After years of persistent injuries and near breakthroughs, American Jessica Pegula is playing the best tennis of her career in 2019. While the newly-minted WTA top-100’er is on a steady rise up the rankings, the road hasn’t always looked so promising.
While Pegula comes from a sports family, she didn’t always know she had a passion for tennis. In fact, she essentially stumbled into her on-court talents by following the lead of her older sister. Kelly Pegula played Division I college tennis, and Jessica took up the sport as an after-school activity to follow in her footsteps. As they both quickly learned, she had a natural gift for the game.
In the coming years, Pegula moved to Hilton Head, South Carolina to continue her training and hone her craft. She eventually qualified for the 2015 US Open, a moment that Pegula still names as the proudest of her young career. She won both of her qualifying matches, as well as a comeback victory over Alison Van Uytvanck in the tournament’s first round. The sky was the limit for Pegula, until injuries quickly derailed her rapid ascension up the WTA rankings.
In the months that followed, Pegula underwent surgeries on her knee and hip. Although the operations went smoothly, they came at times when she was just beginning to gain momentum on the tour. On several occasions, Pegula put together the strongest months of her career only to be abruptly sidelined by painful and recurring ailments. As difficult at those times were for Pegula, she looks back on them now and recognizes the strength she gained by learning how to persevere through her toughest moments.
Fast forward to late 2018, where a resurgent Pegula broke through for the first time on the WTA Tour in Quebec City. Ranked No. 227 in the world, she downed a slew of higher-seeded opponents including Lauren Davis, Kristyna Pliskova, Petra Martic and Sofia Kenin. She reached the first WTA final of her career and reasserted herself as one of tennis’ most exciting young contenders.
As she began to regain her form, Pegula took advantage of the opportunity to play in three of the four Oracle Challenger Series events throughout the 2018-2019 Series. In November, she won the Oracle Challenger Series Houston doubles title as well as reaching the singles semifinals. She returned to the Series in January with an impressive run to the finals at the Oracle Challenger Series Newport Beach, which saw her crack the WTA top-100 for the first time in her career and catapult her atop the Road to Indian Wells Leaderboard. These performances eventually earned her a wild card into the main draw of the 2019 BNP Paribas Open.
Even at just 25 years old, Pegula has been through a journey that makes her appreciate her time in the sport. As we head towards the rest of 2019, it’s time to sit back and watch what else she has in store.