Jessica Pegula prepares to serve (Image: AP)
Jessica Pegula and Madison Keys kept noticing their names near each other in tournament draws this summer.
“We were like, ‘I think the world just wants us to play,’” Pegula said.
At the U.S. Open, they finally will.
Pegula beat Elina Svitolina 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 on Saturday, setting up a fourth-round matchup against the No. 17-seeded Keys.
Pegula, the No. 3 seed, is still trying to advance beyond the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament. First, she’ll have to get by the 2017 runner-up in Flushing Meadows who also needed three sets to move on.
Keys came back to eliminate No. 14 Liudmila Samsonova 5-7, 6-2, 6-2.
Pegula and Keys could have met early in both Montreal and Cincinnati, but Keys had to withdraw with a hip injury in Canada — where Pegula won the title — and lost her opening match in Ohio. So they’ve still played only once, a victory for Pegula last year in San Diego.
“I think we kind of are opposites a little bit,” Keys said. “But I mean, she’s been playing some amazing tennis the past few years.”
Other winners on the women’s side Saturday included No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, who routed Clara Burel 6-1, 6-1, and No. 23 Zheng Qinwen of China, who outlasted Lucia Bronzetti 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.
Pegula then found herself in a tough test with Svitolina, the No. 26 seed from Ukraine who reached the U.S. Open semifinals in 2019. It was tied 2-2 in the third set before the 29-year-old from Florida broke serve to start a run of four straight games to win the match.
That put her in the fourth round of the U.S. Open for the second time. Pegula had her best result at the tournament in 2022, falling to eventual champion Iga Swiatek in the quarterfinals. She’s gone that far in each Grand Slam tournament but is still seeking to reach the final four.
“She’s been showing great results,” Svitolina said. “I think she’s ready to do an extra step forward.”
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