“My goal was just to be healthy at the end of the year, and that would be a good year,” Pegula says about the 2015 season, after missing nearly all of last year.
Playing with a protected ranking this year, Pegula won two rounds of qualifying at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Unable to punch through at the final stage of those summer Slams—one of the toughest losses a pro must deal with—Pegula completed the trifecta at Flushing Meadows. After a three-set win in her first match, Pegula beat the top seed in the qualifying tournament, Margarita Gasparyan—a Russian ranked 216 spots above her—6-3, 6-3. She qualified for the big show with a 7-6 (8), 6-0 win over fellow American Melanie Oudin.
“I think I enjoy it more now than I did before,” Pegula says about the game. “Just from being hurt I think I appreciate it more.”
Pegula has worked her way back to No. 257 alongside a name you may recognize, Michael Joyce, the former coach of Maria Sharapova. The two started working together in Charleston a few years ago, when a mutual friend suggested it over Facebook.
“I thought she had a lot of potential,” Joyce says. “I thought it was kind of cool to work with somebody young again. [Sharapova] was so young when we started. It’s cool to start so young and see how far it can go.”
“He was with me during my whole knee ordeal, which was pretty awesome,” says Pegula, who will play 54th-ranked Alison Van Uytvanck on Monday. “Having that support gave me a lot of confidence to come back this year.”
With that confidence, Pegula is looking to make the most of her singles main-draw debut at the U.S. Open.