Is Ash Barty Living in the Heads of Her WTA Peers? Jessica Pegula Says Yes

By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Tuesday January 25, 2022

Jessica Pegula had some high praise for Ash Barty on Tuesday, after falling to the World No.1 in straight sets, 6-2, 6-0. The American, who has now reached back-to-back Australian Open quarterfinals, was asked if Barty is getting inside the head of players on tour, due to the way she has dominated the tour of late.

Pegula didn’t deny it one bit.

“I think she just does everything really well,” Pegula explained. “Honestly, she just does everything I think a little bit better than everybody.

Pegula says that her playing style is rare on tour, with the best backhand slice in the women’s game, the devastating forehand, and – of course – the pinpoint serving.

“Just for like women’s tennis as well, she kind of plays more like a guy, maybe a different kind of style that we’re not used to playing day in and day out,” Pegula said. “So it’s really hard to come from someone that hits the ball really hard to someone that’s giving you all these different shots that you don’t normally see. So if you’re not really playing that all the time, it’s really hard to go out and kind of play that way with her and figure it out.”

Pegula adds that Barty’s defense is often underrated, and her tennis IQ and confidence in her tools also makes a big difference.

“I think she just does everything better honestly than most people. And just for her size, the fact that she serves so well I think is a big difference,” she said. “I just think her intangibles, like her defensive play – I think her defense and her serve are probably her best kind of assets. Definitely, I think definitely she figured it out a little bit mentally and physically with her game where she kind of has the confidence right now where she I think feels like she can go out there and kind of chop anybody up when she’s playing really well.”

Barty’s semifinal opponent, Madison Keys, also had high praise for Barty’s slice.

“I think the reason Ash’s slice is so good is just because she’s able to hit it really no matter how big the ball that’s coming in, which I think not a lot of other women in this era have been able to do,” she said. “I think she does such a good job at resetting the point constantly, being able to get back to neutral off of a ball. You can’t do a ton off of her slice because it comes in so low. I think that’s obviously one of her weapons because then she can set it up to look for a forehand. Obviously once Ash is looking for a forehand, then she can kind of start controlling the point.”

Pegula says that is extremely difficult to match levels with Barty when she is playing at her best. That’s the reality of the WTA Tour at the moment.

“Just to do it two out of three sets for somebody to beat her is tough because she just makes you play so much and does everything so well,” she said. “I think she’s definitely living in everyone’s head a little bit. I don’t think anyone is going to feel great going out to play her because they know they have to play really well.”