Jessica Pegula in heartbreaking confession about mother

Jessica Pegula was dealing with a massive tragedy away from the court throughout a difficult 2022 tennis season.

Jessica Pegula reaches to play a backhand at the Australian Open.
Jessica Pegula has opened up about her mother's cardiac arrest and her long-term recovery. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

Tennis World No.4 Jessica Pegula has opened up about a devastating off-court battle, revealing her mother Kim suffered a cardiac arrest in 2022 which has left her struggling with speech and memory issues. Pegula, whose father owns the Buffalo Bills NFL team, opened up about the family's fight in a piece for the Player's Tribune.

Pegula enjoyed a standout season in 2022 despite the scary scenes off-court, first learning of her mother's peril upon returning home from the French Open. Her mother had gone into cardiac arrest while sleeping, and it was only the quick actions and CPR from Pegula's sister Kelly that saved her life.

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"They figured out what was wrong, they fixed it, but the big question was how she would be when she woke up. Our concern had now moved from the cardiac arrest to a brain injury," Pegula wrote.

"The most frustrating thing about these types of injuries is that the outcome is unknown. Experts base it on how long the brain was without oxygen, and how one responds to commands at the earliest stages, but it is very difficult. It was a waiting game.

"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."

Soon after this, Pegula wrote, came Wimbledon - a tournament she couldn't afford to miss. Impressively, she still made it to the third round - but was understandably distracted by goings on at home.

Worse yet was having to fend off reports that her mother had died - only adding to her stress. But come November, when she won her first WTA 1000 title, Pegula said she had cried happy tears upon realising how her mother, who continued to fight back home, had inspired her to fight throughout her career.

Pegula made it all the way to the quarter-finals at the Australian Open earlier this year - but even this grand slam had come with an unpleasant reminder of what the family had been through in the last 12 months. Just days before the Australian Open began, the sporting world was left shocked after the collapse of Bills safety Damar Hamlin on the field.

Hamlin was later revealed to have suffered a cardiac arrest on the playing field, leaving much of the sporting world fearing for his life after the scary nature of his collapse. For Pegula, whose family owns the team, it was an unwelcome reminder which she said instantly made her think of the NFL star's family.

Jessical Pegula says Damar Hamlin incident hit close to home

Describing what happened to Hamlin as a 'bizarre, messed-up moment', Pegula says she was in Sydney preparing for the Australian Open when the news broke. "My stomach sunk because it felt like the exact same thing all over again," she said.

"I was sitting on the bench for a tennis event in Sydney, Australia. I wanted to throw up.

"I was supposed to go on for mixed doubles in 15 minutes and I remember telling one of my teammates, “I am a little freaked out right now, this is too close to home, and I feel like I am going to have a panic attack.” Again, I usually don’t get too much anxiety, but the thought of what Damar and his family were about to go through hurt my heart.

"I knew how important time was. I just kept thinking time, time, time, time. I hope they got him back and quick enough."

Damar Hamlin walks of the NFL field after a game for the Buffalo Bills.
Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest on field earlier this year, a moment tennis player Jessica Pegula says left her shaken. (Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images)

Pegula donned a number 3 patch throughout the Australian Open as a mark of respect for Hamlin, and was thrilled when it emerged that Hamlin was on the road to recovery. She also wrote 'Go Bills #3' on the lens of a broadcast camera after winning one of her matches.

"To see the attention it garnered in Australia, across the world, in a different country, just reminded me why I love sports and the beauty of coming together," Pegula wrote. "Some of my close friends who know every detail of what has happened tell me, 'I don’t know how you have made it through the year, let alone finished No. 3 in the world.'

"I just say I have no freaking clue. I guess one thing I learned from the past year is it can be a great year, and a bad year, both can be true."

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