Jessica Pegula surging at U.S. Open after mom’s health scare

Jessica Pegula is not only the highest-ranked American tennis player – and now in her first round of 16 at the US Open – but her parents own the Buffalo Bills.

As the Bills prepare to open the NFL season against the Rams on Thursday night, Pegula has reached new heights in her tennis career, defeating Chinese qualifier Yuan Yue 6-2, 6-7(6), 6-6 at the Arthur on Saturday : 0 defeated Ashe Stadium.

This brings up a round of 16 match against Petra Kvitova, who defeated Pegula in the third round of the 2020 US Open.

“I think I’m a much better player now than I was the last time I played her,” said Pegula, 28. “Again, I don’t really know — I mean, I know how she plays, but man never really knows how she’ll get together.”

Pegula’s parents, Terry and Kim, own the Bills and Buffalo Sabers. Jessica wears a pair of beaded bracelets, one blue and red for the Bills, the other blue and yellow for the Sabers. Unsurprisingly, she’s an avid fan of both franchises.

It’s been a difficult few months for the Pegula family, who announced in mid-June that Kim is undergoing medical treatment for an unspecified health condition.

“We are very grateful for the progress she has made over the past few days,” the family said in a June 14 statement. “She has an excellent team of medical experts at her side. We ask that you keep Kim and our family in your prayers and respect our need for privacy.”

Two weeks later, the family issued another statement that Kim was “making good progress” and was “resting and rehabilitating” from the health issue.

Buffalo Bills co-owner Kim Pegula speaks with a colleague before a game.

Buffalo Bills co-owner Kim Pegula speaks with a colleague before a game between the Bills and the New York Jets in September 2019.

(Bill Kostroun/Associated Press)

Jessica Pegula has hinted in later interviews that her mother is on the mend.

In May, three weeks before announcing her health condition, Kim Pegula spoke to The Times about what it was like raising a world-class tennis player.

“We call them our first sports team,” Pegula’s mother said at NFL meetings May 24 in Atlanta. “Because without us knowing the future of ownership of the Sabers and the Bills and all of these other teams, it really was our first opportunity as parents to really understand what it means to become a professional player. The time, the effort, the things she gave up as a child. Oh my goodness.

“She’s 28 now; she started when she was 7. I haven’t done anything purposefully for so long, for so many years. Now to see how all this success actually develops from this has been very satisfying.

“As much as the parents are, we supported each other. We drove them there, bought the racket, got the lessons and so on. But if she wasn’t. … It’s a single sport. It’s up to her. That she put in so much time… and we’re seeing how that plays out now.”

These league meetings took place during the French Open when Pegula – known for Jessie – reached the quarterfinals. Her parents tracked her matches by glancing at their phones during meetings.

“We follow the score and the little ball when she serves and all that,” said Kim Pegula, 53, at the time. “I’m a little more nervous than my husband so he’s staring at the phone. I’m like, ‘Just tell me when the set is done.’ He’s more point by point. I’m more like, OK, end of first set, end of game.”

That moment the Pegulas realized their daughter had an extraordinary talent?

Jessica Pegula returns a shot at Yuan Yue in Saturday's third-round match.

Jessica Pegula returns a shot at Yuan Yue in Saturday’s third-round match.

(Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / Associated Press)

“My husband and I disagree,” she said at the time. “He says he knew from day one and I said, ‘Oh, come on. You didn’t really know.’ So much can happen between 7 and 20.

“I think there have been certain games throughout their career where you can see it’s there. Now it’s just a matter of getting that consistency on a consistent basis to really pull through. We’ve seen it regularly in various games that she would have had and just said she can play with any of these women who are up there at the top – first it was the top 50, then the top 20, then that top 10

Pegula ranks No. 8 among women, the highest of any American player. The highest ranking American is Taylor Fritz at number 12.

“When she was younger and we moved to Hilton Head, SC, and she wanted to play tennis, brag about your kid,” Kim Pegula said in May. “People asked and we said, ‘Oh yeah, she wants to go pro.’ Everyone thinks you’re just boasting about your kid.

“So now they’re like, ‘Wait … I just saw her on TV. she is really good.’ So it’s a little satisfaction for those who knew us long ago, knew her when she was younger. She just had this dream. It’s fun to see it come to life.” Jessica Pegula surging at U.S. Open after mom’s health scare

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