Ash Barty prepares for ‘game of chess’ with Jessica Pegula in Australian Open quarter-final

During her Australian Open campaign, Ash Barty opened up about how much she loves being challenged.

So far in this tournament, the world number one has encountered very few, as evidenced by the fact that she hasn’t dropped a set and only lost serve once in her first four games.

But having reached week two at Melbourne Park, Barty knows his bid to win his first Australian Open is about to meet fiercer opposition.

And with 21st-seeded Jessica Pegula her quarterfinal opponent at Rod Laver Arena, Barty is set for a tough night in the office.

“She (Pegula) is able to hold the baseline really well,” Barty said in the build-up to tonight’s game.

“Her swings are pretty linear and she puts a racquet behind the ball and swings out the way. The ball comes at you on a different trajectory, and her ability to absorb the rhythm and add it when she wants to is exceptional.

“It’s going to be a challenge for me to try and push her off that baseline and make her feel uncomfortable and make her feel like she has to create. [opportunities].

“But I know she’s also going to do the exact same thing to me and try to make me feel uncomfortable. That’s the game of chess we’re playing.

Barty hasn’t dropped a set so far this Australian Open.(Getty Images: Cameron Spencer)

The two have only met on court once before, with Barty triumphing in straight sets in the first round of their successful tilt at Roland Garros 2019.

Like Barty, Pegula has dropped just one set on her march to the last eight, despite having the experience of reaching the same stage of the tournament last year under her belt.

Barty said she would do her homework on the American.

“Every player is different,” Barty said.

“Every player has similarities, but for sure the tactics and the way I want to play is unique to each player.

“I try to adapt my game as best I can to try to make my opponent uncomfortable, and it will be no different when Jess and I play.

“My job is to try to make her feel uncomfortable, and I hope I can execute that, have fun with it, and make life difficult for her.”

Pegula praises Barty’s tactical sense

Pegula said she expected a tactical battle with the Wimbledon champion.

“I feel like Ash is so tactical in everything she does,” she said.

An American tennis player hits a backhand return.
Pegula is making the quarter-finals of the Australian Open for the second year in a row.(Getty Images: Daniel Pockett)

As wary as she is of Pegula, Barty said she’s happy with where her game is at this point in the tournament.

“I am where I am,” Barty said Sunday night.

“All I have to do is try to do my best that day to try to upset my opponent and do what I can to try and win that tennis match.”

The winner of tonight’s match will face either fourth seed Barbora Krejčíková or Madison Keys in the semi-finals.

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