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Tennis star Jessica Pegula talks about Serena Williams, U.S. Open, Ready Nutrition

U.S. Open Quarter Finalist Jessica Pegula joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the U.S. Open, chasing your dreams, Serena Williams, and working with Ready Nutrition.

Video Transcript


DAVID BRIGGS: As incredibly compelling as it was, the Serena story is over, and it's time for the next generation to carry the torch at the US Open. That story starts with the top-ranked American player, male or female, Jess Pegula, currently ranked eighth in the world. She's into the US Open quarterfinals. And Jess joined us from Flushing Meadows, where I first asked her about her performance and her ranking.

JESSICA PEGULA: Starting to a little bit now that I've gotten further along here at the US Open. But no, still a pretty surreal thing to be able to say top-ranked American in the world, male or female. So definitely still getting used to it, but feeling a lot of support here for the Americans in this New York City crowds.

DAVID BRIGGS: Indeed, a lot of love. How do you account for peaking at a point where most would consider it very late in your career?

JESSICA PEGULA: I don't know. It is a little late. I feel like it's a little maybe of a different journey than most people kind of see. I'm not breaking out at a super young age. But I think it also just shows that there's other ways to have success, and you can always keep working and getting better. And it shows that a lot of people are having success at a later stage and that if you're not breaking out when you're 16 that you still have a good chance.

DAVID BRIGGS: I think it is a wonderful lesson to send to all of us, no matter what your profession is. Of course, I mentioned the story all week, all season has been about Serena Williams. For you, is there one primary takeaway from watching her greatness over all these years? What'd did you learn from her?

JESSICA PEGULA: Well, I think, like she said before, and what a lot of girls, I think, resonated with, is that there's no dream that's too big for you to be able to reach. And I think she really showed that with her entire career and her legacy and just what she's brought to the court, to sports, to women's sports, to everything. I mean, she just goes after her goals and kind of doesn't ask questions about it and breaks through barriers.

And I think, again, she just teaches all of us that you can always dream big and go after your goals. And that's something really important in this sport, especially being individual. And it's a long journey. So definitely going after your-- going after your dreams the way she has definitely inspired all of us.

DAVID BRIGGS: Is there any downside to what is almost like a Tiger Woods effect in that he and her cast such a long shadow that it almost-- it almost covered up some of the great American players, like yourself?

JESSICA PEGULA: Well, if I have to be overshadowed by Serena, I think that's fine. I don't think my career accomplishments have come anywhere close to hers. But it is an interesting time to kind of see her stepping away from the sport a little bit. And I think more spotlight will be shown on more American players because we have a lot of depth. And I think it's time for us to step up and show who we are for American tennis as well.

DAVID BRIGGS: Like yourself and your friend, your doubles teammate, your doubles partner, Coco Gauff, how important is it for you to seize this moment as she exits stage left here in New York at the US Open?

JESSICA PEGULA: It's a really cool journey. I feel like we're both on, again, two totally separate journeys with her doing what she's doing at such a young age and me maybe being more of a late bloomer and maturing later. But it's been really fun not just to play doubles with her, but to kind of see us both have success.

And I think we get along really well. I think we both kind of feed off of it as well. And it kind of pushes one another. And I think a lot of the Americans have fed off all of us doing pretty well, has motivated us in some way. And even if we don't directly talk about it, I think it's just there where we're pushing each other every single week.

And I've definitely felt like that with Coco and picking up things I've learned from her and maybe things she's learned from me. She's also trains in the same area that I live, and we're pretty close by. We practice a lot together. So it's a really fun experience. And hopefully, she has a good match tonight.

DAVID BRIGGS: Boy, would it be fun to see a meet at Flushing. Your parents, Kim and Terry Pegula, own the Buffalo Bills and the NHL Sabers. The Bills kick off the NFL season Thursday night. Hopefully, there is a scheduling conflict because if you beat the world number one, you'd play right about the same time. Do mom and dad go to your match or the NFL game?

JESSICA PEGULA: No, I don't think they want to interfere with my routine and my momentum right now. So they definitely won't be at my match. Maybe the football game, though. I think they might prioritize that this week just being the home opener, and they don't want to mess me up. But it's a pretty funny scheduling conflict, I guess. It's a good problem to have.

DAVID BRIGGS: Are you a Bills fan? They are the Super Bowl favorite. What do you think of their chances?

JESSICA PEGULA: Oh, I'm definitely a Bills fan, of course. But yeah, they have a really good chance. I think they had a great chance last year, lost a really tough game. But this year, I mean, it's a long season, so we'll see. But I don't see any reason why they can't win the Super Bowl.

DAVID BRIGGS: That, of course, not your only link to football. Together with arguably the best player in the game today, the Rams' Aaron Donald, and two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, you are representing sports nutrition brand Ready. What does it mean to be part of that team, arguably the two best athletes on the planet? And what separates Ready in a very crowded field?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, as well, it's an honor to kind of be represented with them. Yeah, they're two super huge names, and I feel like I'm not quite there yet. But it's an honor to get picked and just love what they stand for and their hard work and their work ethic.

Every year is really special. So for me to be picked as the first female athlete between them has been something really cool and really special. So I'm really excited about that. And, of course, prioritizing what I put in my body, nutrition and everything, I definitely love the Ready products just being a lot healthier, less sugar, less added sugars.

I feel like they put a lot of their sports science behind building their products and their drinks. And they definitely look at a lot of feedback, especially if you like it and how you feel when you're drinking it and stuff like that. So that's been a really cool kind of journey, being able to give feedback and them giving us real facts and nutrition info of, like, why we put this in this and why this is made this way has been pretty cool.

DAVID BRIGGS: Pretty cool to be linked with arguably the two best athletes on the planet, Aaron Donald and Giannis. Rachelle. But it really is interesting this moment we're in for tennis because you've got no Rafael Nadal, no Roger Federer, now Serena's gone.

I think women can really seize this moment, and not just women, but American women because if Jess can advance to the finals and theoretically play Coco Gauff, another American superstar I think ranked 12th, that would really be the story of the US Open and seize the spotlight for the moment because the men's game is in a tough spot as well. I mentioned no Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic. And so the real big name is Nick Kyrgios, who I don't know if you watch tennis, is probably the most entertaining, in good and bad ways, guys, we've ever seen. So it's at a precarious moment, the whole sport of tennis right now.

RACHELLE AKUFFO: And it's one of those things, though, when you have these GOATs sort of retiring or coming to the end, everyone's looking for that heir apparent. They're wondering who's next. And as you mentioned-- as you mentioned, Nick Kyrgios, a divisive tennis player. You love him or you hate him. But obviously, at the end of the day, you want to see good tennis. That's the most important thing.

And as for Jessica, I mean, she's really on a roll, three grand slam quarterfinal appearances just in this year. So, I mean, if we're looking for the next GOAT-- obviously, you have to give Serena her flowers. She's a legend in her own making. But we want to know what's next in tennis. And you know, Jessica, she's got good prospects this year. So good luck to her.

DAVID BRIGGS: Yeah, and it's really interesting. By no means can a 45-year-old call her old at 28, but it is unusual to see someone peaking at age 28, which, for that sport, is relatively old, something she acknowledges. But I think-- again, I think we can all be inspired by someone finding their best at whatever their profession is much later than others expected. So certainly, I'm going to be rooting for her at Flushing Meadows.