Jessica Pegula draws inspiration from her mother’s recovery. It is mutual.

It was already Tuesday in Sydney, Australia, but Jessica Pegula was watching “Monday Night Football” on her phone on Jan. 3 while waiting to take the field at the United Cup. Suddenly she felt the same morbid dread that many football fans had that day, but perhaps with more resonance.

On her small unit, she watched Damar Hamlin, a safety for the Buffalo Bills, collapse on the turf and watched the frantic moments as paramedics tried to revive him and bundled him into an ambulance after his heart stopped beating.

She knew how critical each of those seconds was for Hamlin, who eventually made a remarkable recovery. Her mother, Kim Pegula, the president and co-owner of the Bills with her husband, Terry Pegula, went into cardiac arrest in her sleep just over a year ago. Kim Pegula’s recovery has been a slow, difficult process, made more challenging by the loss of oxygen as it happened.

Jessica Pegula was so shaken that she considered not playing in the United Cup, but eventually did. Days later, at the Australian Open, she wore a No. 3 patch on her outfit to honor Hamlin. Coincidentally, No. 3 was her ranking at the time, an astonishing achievement considering all she had been through in the previous six months.

The family sat awake by Kim Pegula’s hospital bed for days last June. Jessica left to play at Wimbledon with a mix of emotions, but also with the knowledge that it was what her mother wanted. Wracked with worry, worn down from the previous weeks and saddled with a sinus infection, she lost in the third round.

But somehow, as her mother made steady progress, Pegula went on to play the best tennis of her career at age 28 (she turned 29 in February). She reached a semi-final at the Canadian Open and for the first time a quarter-final at the US Open – the third major quarter-final of the year. She won the Guadalajara event last October and in January reached another quarter-final at the Australian Open. At No. 4 in the world, she is the top-ranked American woman.

On Sunday, she ticked off one last major quarterfinal appearance when she demolished Lesia Tsurenko, 6-1, 6-3, in the fourth round. She has now reached the quarter-finals of each of the four majors and, as the No. 4 seed, has a great chance to reach her first Grand Slam tournament semi-final if she can beat Marketa Vondrousova, the No. 42 player in the world , on Tuesday.

Still, it has been difficult traveling over the past 12 months and being away from her mother, who encourages Pegula to fight on, just as she has.

“She didn’t want me to do anything else,” Pegula said Sunday after beating Tsurenko. “I think she wanted me to keep winning and keep competing and putting myself out there.”

Pegula explained how her mother, who along with Terry Pegula also owns the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, helped shape her tennis career without being overbearing. She said her mother had mostly left tennis to others, but had helped brainstorm ideas to help her improve and navigate the complex and unforgiving world of professional tennis. She always drew inspiration from her mother’s example of hard work and independent strength. Now, she says, her mother draws inspiration from watching her on the field.

In a article in The Players’ Tribune in February, Pegula first revealed the events surrounding her mother’s illness and recovery, outlining how she played on for her. On Sunday, after her latest victory, she spoke of the strength and motivation each drew from the other.

“She wants to see me on TV,” Jessica Pegula said Sunday. “I think seeing me out there still playing inspires her in her recovery as well.”

And plays well. Now healthy after injuries disrupted her progression through the ranks, Pegula has cashed in on healthy consistency, and her current No. 4 ranking hides her just behind the recently crowned Big Three of No. 1 Iga Swiatek, No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka and No. 2 3 Elena Rybakina.

Pegula expresses no outward resentment that she is not included in their ranks, but she makes it clear that she strives to shake up the perception that the top of the women’s tour is a triad.

“I would definitely love to do a big party if possible,” she said. “That would definitely be a goal. I mean, those girls played really well.”

All of these women are at least four years younger than Pegula. She was asked if experience had led to her recent success, but she insisted that health had been more important. Her career has been stalled by a knee injury and hip surgery, and being in the gym and rehabbing is a different experience from playing on the court.

She also said her consistency was no accident. Having reached her first major quarter-final, at the 2021 Australian Open, she was determined not to let it all go to waste in the subsequent tournament in Doha, Qatar. She was ranked 44th at the time and needed to win three qualifying rounds to enter that event, ending up capturing six consecutive matches before falling in the final to No. 4 Petra Kvitova.

“I don’t want to be the person who made the quarterfinals of a Slam and then loses the first round,” she said, adding, “I took a lot of confidence from that.”

She has now reached the quarterfinals in five of the last seven Grand Slam events and is only the fifth American to reach the quarters in all four majors in the last 25 years, joining Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys , who made a quarterfinal on Monday by beating 16-year-old Russian phenom Mirra Andreeva in three sets.

For Pegula, when her tournament ends, it will be a chance to get back to the United States and, time permitting, see her mother. But soon after, with the hardcourts season underway, she’ll be back on the court with Kim Pegula looking on. Jessica Pegula said her mother didn’t like to be petted or picked on.

“She’s like, ‘Go do your thing,'” she said.

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