MIAMI -- No one in tennis is more familiar with Hard Rock Stadium than World No.3 Jessica Pegula. Outside of the Buffalo Bills' home at Highmark Stadium, Pegula has come to more football games in Miami than anywhere else. She's sat in the owner's suites with her family as the Bills and Dolphins battled it out on the field for AFC East supremacy.
This week, Pegula moves from the cushy suites to the sweaty spotlight of Stadium Court at the Miami Open. Playing as the top-ranked American and looking to better her semifinal result last year, Pegula opened her Miami campaign with a straight-sets win on Thursday.
"It's a really cool story and it's fun when I get to come here and watch the team play a football game and then I get to come back and play a tennis match," Pegula said.
"The owners of the Dolphins, even though they're also competing against each other, they also think it's really cool that I get to come back here and play a tennis event and everyone's pretty friendly with each other as well in the NFL sides of ownership."
After her opening win, Pegula met up with some familiar faces. The Buffalo Bills' Kaiir Elam and Dion Dawkins happened to be filming an NFL show nearby when they learned Pegula was playing.
"It was just a really cool moment," Pegula said. "I think it was both their first tennis event, so they knew nothing. They didn't even know what doubles was. I was, like, Oh, Coco [Gauff] is playing, my doubles partner.
"They were, like, 'Oh, we have to go scout her out.'
I was, like, 'No, we play on the same team.'
"They're, like: 'Wait. On the same -- how?'"
While Pegula got through her match in an efficient 65 minutes, Elam and Dawkins were shocked to learn that the match could have gone as long as three hours without any significant break. Pegula was quick to give them some friendly stick about which sport produced the better athletes.
"It's fun to banter with them back and forth," Pegula said. "I asked them too how they felt coming out onto the field in a different scenario. And they were, like, 'Yeah, it's definitely weird being here.' They've been there so many times, to come out and watch a tennis event I'm sure is interesting, but it's a cool way to bridge both the sports together. I like it."
To add to the homey feel of her week, Pegula lives just 30 minutes away from the venue and has opted to skip the hotel life for a few weeks and stay at home for the duration of the tournament.
"I like to still stick to my routines, whether that's how I drive here in the morning, what I'm doing when I wake up in the morning," Pegula said. "I think as long as I can get into a good routine, then that keeps me on track with everything and relieves stress for me. It helps me still feel like I'm being professional.
"It is it's kind of a weird feeling, going home. But I enjoy it because we travel so much."