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Women’s Wrap: Day 8 – 15 February

Written by Dave

American Jessica Pegula said she was inspired by the Buffalo Bills’ run to the NFL playoffs in beating a top-10 player for the first time Monday to make her first ever Grand Slam quarterfinal.

The unseeded 26-year-old, whose billionaire father Terry owns the Bills, has been in scintillating form at Melbourne Park and she overwhelmed fifth seed Elina Svitolina 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

It set up a last-eight clash with fellow American Jennifer Brady, who beat Croat Donna Vekic in straight sets.

“It’s definitely something I think I tried to take into my game a little bit, even watching the team getting that grit, that competitive attitude, having that mindset,” she said of the National Football League franchise.

“In tennis, it’s like 90 per cent sometimes of the matches.

“I think it’s been really cool to watch them and kind of channel that energy into how I’ve been doing.”

Pegula’s tycoon father, who made his money in natural gas, took over the Bills in 2014, outbidding rival suitors Donald Trump and rock star Jon Bon Jovi.

They made the American Football Conference Championship game last month but were pipped to a Super Bowl by the Kansas City Chiefs, who went on to lose in the showpiece Super Bowl to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

SHOUT-OUT TO PARENTS

Pegula said her parents were her biggest fans and she wrote “Hi mom and dad” on the television camera after winning her match against the Ukrainian.

“They’ve been obviously the main support system my whole life. They’re always the first to text me, watch all my matches,” she said.

“Not just my parents, but my brother and my sisters, as well.

“I wrote my sister’s name last time. My dad was like ‘when are you going to write my name?’. They’re happy he got a shout-out today. They’re really happy.”

Ranked just 61 and playing only her second Australian Open, Pegula took out former world No 1 and 12th seed Victoria Azarenka in the opening round then dropped just four games in her next two matches.

Svitolina had won in straight-sets when the pair met at Abu Dhabi last month but it was Pegula who took the initiative Monday, creating three break points that were saved before a double fault on the fourth handed her a 4-3 lead.

She held serve to consolidate her advantage and take the set after some punishing baselines battles.

They traded breaks early in the second set before Svitolina held then broke again for 3-1 as Pegula temporarily lost focus.

But Pegula, who missed most of 2017 with a hip injury that forced her to consider retirement, bounced back in the decider and secured a crucial break in the fourth game with a backhand volley winner.

A double fault allowed Svitolina back, but Pegula broke again for 5-3 and served out for her biggest win.

It was a disappointing end to a major again for Svitolina, who has fallen to players ranked outside the top 25 in the past three Grand Slams.

CZECH MUCHOVA REACHES LAST EIGHT WITH WIN OVER MERTENS

Czech Karolina Muchova recovered from a shaky start to defeat Belgian Elise Mertens 7-6(5) 7-5 and reach the last eight of the Australian Open on Monday.

Mertens, seeded 18th at Melbourne Park, had defeated Muchova in straight sets at the end of last year in Ostrava in their only previous meeting and was cruising at 4-0 in the first set.

But 25th seed Muchova then found her range at Margaret Court Arena and soon got back on level terms before taking the opener in the tiebreaker.

The 24-year-old picked up the crucial break in the 11th game of the second set and converted her first match point when Mertens found the net on a return.

The Czech will next meet top-ranked Australian Ash Barty or American Shelby Rogers.

BRILLIANT BARTY SWEEPS INTO MELBOURNE QUARTERFINALS

Ash Barty made light of the challenge of unseeded American Shelby Rogers with a commanding 6-3 6-4 victory to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open for the third year in a row on Monday.

The world No 1 has tried to deflect talk that she might end Australia’s 43-year wait for a homegrown champion next Saturday but she looked every bit the title contender as she swept into the last eight without dropping a set.

Rogers has played quarterfinals at two Grand Slams and made a habit of upsetting highly-ranked players but she was unable to get enough of a handle on Barty’s serve to make her high quality returns a factor.

Barty faltered for the first time with victory in sight, allowing Rogers to take back one of the two breaks of serve she had given up in the second set, but the top seed fixed a quarterfinal date with Czech Karolina Muchova two games later.

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