Jessica Pegula reached the French Open quarterfinals before meeting the seemingly unbeatable Iga Swiatek on Wednesday. And four months ago, at the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, Pegula reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open before meeting eventual champion Ash Barty.
Two Majors, two strong runs, two encounters with then-No. 1. So Pegula, a 28-year-old from New York, can offer a unique perspective on what it’s like to face both Swiatek and Barty, who are in the retired in March at the age of 25.
Swiatek, who replaced Barty at the top of the WTA standings, benefited from the chair umpire’s no-call on a brace that gave her a break of serve in the opener during an important five-game run to advance to the semis at Roland Garros by defeating Pegula 6-3, 6-2 to extend her winning streak to 33 games.
Swiatek’s run is the longest on the Tour since Serena Williams won 34 straight wins in 2013.
“To be honest, she kind of plays like a guy. And I mean that Ash had a similar way where they don’t play like a typical girl, where they kind of hit flat and the ball kind of goes through. She plays a little more unorthodox because she has a really heavy forehand,” said Pegula about Swiatek, “but at the same time she also likes to intervene and take it very early and I think sand gives her more time and I think it makes her forehand even more difficult to manage.”
CLOCK | Swiatek turns Pegula upside down in the French Open quarter:
Swiatek plays No. 20 Daria Kasatkina in a women’s semifinal on Thursday, while fellow No. 18 Coco Gauff, an 18-year-old American, will take on unseeded Martina Trevisan, a 28-year-old Italian.
Gauff and her partner Pegula are also in the semifinals in women’s doubles.
Of the last four women’s singles, only Swiatek has previously played in a major tournament semi-final, losing at that point at the Australian Open in January and winning the title at the 2020 French Open when she failed to finish in the top 50.
“It’s a little bit different this year because I’m not an outsider,” she said, “and honestly everything has changed.”
Kasatkina defeated No. 29 Veronika Kudermetova 6-4, 7-6 (5) in a match between two Russian players who will be banned from Wimbledon later this month due to that country’s invasion of Ukraine. They combined for 75 unforced errors, 50 from Kudermetova.
In Wednesday’s men’s quarterfinals, 2014 US Open winner Marin Cilic advanced to the French Open semifinals for the first time by beating 33 aces and No. 7 Andrey Rublev 5-7, 6-3 , 6-4, 3-6, 7 def. -6 (10-2) in 4 hours 10 minutes.
20th seed Cilic, who is 33, will now take on 8th seed Casper Ruud on Friday for a place in the final. Ruud, a 23-year-old Norwegian, reached his first Grand Slam semifinal by defeating 19-year-old Dane Holger Rune 6-1 4-6 7-6(2) 6-3 in the final quarterfinal.
In mixed doubles, Canada’s last stand at Roland Garros came in the semifinals as Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski and partner John Peers of Australia lost a 3-6, 4-6 decision to Japan’s Ena Shibahara and Dutchman Wesley Koolhof.
CLOCK | Dabrowski, peers fall in semifinals:
Swiatek blossoms as No. 1
A day after her 21st birthday, Swiatek was not at her best against 11th-seeded Pegula, whose parents own the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and NHL’s Buffalo Sabers. As so often this season, Swiatek was good enough to land on the right side of the goal line. She has not lost a match since February and has won her last five tournaments.
The sustained pressure placed on opponents is another similarity Pegula sees between Swiatek and Barty.
On a sunny afternoon on Court Philippe Chatrier with a temperature of over 20 degrees Celsius, Swiatek’s start to her second straight match was mediocre, although she ended up with almost twice as many winners as Pegula (30) through 16.
“I have the feeling that the ball is flying a bit faster,” said Swiatek, “of course I had to adapt to that.”
Replay confirms missed call
She was 3-2 down in the opening set and it was 3-all when she scored a break point while Pegula was serving.
Pegula tried a drop shot and Swiatek ran towards it and reached out to throw the ball over the net at an impossible angle. Pegula couldn’t match that response and the point went to Swiatek, giving her a 4-3 advantage.
But as Pegula later saw in a replay on the overhead videoboard, it shouldn’t have been: the ball landed on Swiatek’s side of the net a second time before she went off her racquet. Chair umpire Emmanuel Joseph should have ruled the point belonged to Pegula, but he failed to notice the double jump; Unlike some other tournaments, officials at the French Open cannot view videos.
From there, Swiatek would not lose another game until she led by one set and 1-0 in the second. Overall, she won 10 of the last 12 games.
When a reporter mentioned this double jump, Swiatek seemed to suppress a smile, as if expecting the question.
“If it was two bounces then I’m sorry,” she said, noting, “These moments are pretty difficult because it all depends on the referee.”