Jessica Pegula vs Bernarda Pera: WTA Australian Open Round Two Odds, Preview and Analysis (Jan. 18)
Clive Brunskill/Getty. Pictured: Bernarda Pera hits a forehand in the first round of the Australian Open.
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Jessica Pegula vs. Bernarda Pera
|Time||8:15 p.m. ET|
|Odds via PointsBet. For tips on how to watch tennis, click here.|
Jessica Pegula made the Australian Open quarterfinals last season, but her return to Australia hasn’t been as smooth.
Pegula lost in the first round in both of the warmup tournaments she played, falling in straight sets to Irina Begu and Caroline Garcia. However, in the first round of the Australian Open, she came back from a set down to beat Anhelina Kalinina 4-6, 7-6(1), 7-5 in nearly three hours.
For Pegula, the match against Kalinina was the first where her return game took a step forward. Both Begu and Garcia won at least 74% of their first-serve points against Pegula, whereas Kalinina only won 62% of the points on her first serve. And, while Pegula broke serve three times combined against Begu and Garcia, she broke four times against Kalinina alone.
However, Pegula was still hit-and-miss from the baseline. She really went for her shots, hitting 46 winners compared to 56 unforced errors. Hitting 102 combined winners and unforced errors over the course of three sets shows Pegula’s willingness to play attack and stand her ground on the baseline, regardless of if she ultimately won the point or not.
It was a decent warmup to the Australian Open for Bernarda Pera. She easily beat Rebecca Sramkova in the first round of Melbourne Summer Set 1 qualifying, before losing a three-set battle to the rapidly-rising Qinwen Zheng in the second round. Taking on a player like Zheng who really goes for her shots and tries to ramp up the power is good preparation for this match against Pegula.
In the first round of the Australian Open, Pera played her best match in a long time against Ekaterina Alexandrova, winning 7-5, 6-3. Taking on the big-serving Russian, Pera was able to return at a very high level, taking 42% of her first-serve return points and 58% of her second-serve return points.
Pera did a decent job protecting her own serve, winning over 70% of her first-serve points and only getting broken one time.
Compared to Pegula, Pera plays a more defensive, counter-puncher type of game. She uses being a lefty to her advantage, pinning righty players in their backhand corner with her heavy cross-court forehands.
This is reflected in the winners and unforced errors for her match against Alexandrova. While there was one less set played, Pera hit only 18 winners compared to only 26 unforced errors. She doesn’t take as many risks as Pegula and uses her legs and court-craft to her advantage.
Pera is certainly not known to be one of the mentally tougher players, garnering a reputation for choking at the end of matches, which we will need to keep in mind for this one.
This matchup will come down to whether Pegula is sharp enough at this point in the year to consistently hit through Pera.
Pegula is the big favorite, but that’s much more so based on what she has done this year. Pera’s lefty game is hard to break down, she has great consistent depth on her groundstrokes and she is able to turn points around well.
Pegula will go for her shots, but I think she will continue to be hot-and-cold from the baseline. Pera can drag points out and force Pegula to overhit.
Pera, when she’s playing well, has a way of weaving her web out there and making opponents feel very uncomfortable playing her. This isn’t good news for a player like Pegula, who clearly is still struggling to find her game.
While it’s tempting to think that Pera can win this match outright, I still don’t trust her mentally at this point.
4.5 games are too many to give Pera and taking the game handicap is a safer bet than taking her outright to win.
Pick: Pera +4.5 games (-135 via PointsBet)