JESSIE PEGULA MAKING BUFFALO PROUD AT COVID-CONSTRAINED AUSTRALIAN OPEN

The UB Sports Law community gives a shout-out to Jessie Pegula, daughter of Bills and Sabres owners Kim and Terry Pegula, for her strong performance thus far at the Australian Open. The Australian Open has been the focus of significant interest even for non-tennis aficionados this year as the event is being orchestrated against the backdrop of COVID. Australia’s success in controlling COVID community spread allowed the tournament to move forward, although players were required to undergo 14 days of quarantine upon entering the country. It was somewhat jarring, after almost a year of viewing empty sports stadiums, to see fans in the stands in the first rounds of the Australian Open. Public health officials and owners of sports teams around the globe continued to watch the proceedings with interest as Australia discovered an outbreak in a quarantine hotel in Victoria, leading to a “circuit breaker” lockdown of the entire country for at least five days. Tennis players were deemed “essential workers”, so they could continue to practice and play, but are otherwise restricted, and fans were banned from attendance at Melbourne Park during this five-day period (including during Pegula’s most recent wins).

Jessie Pegula has thrived despite this unusually stressful environment, battling her way to the quarter-finals of the tournament. Along the way, she has defeated two-time Australian Open champ and 12th-seeded Victoria Azarenka (7-5, 6-4), 2011 US Open winner Samantha Stosur (6-0, 6-1), Kristina Mladenovic (6-2, 6-1), and most recently upsetting 5th seed Elina Svitolina (6-4, 3-6, 6-3). Along the way, Ms. Pegula has shown some love for her parents, the Bills and Sabres, her good friend and upcoming opponent, Jennifer Brady, and her hometown via messages written on camera lenses.

Pegula has a day off before hopping back on court for her quarterfinal against Brady. While the match schedule has not yet been released, she is likely to play no earlier than 11 PM Eastern time on Tuesday evening (if not later–1 AM or 3 AM).

The UB Sports Law community congratulates Jessie on her quarterfinal berth, wishes her the very best for the rest of the tournament, and looks forward to supporting her as her star continues to rise.

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Helen A. “Nellie” Drew is an expert in sports law, including professional and amateur sports issues ranging from NCAA compliance and Title IX matters to facility construction, discipline of professional athletes, collective bargaining and franchise issues. Drew formerly served as an officer and in-house counsel to the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League, after previously working as outside counsel to the Sabres and the NHL. Among her more interesting experiences were assisting former USSR superstar Alexander Mogilny in obtaining asylum status in the U.S. and working on multiple NHL expansions, including San Jose, Ottawa, Florida and Tampa Bay.
Drew teaches a variety of courses that incorporate topics such as drug testing in professional sports and professional player contract negotiation and arbitration. She is especially interested in the evolving research and litigation concerning concussions in both amateur and professional sports.

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