Jessica Pegula, daughter of Bills, owners of Sabers, to quarter-finals at the Australian Open


MELBOURNE, Australia – Jessica Pegula’s first win over a top 10 opponent earned the 26-year-old American her first trip to the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament.

Pegula, ranked 61st, whose parents own the Buffalo NFL and NHL franchises, held on to beat No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 at the Rod Laver Arena on Monday (Sunday night EST).

Pegula is making a breakthrough. She has won four matches at Melbourne Park over the past week, including wins over two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and 2011 U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur, after entering the hard court tournament with a total three career major league victories.

It’s also significant for Pegula, who works with former Venus Williams coach David Witt – she came on the day with a 0-6 record against the top 10 women.

With blue skies and temperatures in the 70s Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) and zero fans in the stands for the third day in a row due to a local COVID-19 lockout, Pegula dictated groundstroke exchanges from the baseline.

At first, she pushed through two-time Grand Slam semifinalist Svitolina, who knocked out American teenager Coco Gauff in the second round, and went up by a set and a break at 1-0 in the second.

Until then, Pegula hadn’t been broken.

But that’s where Svitolina, with everything slipping away, got to her feet. He suddenly broke Pegula twice in a row, part of a four-game run that put Svitolina ahead 4-1 in the second en route to forcing a third set.

As if flipping a switch or remembering what worked so well before, Pegula returned to her more aggressive style of hitting the corners and led 4-1. He broke to 4-3 but bounced back immediately, then served up the biggest win of his career by grabbing the final four points after falling behind love-30.

Pegula plays the winner of the ensuing match at Rod Laver Arena: No. 22 Jennifer Brady of the United States against No. 28 Donna Vekic of Croatia.

The last two fourth-round women’s matches were No. 1 Ash Barty against Shelby Rogers of the United States, and No. 18 Elise Mertens against Karolina Muchova.

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