Pegula has a deep affinity for canines: In addition to Maddie, there’s Tucker, a chocolate Lab—she sadly lost her third, a German shepherd named Dexter, in late July and dedicated her Canadian Open win to him on Instagram. Along with her husband, Taylor Gahagen, Pegula co-runs A Lending Paw, a charity that supports rescuing dogs, as well as nurturing (and financing) them to become service animals and connecting them with people in need.
“We wanted to help people afford service dogs,” Pegula says. “Not only is that about dogs helping people, it’s about people helping dogs, because we only work with rescues. It goes both ways.” Ahead of the US Open, Pegula is hosting an event at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center where A Lending Paw will link a newly trained dog with a veteran.
Buffalo-born Pegula comes from a gilded background. Her parents, Terry and Kim, are billionaires who made their fortune in the energy space. They own the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. Pegula has, in accord, been dubbed the world’s richest tennis player, but she’s understated enough that you wouldn’t guess it if you didn’t know it. All the same, that tax bracket can make things complicated. “I know what haters say: ‘The only reason she’s good is because she has money.’ But for the most part, I think people have found that it’s an interesting story. It’s made me think, Okay—I’m not going to hide from this.”
She adds: “It’s also fun to see this kind of crossover with Bills fans—even if I am far away, like in Qatar, I see people in the stands wearing Bills jerseys.” In January of this year, the Bills player Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest after a tackle, prompting global headlines. A few weeks later, at the Australian Open, Pegula wore Hamlin’s number, 3, as a patch on her skirt to show support. The gesture underscored Pegula’s unique position of being able to bridge an intrinsically American athletic bastion with a different, smaller—though global—sport.
This year’s US Open will also mark the relaunch of Pegula’s skin care line, Ready 24. “I like to say it’s adaptable skin care,” she says. “It’s for people on the go, not just athletes, and people that might want to mix their regimen with other products. It’s very basic: Growing up, I had horrible skin, and usually when I did less, my skin got better.” Ready 24 will return to the market with a cleanser, a moisturizer, a mist, and a moisturizing stick, though Pegula says the holy grail is finding a formula for an effective sunblock, which is far trickier than it sounds. (It’s also a top concern for tennis players in particular: You don’t want anything with tint because it gets on your clothes, anything too oily will run into your eyes, and anything too heavy will make you look “like a ghost,” Pegula says.) She anticipates launching her sunscreen in 2024.