Bills owner listed as the 345th richest person in the world. Pegula hadn’t dropped a set en route to the last eight, but the tennis star had no answer to Azarenka’s brilliance and struggled to match the power of the Belarusian’s groundstrokes, making 31 unforced errors in the match.
Azarenka’s variety — highlighted by her frequent visits to the net — also troubled Pegula, whose serve was broken five times. “I think she did exactly what she wanted to do,” Pegula said of Azarenka.
“She was just executing it, I feel, pretty well tonight. Hitting the ball deep, taking it early, changing the direction on the ball, doing things that I usually like to do to people. She was doing it well.” After overturning a one-set deficit to defeat China’s Zhu Lin in round four, Azarenka produced a vintage performance to defeat one of the game’s most dangerous players.
The 24th seed has reached the final four in Melbourne for the first time since capturing her second major title there in 2013, and is thrilled to be back at the business end of one of tennis’ biggest events.
“It hurts to beat her because I always want her to do well,” said Azarenka of practice partner Pegula, who she is also friends with. “But at the same time I knew I had to play my best tennis.
“I knew from the first point I had to bring it. We had so many rallies and I just wanted to stay there, take opportunities because she was going to take everything if I didn’t.
“I’m very proud I executed my game plan very well. It’s amazing to be in the semi-finals of another Grand Slam.” Azarenka will be up against Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina for a spot in what would be her third Australian Open final.