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American tennis star Jessica Pegula shone during the early stages of last year’s Wimbledon – but her billionaire father urged her to skip the tournament altogether. The 28-year-old – known for being the richest in her sport in the world – tasted defeat after losing 6-2, 7-6 (5) to Petra Martic of Croatia in the third round.
But Pegula almost did not enter the grass court Grand Slam event at all, owing to some off-the-field matters.
Her mother, Kim, was hospitalised in Florida ahead of the tournament, in what her family described then as “some unexpected health issues”. That was shortly after Jessica returned from the French Open, where she reached the quarter-finals in singles plus the final in doubles, alongside fellow American Coco Gauff.
In the weeks and months that followed, the Pegulas have remained largely private about her recovery. Pegula’s parents own the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.
That desire for privacy sparked speculation from Bills fans, something Jessica recalls having to deal with at Wimbledon in an emotionally open article she penned for The Players’ Tribune.
The article, published on Tuesday, is titled: “I Want to Talk to You About My Mom.” In the first person piece, Pegula opens up on the near heartbreak her family endured, as she begins: “This is a story about my mother, my family, and the past year.”
Recalling the harrowing moment her mum suffered a cardiac arrest, the world No 4 revealed: “In June 2022, I had just flown back to Florida from the French Open. I made the quarterfinals in singles and the finals in doubles. It was an amazing two weeks full of a lot of positives, including cracking the Top 10 in the world.
“A few days after I got home, I got a call around midnight (on my mom’s birthday) from my sister Kelly who was staying at my parents’ house. Something was wrong with our mom, and she was headed to the hospital in an ambulance.
“My mom was asleep when my dad woke up to her going into cardiac arrest and she was unresponsive for quite a while. My sister gave her CPR until the ambulance arrived. She saved her life.”
With Wimbledon right around the corner, Pegula had to decide whether to travel to London and play at the All England Club or to stay at home.
That decision was enhanced after her dad, Terry – currently the 434th richest person in the world – wanted her to skip the third Slam of the year entirely.
She added: “I had already decided I was missing most of the grass season, but I still wanted to play Wimbledon if I knew my mom was O.K.
“My dad didn’t want me to play, but I knew my mom would be upset if I skipped because of her. So, if the timeline worked out, I was going to play.
“Luckily, she made small improvements, she moved out of the ICU after about a week, and into an in-patient care facility. She was aware, talking a little, but a long way from her normal self.
“After a long two weeks, she was in a good set-up to start her recovery which we knew would take a very, very long time.”
Her mother’s cardiac arrest and recovery happened more than six months before Buffalo Bills cornerback Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest on the football field during a game in Cincinnati.
The experience was a difficult one to witness for Jessica Pegula, who wore a number 3 patch in honour of Hamlin at the 2023 Australian Open, adding in the article: “It felt like it was for my mom as well.”
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