Here’s why Jessica Pegula may be the unlikely Miami Open champion

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She may have flown under the radar at Indian Wells, but American Jessica Pegula has made a strong comeback in Miami, and the following statistics make her a solid candidate for the title.

Jessica Pegula Miami Open
Jessica Pegula of the United States in action during the third round of the 2022 Miami Open WTA 1000 tennis tournament

Jessica Pegula may not be the first name that comes to mind when making predictions for this year’s Miami Open champion, but there are in fact plenty of reasons to get behind the American on this occasion. From an impressive track record against Top 10 players, many of whom are favorites for the title, to having the home ground advantage on US soil and producing great results thus far, here’s why Jessica Pegula is the unsung favorite for the Miami Open 2022 title.

Track record against Top 10 players

At 28 years of age and having turned pro back in 2009, it’s no surprise that Pegula has had her fair share of bouts with some of the greatest players in the world. Despite only having one singles WTA title to her name, the American has proven to be a formidable foe against the world’s best, producing upsets time and time again and frustrating the tournament favorites.

Jessica Pegula

A classic example is her impressive record against world No.8 Karolina Pliskova in which Jessica Pegula holds a dominant head-to-head of 4 wins to 1 loss against the Czech. More impressively still is that all of these five matches were recently played across WTA tournaments in 2021, one of which included the Miami Open.

Other notable Top 10 players (at the time) that Jessica Pegula pulled off big wins against last year include Naomi Osaka at the Italian Open (the Japanese was ranked No.2 at the time), as well as Elina Svitolina at Indian Wells (the Ukrainian was ranked No.7 during their encounter).

Jessica Pegula

The home turf advantage

There’s no doubt that playing in front of your home fans can do wonders for your on-court motivation, and we’ve seen this phenomenon occur with Ash Barty at the Australian Open this year (albeit her status as world No.1 definitely helped too). It likely is no coincidence that Jessica Pegula’s only WTA singles career title came at the Citi Open in Washington, where she defeated the soon-to-be world No.1 Iga Swiatek en route to the title. Of course, Pegula won’t be the only American with a home crowd advantage, as she will be competing with the likes of fellow countrywomen Coco Gauff and Danielle Collins (among others) who are producing good results so far.

Nevertheless, Jessica Pegula made a strong statement by defeating Sloane Stephens with a convincing score line of 6-1 6-4 in the Round of 64 at the Miami Open. With both women receiving equal crowd support, it came down to individual skill and resilience for Pegula to produce such a result against her fellow American. While it may be too early to be talking about crowd support during the early rounds and small audience numbers, the factor of the home turf advantage is sure to come into play at some point for Jessica Pegula and her fellow American competitors.

Jessica Pegula

So far so good…

Yet to drop a set, Jessica Pegula has now advanced passed her first two matches with ease, taking down Stephens in the second round and 17th-seed Elina Rybakina in the third round. With that, the 16th seed has now set up a clash with Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina who had an impressive win over Madison Keys in the second round. Despite being down 1 win to 2 losses in their head-to-head rivalry, Jessica Pegula does carry with her the confidence of having won their most recent encounter. It’s also important to consider that this clash took place on the grand stage of the 2022 Australian Open in the opening round.

Thus, we can conclude that Jessica Pegula is no doubt a force to be reckoned with, especially taking into account her home country’s advantage and strong record against top-seeded players. Following an episode of poor form at Indian Wells a few weeks ago, Pegula seems to have got her act together in a prompt manner, and her success so far at the Miami Open event has allowed her to walk the path of redemption. Keep an eye on Jessica Pegula and her journey to becoming the dark horse champion in Miami as she battles it out for a spot in the quarterfinals!

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