Jessica Pegula, the daughter of Buffalo Bills owners, showed her support for Damar Hamlin during his straight-set victory in the second round of the Australian Open.
The world No. 3 wore Hamlin’s number three on her shorts in her 6-2 7-6(5) victory over Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
“I really wanted to do something,” Pegula said after her win when asked to pay tribute to Hamlin.
“We were figuring out what the Bills and Sabers were doing, message-wise. I knew they would probably do something and what message were they trying to send. It ended up being some kind of ‘3’ was the symbol.
Hamlin was hospitalized in Cincinnati when his heart suddenly stopped after a tackle during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals on January 2. The Bills’ 24-year-old safety was released after more than a week in hospital.
“I thought it would be a fun way to connect with the team and show my support. I felt like it was a global event. A lot of people were asking me about it even here,” said Pegula, who was in Sydney when Hamlin collapsed.
She said she watched the Bills’ 34-31 Wild Card round win over the Miami Dolphins in Melbourne – the Bills now face the Bengals in the divisional round, opponents Buffalo the night Hamlin collapsed .
Pegula also paid tribute to Hamlin after her 6-0 6-1 first-round win over Jaqueline Cristian by writing “Go Bills #3” on the camera lens.
Pegula had a great start to the year after finishing 2022 ranked third in the world in career.
She entered the Australian Open after a superb performance in the inaugural United Cup where she led Team USA to victory. In the semis, she beat world No. 1 Iga Światek 6-2 6-2 who she is on course to face in the semis at Melbourne Park.
In her previous two appearances at the Australian Open, the 28-year-old has come out in the quarter-finals, but this year she is aiming higher. When asked if she could win the contest, she replied, “That’s the plan.”
“Every tournament you want to play one game at a time but, at the same time, you still want to have those big goals,” she said. “Definitely getting as far as possible in these few weeks is my main priority.”
Pegula will face either wildcard Olivia Gadecki or Marta Kostyuk in the third round on Friday.