"Hopefully I have a new habit of making finals," Jennifer Brady gave a big smile after defeating her friend Jessica Pegula wit a three set battle (4-6, 6-2, 6-1) in the quarterfinals. She was determined to strive for a good performance here as last year the WTA's no.
22 rank bowed at the opening round in straight sets to Simona Halep. Things this year were totally different and also difficult as everyone was fighting the adjustment to play well in Pandemic times. They had to function in 'a bubble' and come out successful.
Jennifer Brady was not one of the fortunate few, as she had to face along with others a strict quarantine for being on a flight with a positive flier. It was 14 days of not going out, exercising and practicing in the hotel room.
This gave Brady the appreciation needed to do well. At a Melbourne warm-up event she played doubles with the native Australian and no 1 in the world, Ashleigh Barty. They'd go through to the quarterfinals but fell to the doubles team of Demi Schuurs and Nicole Melichar.
Then it was the Grampians Trophy event, designed for the players in hard quarantine that served a great purpose for Brady. She made it to the semifinals where Ann Li defeated her in three sets. This was just a trial for the former University of California at Los Angeles player.
She would hope to go deep in the Australian Open but accomplished more than ever dreamed of doing. "We're such good friends," Brady said of Jessica Pegula when she would defeat her in the quarterfinal of the Happy Slam.
This was Pegula's first time reaching this level of any Slam and Brady gave only praise to the 26-year-old ranked no. 61. "I'm really happy for her success. I know we'll be having a lot more tough battles."
The first set of the semifinal proved scary for Brady who though she was going down a dark path to losing the match when Pegula swiped the opening set at 6-4. Brady put it all out on the court plowing to a 3-0 lead and started to feel confident.
Pegular would have none of it and got her game together and fought to make it 3-2. Points went in a see-saw rhythm which at the end, brady won the 2nd set at 6-2. It was a great confidence that pushed her to dictate points and resulted in her winning the final set and match.
Jennifer Brady knew that there were more victories coming and proved it in the semifinal with her win over Karolina Muchova of 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. The Czech has a history for creating surprising winners. She had just played Ashleigh Barty and in the opening set went for a medical time out and came back to win the match.
"I felt lost and my head was spinning," she had told court reporter Jim Courier. But Brady didn't care for any of that action. She'd win the first set with a steady rhythm and strategy but faltered in the second where Muchova did prove a defiant comeback of moving the ball around to get a winning shot, down the lines and being dominate.
Brady grew nervous but her nerves paid off. There was suspense and a major embarrassment when at Brady's second match point she blasted a backhand which she thought was good to win the match. The Hawkeye proved it was just a slither out as brady had to get off her knees in false celebration to legally win with the 5th match point.
She'd later confessed that "I can't feel my legs. My legs are shaking and my heart is racing. Brady's body was now feeling the ill effects of the entire Melbourne season from Pandemic to wuarantine to competition.
"I was feeling a little strange today. I was super excited but...pretty flat-footed. My legs felt fresh but at the same, they just weren't moving. I felt I was stuck in mud." There is one more round to go and it's with Naomi Osaka who defeated her in the semifinal of last year's 2020 US Open in three sets.
But this year three is Jennifer Brady's lucky number as she had won over Pegula and Muchova in that many sets. She is the last American left that experienced the hard quarantine. This might be her fairytale story to come true and win the Australian Open. She admitted with a broad smile that "I'll be nervous but I'm going to be super-excited."