CINCINNATI, Ohio -- If there is one thing Jessica Pegula has learned over the course of her three-year rise up the rankings, it's not about how you start. It's how you finish. That was the case last week in Montreal, where she arrived physically shattered and left with her second WTA 1000 trophy.
"I had played a couple of really tough matches in D.C. and I was so tired," Pegula told WTA Insider in Cincinnati at the Western & Southern Open. "I had a horrible travel day. The next day, I remember telling my coach I literally feel hungover.
"I'm so tired from the heat, from the last two matches, the first week on hard court outside in the heat, bad travel day. I honestly wasn't feeling very well for Monday and Tuesday. I was like, I think I'm getting sick."
Instead of panicking or throwing herself a pity party, Pegula did what she always does. She put on her hard hat and went to work.
Pegula got through those opening rounds and then knocked out Coco Gauff and Iga Swiatek before capping off the week with a 49-minute win in the final. It was yet another example of how Pegula has quietly evolved into one of the most consistent players on the Hologic WTA Tour.
That attitude is how she has become the most consistent player at the WTA 1000-level over the past three seasons. It's hard to believe Pegula only made her Top 100 debut in the rankings four years ago. With her 30th hard-court win at the WTA 1000 level this year, she moved ahead of Iga Swiatek for the most. In fact, including United Cup, Pegula has more hard-court wins than anyone this year.
"Sometimes the weeks where I am not feeling great going into them, are the weeks that I have my best results," Pegula said. "That's something that would have completely derailed me like three or four years ago. It would have consumed me and I probably would have lost first or second round because I was so frustrated about something.
"But now, if it's almost going too well or I feel too good, I'm like 'Ew.' That means something is going to start going bad when I start the tournament. Now I'm the opposite."
Pegula needed that same air of calm in her Cincinnati opener, where can overcame her own frustration to defeat Italy's Martina Trevisan 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-3. She will face either Elise Mertens or Marie Bouzkova in the Round of 16. She is bidding to make the quarterfinals or better at a fifth consecutive tournament. In seven hard-court tournaments this season, Pegula has failed to make a quarterfinal or better just once.
Pegula is perfectly happy to ride out her wave of momentum, which began during the grass swing. While her physicality may ebb and flow, her ball-striking has buoyed her confidence.
"Since Wimbledon, I think I've made more of a conscious effort mentally to play more aggressively and I've just been seeing the ball, for whatever reason, pretty well," Pegula said. "Even before D.C., practicing at home I felt really good."
Pegula's title run in Montreal comes right as she is set to carry the torch into the US Open as the highest-ranked American. Last year, the experience was a whirlwind that Pegula handled well to make her first US Open quarterfinal. This year, the 29-year-old from Buffalo says she's well-equipped to roll with it.
It helps when you know you belong.
"I think I'm past the phase of 'Oh, I hope I keep winning,'" Pegula said.
With her growing confidence and experience, Pegula said she now feels no need to "prove a point to myself or anyone else."
But she did express a desire to move up to No.1 or No.2 in the rankings and to win a Grand Slam.
However, she emphasized, "I'm not going to sit there and put undue pressure on myself. Maybe it's me getting older. I don't care. Whatever happens, happens."