Jessica Pegula to face Ons Jabeur in the Madrid final

Ons Jabeur
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

When Jessica Pegula was a kid, she thought about playing all sports: football, hockey or even tennis. She wanted to score or nail a winner, either way.

Her father, Terry Pegula, owns the NFL Buffalo Bills, and the NHL Buffalo Sabres. But ,she wanted to do play tennis and advance to a pro career. Eventually, the American joined the WTA, but while she was OK, she was not amazing on court — yet.

Up until the start of last year, she was so-so, out of the top 50. Year after year, she would win and then she would lost, early. But then, she decided to hit the ball much harder and really go for it.

She still isn’t perfect, yet, but she has improved a tremendous amount. The 28-year-old could have retired, and go watch hockey or football, but she wanted to fight on court.

Now she is in the final in Madrid, and on Saturday, she will meet the talented Ons Jabeur.
 
Pegula is ready to drive and she wants to practice confidently.

“Well, if I didn’t work, I’d be very bored. People don’t realize that, they’re like, ‘You don’t have to work.’ I’m, like, ‘What would I do all day?,’ ” Pegula said. “I just wasn’t wired like that, I guess. Growing up, I guess I was just wired differently where I always wanted to be successful, and whatever it was, I feel like it’s not just tennis, whatever I do off the court too, I want to be really good at it, I want to be the best at it, I want to work hard at it. But honestly I think I just love the sport. I just have a lot of passion for playing. Yeah, I love to compete and be out there. It’s so much fun for me, and I think at the end of the day most players that’s what they are playing for.”

There are some people who want to earn money — whether it be a modest or large amount of money — and a few people do not push themselves when they play the matches. They may look OK, but there are times when they are feeling good. Conversely, when they can start to lose, they check out.

“You see the top players, they’re not playing really for more money at the time. They have already made enough money. Look at [Roger] Federer,” Pegula said. “He could have stopped a while ago and nobody would have blamed him. He says he loves the sport. I feel like I have the same feeling. I’m very compassionate about it and I love to compete and I love the challenge and the grind of doing that.”

Yes it is a huge challenge but she is rising to it. She is ranked No. 14 and very soon, she could finally be in the top 10. This year she has knocked off some solid players. But besides Madrid, she has been up and down. In Dubai, Jabeur crushed her. Who will prevail on Saturday? Neither have won a WTA 1000. Someone will.

“We’re both, I think, going to be nervous,” Pegula said. “We’re both going to want to win. We’re going to go out there and compete and have a great match, I hope.”

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