She’s part of one of America’s richest families – now Jessica Pegula has guaranteed a $525,000 payday of her own and a shot at glory with her 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 upset win over fifth seed Elina Svitolina.
Pegula’s one and only prior meeting with the world No.5, coming in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, ended in a straight sets defeat, but a month and change later and it was Pegula who powered her way to victory.
Having never previously made it to the fourth round of a grand slam, the 26-year-old and world No.61 will now make her bid for a debut appearance in a slam semi-final – although it’ll be a different ‘bid’ of sorts to that her family put in for NFL franchise the Buffalo Bills.
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Pegula’s father Terry is a billionaire businessman who made his money in the fracking business before selling the bulk of his oil and gas company East Resources for more than $5 billion AUD.
Terry founded the company in 1983 with a loan of $7500 before turning it into the mouthwatering sum above – a meteoric rise Jessica is emulating in a tennis sense at Melbourne Park this month.
In 2014, Terry outbid rival suitors Donald Trump and Bon Jovi to purchase NFL franchise the Buffalo Bills for $1.4 billion USD – three years after he secured the Buffalo Sabres for $189 million USD.
The unseeded Pegula is rapidly gaining the attention of the tennis world with her barnstorming run to the quarterfinals, during which she has taken out two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, former US Open champion Sam Stosur and former world No.10 Kristina Mladenovic before her win over Svitolina.
Pegula, who had never had a win over a top-10 player before the Australian Open, considered giving up tennis after a harrowing run with knee and hip injuries, with the latter forcing her to spend a year-and-a-half in recovery.
In her first ever main draw berth at the Australian Open, Pegula is finally realising her potential in a warning sign to the rest of the tour.
Pegula’s win means that world number one and local hope Ash Barty will have to face no top 10 seeds en route to the final.
With the top-10 monkey off her back, however, Pegula looms as a significant obstacle for Barty, who in 2020 lost to an American outsider in the semi-finals.
What made ‘The Great One’ great? Wayne Gretzky arrives in Sydney for USA v Canada Ice Hockey Classic, NHL
WAYNE Gretzky was never the biggest, strongest or fastest guy on the ice. A lanky figure with a gentle smile, he didn’t look much like his NHL counterparts. But somehow Gretzky ascended to become a legend of the sport. So what is it that helped make ‘The Great One’ great?
In a career spanning twenty years Gretzky stacked 61 official NHL records, (60 of which he still holds), including the most goals (1,016) and most assists (2,223). He’s won the Stanley Cup four times with the Edmonton Oilers and won the Hart Trophy, the league MVP award, on a record nine occasions.
When it comes to ice hockey, there’s Wayne Gretzky — light years — and then everyone else.
The word ‘legacy’ is sometimes overused when reflecting upon the achievements of our sporting heroes, but few compare to the legacy left by Gretzky.
Looking back, it’s not his records or accolades he’s most proud of though. It’s the effort he put in.
“People ask me all the time, if someone said ‘How would you like to be remembered?’ I always say the same thing: I played a lot of bad games but I know in my heart that I played hard every single game,” Gretzky told Fox Sports Australia.
“People came up to me and they said ‘You worked hard out there,’ and to me, that’s the biggest compliment I can get.”
Canada’s favourite son had many great mentors throughout his playing career, like his father Walter, and ‘Mr Hockey’ Gordie Howe — who tragically passed away just this month.
However Gretzky credits his grandparents for instilling in him the grit and determination that would make him a legend.
“I probably got that from my grandparents,” Gretzky said.
“My grandfather [Tony] was from Belarus, part of the Soviet Union at the time. In 1920 he came over with my grandmother [Mary] who was from Warsaw, and they both went to North America.
“They both worked through to their early 80s. They had a farm, and they did all their own farming, so I think the work ethic that I had as a player was inherited from my grandparents.”
That farm is where a young Gretzky would watch ice hockey on TV with his family. It’s also where he first pulled on the skates and picked up his stick.
Greatness would soon follow as he rocketed through the junior ranks and made his professional debut at the age of 17 in the WHA (now defunct), before joining the Oilers in the NHL the very next year and creating NHL history playing for Edmonton, the Los Angeles Kings, St Louis Blues and New York Rangers.
Even after his playing days, he continues to be an ambassador for the sport, currently visiting Australia for the USA vs Canada Ice Hockey Classic that bears his name.
“Hockey has been so good to me in my life and everything I have is because of hockey, so I think that we can help promote the game and get everyone to see how great of a sport it really is,” Gretzky said.
“The game fares well in colder climate places. Kids in Canada can skate on lakes and ponds in the winter and it doesn’t cost parents any money. But we’re getting much bigger now with San Jose, LA, Anaheim, more kids are playing, and the first pick in the NHL Draft this week will be from Phoenix, Arizona [Auston Matthews], which nobody ever thought would be possible.
“So it’s growing, it just takes time and hopefully twenty years from now, people over here are going to say ‘Wow, this is a fun sport’.”
Gretzky said getting more kids to watch and play ice hockey is what will help it grow Down Under. He also praised Australia’s first (and only) NHL draftee Nathan Walker for helping that cause.
“I heard he plays hard and he has some great abilities, and had a strong season [with Washington Capitals affiliated AHL team Hershey Bears]. It only helps our sport,” Gretzky said.
Sydney fans will be in for a treat Saturday night when Gretzky takes to the ice in a four-on-four exhibition prior to the main event.
The five-stop Australian tour has already been a hit in Melbourne, Perth, and Adelaide, with Sydney and Brisbane the final games left on the schedule.
Gretzky has also brought along his 25-year-old son Ty, a keen player himself who now works for his dad’s hockey camps and is expected to play in Sydney.
As for what ‘The Great One’ will get up to in his downtime while in town, just don’t expect golf to be on his itinerary, despite his son-in-law Dustin Johnson’s triumph at the US Open last week.
“I don’t get any golf tips,” Gretzky said.
“My golf upside is about as good as his hockey upside… which is not very good.”
Wayne Gretzky will be at the Qudos Bank Arena for the USA vs Canada Ice Hockey Classic.
Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne: Friday 17 June, 2016
Perth Arena, Perth: Saturday 18 June, 2016
Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Adelaide: Friday 24 June, 2016
Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney: Saturday 25 June, 2016
Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Brisbane: Saturday 2 July, 2016
Toronto Maple Leafs select Arizona-born Auston Matthews as no. 1 pick
ON the heels of the NHL expanding into Las Vegas, the Toronto Maple Leafs are pinning their future on Arizona-born centre Auston Matthews.
Amid chants of “Go Leafs, Go!” the 18-year-old from Scottsdale was selected by Toronto with the first pick in the NHL draft Friday night. Though the Maple Leafs had kept their decision under wraps since winning the draft lottery in April, Matthews was the expected choice.
NHL Central Scouting ranked the 6-foot-2, 210-pound playmaker as its top draft-eligible project, and he’s also a natural centre, a top-line position that’s difficult to fill. Matthews already has pro experience after spending last season with Zurich in the Swiss Elite League.
Finnish-born forwards Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi rounded out the three top prospects.
Matthews, who grew up a Coyotes fan, became the seventh American selected at No. 1, and first since the Chicago Blackhawks chose Patrick Kane with the top pick in 2007.
For Toronto, Matthews represents a significant piece in general manager Lou Lamoriello’s extensive rebuilding plans to restore relevance to one of the league’s most high-profile franchises. The Maple Leafs have missed the playoffs in 10 of the past 11 years, and spent last season purging high-priced contracts and veteran talent with a focus on rebuilding through youth.
Matthews arrives at a time when the Maple Leafs usher in the 100th year of professional hockey being played in Canada’s largest city.
Winnipeg was set to select second, followed by the Columbus Blue Jackets, whose general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said he’s considering trading the pick depending upon which two players are taken ahead of him.
Two trades were announced by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman before the second pick.
Montreal traded forward Lars Eller to Washington for the Capitals’ second-round draft picks in 2017 and ‘18.
Also, Chicago traded forward Andrew Shaw to Montreal for the Canadiens’ two second-round picks — No. 39 and 45 — in this year’s draft.
Numerous Maple Leafs fans made the two-hour drive to Buffalo to be on hand for their team selecting first for only the second time in the draft. Toronto selected Wendel Clark first in 1985. Each time Maple Leafs began cheering, their rival Sabres fans began booing.
Before the draft began, Bettman announced that the league’s annual pre-draft rookie combine will return to Buffalo for a third consecutive year.
Wayne Gretzky busy giving back to the sport of ice hockey that gave ‘everything I have in my life’
NO matter where Wayne Gretzky goes or what he does in life, he always remembers his father’s wise words.
“Skate where the puck’s going, not where it has been.”
It’s a philosophical match-related message Gretzky has applied to every aspect of his life to become a living example of looking forward to achieve your dreams.
“I was lucky that I had great parents who gave me opportunity,” Gretzky told The Sunday Telegraph.
“Sometimes we forget that the greatest athletes in the world also had parents that drove them to all the practices and games.
“I now have a clothing line in Canada, a winery and a restaurant.
“I’ve know my limitations and my life is hockey and I’ve been fortunate enough to partner with some great people that have really guided and helped me be successful since I’ve retired as a player.”
Gretzky hung up the skates 16 years ago but his reputation as the greatest ice hockey player still precedes him.
It’s why the iconic Canadian is greeted with fanfare every time he shows his face in public.
There is more to this remarkable man than his 61 NHL records in a stellar career spanning 20 years.
People endear themselves to Gretzky’s story of triumph against the odds.
The Brantford-born talent who defied his slender stature, strength and speed with unrivalled intelligence on the ice.
“I wasn’t a big strong athlete like other guys, so I had to utilise my hockey common sense,” Gretzky says simply.
“From the time I was two-and-a-half years old I never changed my style.
“I was also really lucky and I didn’t get lot of injuries.
“My wife always said one of the great attributes I had as a player was it’s an art not to get hurt.
“I had a minor knee injury and a little back issue for half a season, but other than that I’m okay.”
It’s a clear bill of health that enables Gretzky to play tennis with his wife every week, while he also devotes time to the golf course.
The man dubbed ‘The Great One’ is the future father-in-law to Dustin Johnson, one of the world’s most promising golfers.
Gretzky has been the perfect role model for Johnson, who despite winning last week’s US Open, often struggles with the external expectations placed on him.
Ice hockey’s best may enjoy the odd game of golf, but his heart will always beat for the rush of donning the skates.
“When I get on the ice I always have a lot of fun,” he smiles.
“I wish I could still play — I miss it dearly — but I also understand physically I just can’t compete at that level now.”
It’s why Gretzky, now 55, gives back to his beloved ice hockey through his foundation for underprivileged children.
“We buy hockey equipment, ice time and try and give kids an opportunity to play,” he explains.
“Because if they can’t afford to play — it’s not fair, so through the money we raise we try and help the kids who are less fortunate.
“I tell people this all the time, but everything I have in my life is because of hockey.
“I’ve got to see the world, meet great people and have great memories.
“But the one thing that I was really proud of in my career was that I played every game with everything I had.
“I still played a lot of bad games like every other athlete, but more importantly in my heart I know I played the best I could.”
It’s a mantra Gretzky lives every day.
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