Jessica Pegula began her Melbourne stint with an upset of Kristina Mladenovic and followed it with a straight-set win over Mona Barthel on Monday. The American has taken confidence, improved fitness and a great attitude into the two-week quarantine, and it's already paying off.
After a career breakthrough in 2019 saw the American crack the Top 100 and claim her first WTA title in Washington, D.C., Pegula made the most of an abbreviated 2020. She reached the final in Auckland, the quarterfinals of "Cincy" and the third round of the US Open.
"It was a good year for me and I think it's fun because the motivations there to do better next year, so it's that I didn't feel like, 'OK, I lost first round. I lost first round. I'm going to play a tournament in four months from now,'" she said on the TENNIS.com Podcast. "Like you kind of get down on yourself, but I didn't really have that at all, I felt good and I felt good about training and keeping in shape, and honestly, too, like I don't really do anything else."
Based in Florida, the world No. 64 was able to train through the unknowns of the 2020 preseason when the Australian swing got pushed back into February.
"No one really knew when the time was to kind of finish preseason and get ready to play, so that was interesting, but in Florida, there's courts everywhere, you can train whenever," she says.
When the season began in January, she headed to Abu Dhabi where she lost her opener to Elina Svitolina. The next stop was Melbourne, where 72 players ended up in hard lockdown but Pegula was part of the lucky group that got to go outside for five hours per day.
Through all the challenges this unique season has already presented, Pegula has had David Witt on hand, an experienced coach who worked with Venus Williams for over a decade. He's helped her believe she can beat anyone, and win any event. They began working together just before she won Washington.
"I remember him looking up at the draw and he was just like, 'There's no reason you can't win this tournament, too,'" she says. "And I won the tournament, but it was just like one of those things where it's kind of just a matter-of-fact confidence: you have the game, you can do it, and then just believe in yourself. So I think he's helped with that, helped me believe that I can play at the top level."
The 26-year-old will get to face the top level next at the Yarra Valley Classic WTA 500 when she takes on world No. 4 Sofia Kenin.