What was supposed to be a clash of generations turned into a battle between former doubles partners. Jennifer Brady meets Jessica Pegula in the first round of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati on Sunday, following the withdrawal of former World No. 1 Kim Clijsters.
Both Brady and Pegula started the 2020 season on a strong note, but it was the 25-year-old Brady who raced ahead of her compatriot as the year progressed.
Brady had made quite a statement in January when she upset the reigning World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in Brisbane on her way to the quarterfinals. Among her other enviable scalps were Maria Sharapova (at Brisbane) as well as Garbine Muguruza and Elina Svitolina at Dubai.
The American carried that momentum into her first tournament on the resumption of the tour. Confidence oozed from her racquet as she won the Top Seed Open in Lexington without dropping a set, which propelled her to a career-high ranking of World No. 40.
In contrast, Jessica Pegula hasn't been able to replicate the form she showed in her first tournament of the year - the ASB Classic in Auckland. With a runner-up finish to Serena Williams she seemed set to make serious headway on the tour, but there hasn't been much to celebrate since.
The 26-year-old's best results lately have been a couple of quarterfinal appearances at WTA 125K events. Pegula couldn't make much noise in Lexington either, surrendering to Cici Bellis meekly, but she has now made the main draw at the Western & Southern Open by winning a couple of qualifying matches.
Jennifer Brady vs Jessica Pegula head-to-head
While the two have never met on the WTA tour, the 83rd-ranked Jessica Pegula did get the better of her younger compatriot at the World Team Tennis last month. Pegula, in fact, was a sensation in that team event, notching up wins over Venus Williams and Sofia Kenin to finish with an impressive 9-1 record.
That experience could come in handy for the lower-ranked player should the match on Sunday go the distance.
Jennifer Brady vs Jessica Pegula prediction
Jennifer Brady's serve is expected to be the biggest difference-maker in this match. Brady used that shot like a real weapon in Lexington, and was broken just thrice in the 43 service games that she played.
With improved fitness and a higher level of confidence, Brady would be looking to continue her winning streak.
Pegula can hit a clean ball herself though, and is a gritty competitor. She was tested in the Western & Southern Open qualifying, but she came through each time - with her last match against Liudmila Samsonova going the distance.
Still, based on the sheer consistency and quality of opponents Brady has beaten throughout the season, she should have the edge.
Prediction: Jennifer Brady to win in straight sets.
Tournament: Western & Southern Open 2020
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York, USA
Category: WTA Premier 5
Surface: Outdoor hardcourt
Prize money: $1,950,079
Match timing: 1 pm EDT, 10.30 pm IST on Sunday, August 23, 2020
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel / ESPNPublished 23 Aug 2020, 10:44 IST