Under the Patronage of H.h. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to Dubai, Jessica. Two wins under your belt. How has your time in Dubai been so far?
JESSICA PEGULA: It’s been short because I just got here Sunday. But it’s been good and successful so far. Glad that even with the quick turnaround I was able to come and get my first two wins.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Can you take us through the match. Did you think it was a bit more than what you thought it would be?
JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, it was definitely a roller coaster kind of match. I thought I started off playing okay, but then I didn’t think she was playing very well. When she started just putting balls in the court, it definitely switched the match. I thought she found her rhythm.
At the beginning of the second, she seemed kind of frustrated. I didn’t hold that one game, the 2-1 game. I think the momentum just kind of shifted. She kind of freed up a bit. Then it got pretty physical, as well, the second set.
Just happy that I was able to kind of find my form in the third from the beginning, just win the match.
Q. When you come off a defeat in a final, do you get a little more mad in the next tournament?
JESSICA PEGULA: Maybe sometimes. But I think last week I thought Iga just played very well. Clearly, she’s playing a really high level. So I wasn’t trying to be too upset. I didn’t really have much time to be upset. I had to have a quick turnaround anyway.
I think for me, at least this week, I don’t think I took any kind of anger into that match today.
Q. It’s easy from the outside to look at narratives and make up narratives. For us at some point last year it felt like it was Iga versus the rest of the field. Now it doesn’t feel that way at all. How do you see it right now compared to 12 months ago?
JESSICA PEGULA: I think we’ll find out. I think Doha is where she started her really big run. Obviously she’s still playing at a very high level. She definitely loves playing in Doha, found her form there at a really, again, high level. So we’ll see.
But I think there’s a lot of players playing well. I know Aryna’s confidence has got to be sky high. She had a great win today. It will be interesting to see how, yeah, those storylines kind of shift going in throughout the year.
I’m not saying Iga can’t do exactly what she did last year. I don’t think anyone, at least I’m not expecting it because that was incredible. I’m sure she’s still going to play some great tennis and she’s definitely playing like a true No. 1, and she’s the one to beat.
I guess we’ll see as the year unfolds where it goes.
Q. From the inside, do you now see yourself as one of the really top group? You’ve already shown it with your results. On the inside, do you see yourself among the very top group?
JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, I am. I think I believe it. Also, yeah, I think I have to because that’s what I’m doing.
I think maybe at the end of last year it was kind of this weird feeling. I think going into Australia, winning United Cup, doing well last week, I think I’m just solidifying more and more what I can do.
Obviously every week is different. But, yeah, I think I’ve definitely earned that and I definitely believe it much more than I did maybe last year when it was kind of more of a new feeling.
Q. What takeaways do you take into the year from last week’s final against Iga?
JESSICA PEGULA: What I need to do against Iga?
Q. Maybe to go to the finals, win more tournaments. Did you learn anything from that or did you see anything from that final?
JESSICA PEGULA: Well, yeah, I mean, I guess one thing I’m happy that I made it to the final. I had match points I saved against Jelena. She was playing great.
Every match can change a lot of things throughout the week. So I think, again, just taking it one match at a time. I’m glad I got to play Iga in a final. A lot of times last year I played her in the quarters or semis, being on her same side of the draw.
Yeah, I definitely want to just keep pushing for that, keep pushing to go as far as I can every single week, win more tournaments. That’s the goal.
I think my level’s there. Again, in Doha, I think Iga was just playing at a really high level the whole week. Just seemed like it was her week. But hopefully next time… I was able to beat her in Sydney which I think helped my confidence, how I need to play her.
It’s not always going to be executed as well as I played that match. I know what I need to do. It’s a fact of executing it, how she’s playing, how I’m playing that day. That’s the same thing I think for everybody. You just hope that you can execute your game plan as well as you can and that it works.
Q. How do you manage your workload? You play singles and doubles at almost every tournament.
JESSICA PEGULA: Yes (smiling).
Looking back, now that Coco and I have done so well, I think maybe we would only play at the 1000s. Obviously we were defending champs in Doha, so we wanted to defend our title as well, which we were able to do.
Looking back, maybe wouldn’t have played doubles there if that wasn’t the case just because we’re going fairly deep in singles as well. It can be a lot.
I enjoy playing. I mean, yesterday we played doubles and we won a tough match. It helped me adjust to the conditions and the difference of the courts and the balls here than I did in Doha.
I think at times it can be very beneficial. I think I picked up a lot of good skills and just got better at a lot of things in doubles that help my singles game.
I really enjoy it. I think it’s fun. I’d rather go out and compete than have to practice on the practice court, sit around all day. To me, I enjoy having it.
Q. When you go deep into the tournament for both singles and doubles, does it take a toll on you?
JESSICA PEGULA: It depends on the week. I guess it depends on how I’m doing in singles, if I’m winning matches easy, if I’m not. Yeah, it can affect you physically. I think you just have to be aware of how that is.
To me, doubles for me, it’s just half court, it’s really not that strenuous to me. Especially because I’m fit enough to play singles, so for doubles it doesn’t seem like it’s that big after deal.
Of course, yes, it can affect.
Q. There’s been an outpouring of messages for you after what you wrote The Players’ Tribune piece. When I speak to the players, they tell me how much they respect you in general before anything. What does that mean to you? Did any of that take you by surprise?
JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, I mean, I think I was definitely surprised at, like, the large amount of people in general that responded to it, which I thought was amazing. Not that I didn’t think it would, but I think it’s always surprising when you get that much support.
It’s been really nice, especially on tour, to see all the players that have come up to me or messaged me. There’s a lot of people. I think that was so nice to see that response ’cause I think we get so caught up in tournaments from week to week, we’re all playing each other, trying to beat each other. It’s competitive. It can be selfish.
I think everyone could understand what I wrote. I think they all related to it in some way, shape or form. So it was definitely very nice.
It’s nice to hear that people, one, respect me in general, but were able to relate to that and have a really nice response, have some really nice words for me. It was really nice.
Q. 50 years of WTA tennis. What do you envision for the future of the sport, what you hope to see for the next years of the WTA?
JESSICA PEGULA: Gosh, that’s a big question.
I mean, I hope obviously we can keep pushing for equal prize money at all events. Being on TV more. I feel like as far as me being on player council, we already tried to do a lot of that. I think we’re starting to see slowly, like, more of it, especially with United Cup, the response of everyone wanting to see men and women playing on the same court, on the same team, which was really fun for us. Also people just love to see that.
I think just keep pushing for all of those types of things every week. I feel like as a council, as well, we really do that week to week. Maybe it doesn’t get seen as much.
But as far as the future, like, that’s always what we’re pushing for, is just for people to appreciate us playing and wanting to see us play and getting more exposure, then obviously inspiring the next generation of girls that want to do the same thing. Obviously without the past generation, we wouldn’t be here, as well.
I think it’s always just to keep inspiring each generation because those are the next people. That’s also who we’re fighting for. Some of us are older, as well, on the council. We’re fighting for prize money for people in 20 years (smiling).
I think just stuff like that is what we want to see, yeah.
Q. What did you make of Frances’ highlights from the All-Star Game?
JESSICA PEGULA: We’re still in the same United Cup group chat. We were all psyched for him. I unfortunately couldn’t watch it. But I heard he only had like four shots (laughter). We’re like, You’ve been practicing so hard. He’s had a shooting coach. He’s been on the court practicing probably more than the tennis court, to be honest, the last few weeks. This was, like, his thing. He was so excited.
I think he made three points. At least he made three. It’s better than none. But it was pretty comical, yeah.
Q. (Indiscernible) in a competitive sport like this, how do you keep your focus on tennis?
JESSICA PEGULA: I think tennis always comes first for me, for everything. But I think it’s also helped me, when I’m off the court, to kind of relax, kind of look at other things, work on other things. I think that’s important to have a balance in life. I think it’s helped me. I don’t know about other people, but for at least the last few years it’s helped me have other things to work on.
I think it also helps because then when I go back on court, I am like, Okay, this is my time to 100% put this in the gym or in my warmups or in my recovery or in my matches and practices. I think it helps me kind of put things where they’re supposed to be where I can fully give 100% into each thing, but have it kind of in different boxes and stuff like that.
I think it helps me be more professional off the court and on the court, so…
Q. You have at your disposal some of the finest knowledge from NHL and NFL. How much have you been able to take from that and put into your game? Have you done that?
JESSICA PEGULA: Zero (laughter). I haven’t done anything. I think just ’cause the sports, there’s so different. They’re just team sports and it’s different. It’s all these different people.
I think I can relate always to athletes, obviously, being at a really high level. But as far as resources, I haven’t used any. I probably should more than I do. But, yeah, zero to be honest.
Q. Can you tell us something about Sania Mirza. She might be playing her last match tonight.
JESSICA PEGULA: I think she’s on court.
Q. Your thoughts on her?
JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, it was crazy. I’m friends with Maddie Keys, who she’s playing with. She said, like, My gosh, all my press has been about Sania’s last match. They’re trying to move us onto a bigger court to accommodate all the people that are going to come to watch her.
I think it’s incredible. I’ve gotten to know her as she’s been obviously at the tail end of her career. The name, I’ve always seen the name, seen what she’s done, her story.
I just think it’s so cool where she’s come from, being an Indian woman, just kind of defying every single barrier and odd that was thrown at her. It’s incredible. I mean, she’s really been one of the only women to do that yet into that stature of what she’s done.
I was so sad when she didn’t win mixed in Australia. I was just like that would have been the perfect story.
It’s just been cool to see how she’s inspired like a whole other part of the world that sometimes in the U.S. we don’t really see. I played doubles against her several times where it’s like packed and there’s so many fans. It feels like all of India is rooting against me (smiling).
It’s amazing to see what she’s been able to do for tennis there. I know she has an academy as well. She gives back a lot to the sport. It’s just been really nice to get to know her. Yeah, just really happy and inspired by everything she’s done.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports