Jessica Pegula on Serena Williams’ retirement opening up the field, Coco Gauff’s Gen Z humour and more
Jessica Pegula has capped off another brilliant year and her on and off-court performances have earned her a spot on the latest “30 Under 30” list from Forbes magazine.
The American features alongside world champion sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, NFL quarterback Lamar Jackson and basketball stars Napheesa Collier and Anthony Edwards in the athletes’ section for 2023.
The 29-year-old is a self-described late bloomer as she has enjoyed a remarkable rise over the past few years. She was still outside the top 50 in the WTA Rankings in 2020, but finished at No 18 in 2021 before reaching a career-high No 3 last year.
She has also had a lot of success in the doubles as she was a runner-up alongside Coco Gauff at the French Open last year and became the world No 1 in September this year.
In a wide-ranging interview with Forbes.com, Pegula talked about her journey stating: “I always thought that I would make it happen, but at the same time, putting in all the work and making it happen four years later, about where my mindset was, I don’t know if I really truly believed it. I did, but I didn’t. It’s just been a very long journey.”
With the great Serena Williams retiring last year, opportunity is knocking for the likes of Gauff and Pegula to take over the mantle not only as the American No 1, but to lead the way in general.
Gauff has already upped her game as she won the US Open this year, but Pegula hopes to follow in her doubles partner’s footsteps.
“There are a lot of opportunities for everyone, we saw Coco Gauff take advantage of that at the US Open, really get hot this summer and prove that she could be a Slam champion. That definitely motivates me as well,” she said.
“I think there are a lot of opportunities for a lot of girls, me being one of them so hopefully I can take advantage of that.
“I think with Serena being out, it’s different, it feels more open. Even when she wasn’t playing full time it was like she was always the favourite and now it seems like a different time. We have already seen who the top players are, but it is an opportunity for everyone so why not me.”
She added: “I don’t think anyone can fill Serena’s shoes. Having other top Americans there definitely helps because I couldn’t imagine being the only American.
“Someone like Coco has a lot of pressure on her as far as being regarded as the next Serena or Venus. I don’t really see that as a role I have to fill. But it’s pretty cool when I can say ‘I’ve won this many hard-court matches, it hasn’t been done since Serena’. Having little stats like that is really cool.”
Pegula was also asked about her relationship with her 19-year-old doubles partner Gauff and the generational gap.
“She is definitely very Gen Z. I didn’t really notice it and then as we started hanging out more or just being together more on Tour I am like ‘okay there is definitely a generational gap here’, no friction but it’s funny,” she joked.
“I don’t know, she makes fun of me because I don’t know any of the TikTok trends and stuff like that, but it is more just poking fun at each other.”
She added: “I think it is cool that I was the only one to beat her this summer before she won the US Open. We are very friendly. We have learned a lot from each other from playing doubles and we have a lot of fun playing doubles, even if we have to play singles.
“It’s not a big a big deal, we are used to it. Most girls are used to playing singles against their doubles partner.”
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