Balance is particularly important for Pegula, who weathered career-threatening knee and hip injuries that kept her out of the U.S. Open a decade ago, and then she faced the emotional turmoil of her mother’s heart attack last June.
Jimmy Arias, a former top five player who has worked with Pegula, once tried to impress upon her that there were two types of competitors: a lion and a rat. Pegula, with her fearsome ground strokes, has long been a lion. What she needed to adopt was the rat part.
“In a nuclear explosion, a rat is the only animal to survive,” Arias said. “J.P. had the weapons of a lion, but she needed the mentality of the rat. She had to learn how to dig, claw and scratch her way out. Now, when she’s in trouble, she can find her way out of a point.”
Pegula understands that; it’s just the execution that can be tricky.
“I’m doing everything to put myself in a good position,” she said. “It’s just a little more belief in myself in the later stages of tournaments and being more aggressive in the bigger moments.”
And if she doesn’t break through and win a major, will she feel unfulfilled?
“If I had to stop tomorrow, I think I’d be pretty satisfied,” she said. “I got to have this amazing career, proved a lot to myself and to a lot of other people. Obviously, there’s more that I want to do, but I’ve gotten through the really tough parts and a lot of really big lows. To come out of that has been a win in itself.”