The top-ranked American—and daughter of Bills owners—feels right at home at Miami Open
There’s something ironic about Jessica Pegula tearing her way through the Miami Open for the second straight year, with a real chance to win the tournament for the first time.
In some ways, she’s a hometown star — an American, first and foremost, and also now commuting from her home in Boca Raton to Hard Rock Stadium for each of her matches in the 2023 Miami Open. In others, she’s something like an antagonist — her parents, Terry Pegula and Kim Pegula, own the Bills, who have made a habit of tormenting the Dolphins for most of the last decade, often in the exact spot where Pegula is now making a run.
All she feels is the latter.
“There are so many Buffalo Bills sports fans removed, like a lot of the northern teams, that live down here now, so I don’t really feel any hatred from any Dolphins fans,” she said, laughing. “I’m not a Dolphins fan, but they’re pretty nice to me, I guess. It seems like it.”
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Playing in the stadium Monday, Pegula made short work of No. 20-seed Magda Linette — with just a little bit of second-set drama — to make the Miami quarterfinals for the second straight year. She breezed through the first set, then had to rally in the second to ultimately advance with a 6-1, 7-6 victory at the stadium court in Round 4.
The fourth round brought another encouraging performance for Pegula, who has yet to drop a set so far in the Open and three of her six set wins have come 6-1. She was dominant in the first set, then displayed some mettle by rallying from down 5-2 to win five straight games — with three breaks — and the match.
“After 5-2, I don’t know what I was doing,” said Pegula, who’s the top American in the Women’s Tennis Association rankings. “I don’t really know why that happened. Sometimes, it just does. ... We got through that mental battle I had with myself and I was able to play very well.”
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Last year, she fell in the semifinals to Iga Swiatek, who went on to win the tournament. Now, Swiatek is the No. 1 player in the world, but withdrew from the tournament Wednesday because of a rib injury, opening up Pegula’s path for a potential best-ever finish in Miami Gardens, where she feels at home.
Pegula has shunned the Miami hotels where most of her peers stay, instead opting for the drive down from Palm Beach County each day in part because—like any good South Floridian—she knows to avoid driving in Miami-Dade County as much as possible. She pulls into the facility each day at the same place where she would for a Dolphins game, only she heads for the locker room rather than the suite where her family usually sits. She’s doing her own laundry and her own driving, just like she would when she’s back home with a full focus on training.
“It feels like a job,” Pegula said, “like I’m commuting to work every day.”
It has her in a good zone right now, although she’ll get another tough test in the quarters Tuesday when she faces No. 27-seed Anastasia Potapova at 7 p.m. on the stadium court.
“It’s nice to relax, but at the same time it can’t feel, I think, too relaxed,” Pegula said. “I’ve done a good job of staying in my routines, making sure I’m doing everything, being well-prepared.”
This and that
▪ With Chilean flags flying and cries of “Viva Chile!” ringing out, Cristian Garin’s spirited upset big of Stefanos Tsitsipas fell short in the stadium Monday, as the No. 2-seeded Greek pulled off a late break to survive for a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win in Round 3. Garin, who only made the main draw as a qualifier, sprung on upset on No. 27-seed Sebastian Baez on Saturday to reach the second weekend of the tournament and return to the top 75 of the Association of Tennis Professionals rankings — the 26-year-old Chilean was ranked in the top 20 as recently as 2020. Tsitsipas, 24, is now on his deepest run in a tournament since losing to Novak Djokovic in the 2023 Australian Open championship in January.
▪ Another top-five seed went down Monday with No. 5-seed Felix Auger-Aliassime falling 6-2, 7-5 to No. 25-seed Francis Cerundolo on the grandstand court. Half of the top-five seeds in both fields are now out, with Auger-Aliassime and No. 4-seed Casper Ruud out of the men’s tournament, and Swiatek, No. 4-seed Ons Jabeur and No. 5-seed Carolina Garcia out of the women’s tournament.