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Pegula’s path to the game’s elite

  • Leigh Rogers

A version of this article first appeared in the June/July 2022 issue of Australian Tennis Magazine, one of the world’s longest-running tennis publications. For more in-depth features, news and analysis, you can subscribe now.


Jessica Pegula was one of the standout performers during this year’s European clay-court swing, winning 11 of her 15 singles matches.

The 28-year-old American advanced to her first WTA 1000 final at Madrid and enjoyed a career-best run at Roland Garros, reaching the quarterfinals.

Her reward was a long-awaited top-10 debut, with Pegula peaking at world No.8 following her effort at Roland Garros. 

And she has since risen to No.7, a ranking she carries into this week’s WTA 250 event in Washington DC, where she is the top seed as she kicks off her summer hard-court swing in the run-up to the US Open.

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With women’s tennis returning to the US capital for the first time since 2019, the year Pegula won the trophy, she is effectively the reigning champion and began her title defence with a 6-2 6-2 victory over Hayley Baptiste – her 26th match win of 2022.

“Definitely very happy to say that I’ve made second week at the French Open. That’s something I don’t think a lot of people thought I could do,” said Pegula, who had previously only won two matches from three main draw appearances in Paris.

“I think Madrid gave me a lot of confidence and just finding my game on clay.”

Pegula also credits her improved 2022 results on her least favourite surface to greater self-belief.

“I maybe last year was just more frustrated on the clay, whereas this year I’m definitely a lot more patient and thinking out there,” she noted.

After long stints on the sidelines with knee and hip injuries early in her career, Pegula is relishing her newfound place among the sport’s elite.

It has been a rapid rise for Pegula, who made her top-100 debut in February 2019 just weeks before her 25th birthday.

Dedication and hard work continues to pay off for the late-blooming Pegula, skyrocketing into the world’s top 20 in a breakout 2021 season.

“It’s just amazing when you realise that you can go so much further than you think you can,” said Pegula.

She has maintained that scintillating form this year, reaching a second consecutive Australian Open quarterfinal and advancing to the Miami semifinals.

Pegula is excelling on the doubles court too, rising to a career-high ranking at world No.12 and making the Roland Garros final alongside Coco Gauff.

The all-American combination also enjoyed a title-winning run at Doha in February.

“We really weren’t supposed to play together in the Middle East and then we won Doha, which was a pretty big tournament and we were kind of like, ‘okay, well now we have a good shot to make yearend finals if we play a couple big tournaments together and do well’. So, yeah, that is our goal,” Pegula said of their partnership.

“We get along really well, both of our teams get along really well, so it’s just fun.”

Thriving off court

There have been recent off-court highs as well to celebrate for Pegula, who has been coached by Venus Williams’ long-time mentor David Witt since mid-2019.

She married in October 2021 and is actively involved in running an animal rescue charity alongside her new husband, Taylor.

Pegula also joined the WTA Players' Council this season.

“It’s been really interesting. I think it’s a great thing to be a part of and to learn,” she said of her role on the eight-member council.

The Pegula name is already well known in America, where her billionaire parents, Terry and Kim, operate oil and gas businesses. The family also own the Buffalo Bulls team in the National Football League.

Yet Pegula vows she has always been determined “to make a name for myself”.

“Tennis is my thing, it’s my job, it’s my career. My parents don’t really have a say,” she said.

And with her new top-10 status, Pegula is certainly proving she can successfully forge her own path.

“It’s a pretty cool thing, I think, with tennis where you can say you’re a top-10 best player in the world. That’s pretty, pretty awesome,” she said.

“I’m definitely proud of myself.”

Rafael Nadal is the cover star of the June/July 2022 issue of Australian Tennis Magazine.