MELBOURNE – After Jessica Pegula earned her first trip to a Grand Slam quarterfinal, the daughter of the owners of Buffalo's NFL and NHL franchises scribbled on the screen of an Australian Open courtside TV camera: “Hi Mom, Hi Dad. See u next rnd Jen B.”
In addition to a shoutout to her parents, that was a message for Jennifer Brady, a good pal of Pegula's whose fourth-round match was up next in Rod Laver Arena on Monday.
And after Brady won, too, setting up an all-American matchup against Pegula with a berth in the final four at stake, she used a blue marker to respond in kind, writing: “Bring it Jess!”
“It’s an opportunity for both of us,” Pegula said, recalling that she and Brady became close after playing doubles together for the United States in the team competition now known as the Billie Jean King Cup. “I’m just happy I’m here; she's been playing some good tennis, solidifying herself as a top player.”
The 61st-ranked Pegula beat No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, before the 22nd-seeded Brady, a Pennsylvanian who played college tennis at UCLA, had a 6-1, 7-5 victory over No. 28 Donna Vekic of Croatia.
Brady was one of the 72 players who had to go through a hard lockdown — two weeks stuck in a hotel room, not allowed to leave for any reason — after flying to Australia in January because someone on their flight tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival.
“A lot of people were complaining, and I told myself I wasn’t going to complain,” Brady said. “I mean, there’s way worse things going on in the world than me being stuck in a hotel room for 14 days.”
Brady and Pegula gave the U.S. three women's quarterfinalists at Melbourne Park, joining 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, who advanced a day earlier.