Date: 8 October 2021
Tournament: BNP Paribas Open
Round: Second round (Round of 64)
Venue: Indian Wells, USA
Category: WTA 1000
Prize money: $8,761,725
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel & ESPN | UK - Amazon Prime Video
Jessica Pegula vs Sloane Stephens preview
Compatriots Jessica Pegula and Sloane Stephens will cross swords in the second round of the 2021 BNP Paribas Open on Friday.
Pegula, seeded 19th, comes into this fixture having received a bye in the first round. Stephens, on the other hand, rallied from a set down against Heather Watson in the first round before winning 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-1.
Stephens actually trailed by a set and a break against Watson, a player she had never before beaten on hardcourt. But the former US Open champion came back strongly late into the second set, before reeling off seven games in a row to clinch the win.
Stephens has endured a poor run of form during the American hardcourt series, failing to make the quarterfinals in five straight events (including the US Open). She recently fell in the first round at Chicago, and was sorely short on confidence coming into Indian Wells.
But the win against Watson, who has beaten her five times in eight matches, would have done the American a world of good.
Jessica Pegula meanwhile hasn't quite set the tour alight during the American hardcourt swing either, but has been fairly consistent with her performances. Pegula made the semifinals at Montreal before reaching the third round in a trio of events - Cincinnati, New York and Chicago.
The 27-year-old is one of the most improved players on tour, and boasts a remarkable 36-18 win-loss record for the year so far. Pegula also recently managed to climb to a career-high ranking of No. 23.
Jessica Pegula vs Sloane Stephens head-to-head
Jessica Pegula and Sloane Stephens have never faced each other on tour before, which is why their head-to-head currently stands at 0-0.
Jessica Pegula vs Sloane Stephens prediction
Jessica Pegula enters this fixture as the slight favorite, given that she has been in better form than Sloane Stephens recently. Pegula has also performed considerably better than her compatriot on hardcourts this year, so she will back herself against the 28-year-old.
Stephens, on her part, will look to build on her stellar comeback win against Heather Watson. The 2017 US Open champion will also take heart from the fact that her return of serve, which has been poor for large parts of the season, was in fine fettle on Wednesday.
Stephens managed to rack up a whopping 18 break points, out of which she converted on seven occasions. She won nearly half of her return points in the match, which is an impressive statistic by any standard.
That said, Pegula has the arsenal to hit through Stephens' defenses, which should hold her in good stead.
Prediction: Jessica Pegula to win in three sets.