Jessica Pegula is here to make a name for herself.
The world No. 61 has become the talk of the tennis world by progressing to the quarterfinals of a grand slam for the first time after upsetting fifth seed Elina Svitolina at the Australian Open.
Pegula’s red-hot run at Melbourne Park has led to increased attention on her family — because her parents are the billionaire owners of American sports franchises the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres.
But she wants to be recognised in her own right.
Former tennis player turned respected commentator Brad Gilbert, who works for American network ESPN, is well-known for making up nicknames for stars on tour.
A quick glimpse at his active Twitter page reveals his penchant for coming up with quirky monikers and he was on the case for Pegula today, trying to think of something before her quarterfinal clash with compatriot Jennifer Brady.
“Putting my brain to work on nickname for Pegula. A lot like J-Peg, came to me Jessie’s Girl,” he tweeted.
But Pegula is happy with what’s on her birth certificate, shutting down Gilbert’s push as he interviewed the 26-year-old on ESPN following her win over Svitolina.
“I’m the king of nicknames and your Bills mafia is very upset that I haven’t come up with a nickname for you,” Gilbert said.
“They threw out a couple, then it came to me so I’ll throw a couple on you. Old school music song, Jessie’s Girl (by Rick Springfield) … or Pegula Hoop (like hula hoop).
“Just thinking about it.”
What followed was an awkward, icy silence before Pegula flat out rejected Gilbert’s suggestions.
“I’m not really feeling any of them to be honest,” she said. “I’m not. I’m not feeling any of them.”
Pegula revealed she used to be called “JP” and would be OK with that nickname making a comeback, then added: “But if that’s too boring for you, you can come up with something else.
“I’m not really a fan of any of those.”
Gilbert’s co-host read the room best. “I like that Brad is absolutely crushed, Jessica, but we’re going to go with JP.”
The exchange generated plenty of laughter on social media. Sports writer Lindsay Gibbs tweeted: “Jessica Pegula completely shutting down all of Brad Gilbert’s nickname suggestions belongs on SportsCenter Top 10.
“She didn’t even consider humouring him. Just incredible.”
The official account for The Tennis Podcast wrote: “Jessie Pegula to Brad Gilbert’s nickname suggestions on @espn: ‘I’m not feeling it.’ ABSOLUTE MOOD.”
Christopher Fisher said: “Brad Gilbert getting shot down for the nicknames by Jessica Pegula was great and awkward to see.”
Pegula wasn’t done roasting Gilbert, though, having some fun with another ESPN personality.
After she beat Svitolina, NFL reporter Adam Schefter tweeted: “Jessica Pegula, daughter of Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula, just upset the fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina to advance to the Australian Open quarterfinals. Her run continues.”
Keen to show she’s more than her parents’ daughter, Pegula corrected Schefter.
“*American Jessica Pegula WTA tour/professional tennis player,” she replied, with a winking emoji.”