Jessica Pegula, the daughter of the owners of the Buffalo Bills, says Damar Hamlin’s incredible recovery has inspired her performances during this year’s Australian Open.
Pegula qualified for the last 16 with a straight sets victory against Marta Kostyuk on Friday and will face either Victoria Azarenka or Zhu Lin for a place in the semifinals.
“He’s [Hamlin] recovered so quickly and so fast that it’s just taken a lot of weight off of the teams, the players, the sport, other players,” Pegula said, per WTA.
“Any time I can kind of ride that amazing kind of story and feeling, I think it’s good to try to take that with you into your matches.”
The world No. 3 has worn Hamlin’s number three on her shorts during the tournament and said she’s been in contact with the 24-year-old since his collapse.
Hamlin, who suffered a cardiac arrest during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals on January 2, was discharged from hospital after more than a week but still faces a lengthy recovery.
Hamlin’s longtime friend and business partner Jordon Rooney told CNN that the Bills safety still requires oxygen and is having his heart monitored regularly.
“He has visited with the team a few times but he still gets winded very easily. He’s upbeat and positive and ready to continue to overcome this,” Rooney said.
The Bills are set to play the Bengals again on Sunday, this time in the divisional round for a place in the AFC Championship game at stake.
But for Pegula, who has never reached the semifinals at the Australian Open, the episode has given her a new perspective on the sport that has become her life.
“Definitely some part of it has inspired me a lot,” Pegula said. “It’s cool. He’s wrote me a few times as well after I’ve won here. It’s just amazing. I think it just shows you that people’s lives are at stake.”
She added: “It’s so much bigger than sport.
“Sometimes we lose sight of that. Sometimes it’s not a tennis match. At the same time that can help you kind of play free and not get so stressed I think.
“I definitely have carried some of it with me, for sure.”