Tennis Prose



Jess Pegula’s Former Coach Michael Joyce Shares Insights Of Their Journey

By Scoop Malinowski

When Jessica Pegula turned pro in 2009 at age fifteen, you didn’t hear a lot about her as a highly touted, top American prospect. But she evolved into the best American female player and currently sits at no. 3 in the world in singles and no. 2 in doubles. She has won two WTA singles titles and reached the quarterfinal round six Grand Slam tournaments. In doubles Pegula has won seven titles and played in the 2022 Roland Garros doubles final with Coco Gauff

Former Maria Sharapova long-time coach Michael Joyce, a former ATP world no. 64, previously coached the now 29 year old Pegula and in this interview he shares insights and memories of their years together…

Question: How did you first start to work with Jessica Pegula?

Michael Joyce: So I started with Jessie about a month after I stopped with Maria (in the summer of 2011). Adam Gusky, who I played with in the juniors, contacted me. He saw on TV I wasn’t with Maria. I didn’t know the family or anything. Jessie was 16. Just about 17. So I went to Florida. For a few days and then took her to a $25,000.

Question: What was the status of her game and career at that time?

Michael Joyce: I could tell she hit the ball really well but she didn’t understand how to use her game. Didn’t like coming forward much. And wasn’t very fast or in that good of shape.

But within a few months I could see her improving. I loved her as a person. The family were amazing, nice and supportive.

They let me take her all around and play a ton of matches and basically start to become a more rounded tennis player. She started to learn strategy, court position. She played a lot of doubles. She had success in doubles – before singles which helped her confidence grow.

Then unfortunately when she was up to about 110 in the rankings at 19 and she blew out her knee (2013). So she spent almost a full year off – coming back, rehabbing, working on specific things. She always had a great backhand. Worked a lot on her forehand and return, things that don’t involve a lot of moving.

Then when she came back she started from scratch. And she matured some, got in better shape and again made a run. Back up to about 100. Then blew out her hip. And was out again for a year.

But her love of tennis, her work ethic, and willingness to listen and improve. I always felt she could be a top 50 player even when most people wrote her off or didn’t think she had a chance.

Question: What were some of the things you saw that she needed to improve to become a successful WTA player?

Michael Joyce: Biggest thing was learning to take the ball earlier. Take time away. She always played up. a lot in juniors. So she was good against big, strong hitters but struggled against players with a lot variety – or pushers let’s say. So we took a lot of time to develop that. Which I think the doubles also helped a ton. It was a shame after her hip operation she was going to be out another year and I ended up taking a job with Viktoria Azarenka. I always felt she played better on big stages even when she was young. Which was an amazing quality to have that many girls don’t possess.

Question: Are you surprised by her top 5 WTA success? What makes her special?

Michael Joyce: I think Covid helped her a lot. She’s gotten in amazing shape. Became a much better athlete and matured a lot. And probably appreciated her tennis more. When it was taken away with the injuries I think she has surprised even herself in some ways becoming number 3 later in her 20s. I think Dave Witt has done a great job. He’s pretty laid back. And understands her game and has her coming forward and using her weapons. And she has become one of the most consistent players on tour. I’m really proud of her. And she is my daughter Maya’s godmother! We worked together for about seven or eight years. And I can’t tell you how proud I am of her and her ability and resilience. When many women would have quit. Or given up! With the injuries. And. Her family’s wealth.

Question: A lasting memory of Jess Pegula?

Michael Joyce: What a determined young woman and proud I had a small part of her journey. Especially in her developmental years. I think it helped that I spent seven years before with Sharapova. So I learned so much about what it takes to be a champion. And Jessie certainly is that.

Notes: This week Pegula has advanced to the finals of Montreal Omnium Banque Nationale by beating WTA no. 1 Iga Swiatek in the semis 62 67 64. She will meet Elena Rybakina or Liudmila Samsonova in the final on Sunday. It was the second time this year Pegula has defeated Swiatek.

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  • catherine · August 13, 2023 at 1:46 am

    Everyone who saw Swiatek/Pegula seems to agree that both played poorly, obviously Pegula slightly better in the end.

    I wonder if there was a reason. Did they catch something from each other ? Psychologically ?

    But general surprise that Iga was so bad.

    Will she W/D from Cincy ?

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 13, 2023 at 7:35 am

    Catherine maybe Iga subconsciously tanked it to avoid a possible final vs Rybakina?

  • catherine · August 13, 2023 at 8:43 am

    I doubt it. Iga is an intelligent persón. No reason she should fear the player from Kazakhstan, who’s been Queen of the UEs recently.

    Swiatek’s been below par but at 22 her game is still developing.

    But my prediction is that neither will win in NY.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 13, 2023 at 6:29 pm

    Catherine, you know how it is before a grand slam, the top ranked players are trying to preserve themselves to peak at US Open not Montreal or Cincy. Don’t take these results too seriously, Iga and Carlos will be guns blazing in New York.

  • David Devries · August 13, 2023 at 6:55 pm

    Scoop you’re a great writer man! I like the topics you select to dig into and then report/write on.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 13, 2023 at 6:57 pm

    Thanks David, I try to give tennis enthusiasts quality and unique info, not the same old same old. Thanks for your kind words. I will try to keep it up too.

  • catherine · August 14, 2023 at 2:14 am

    Well, that wasn’t much of a final.

    Pegula is playing well but overall women’s tennis is in the sink.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 14, 2023 at 8:17 am

    Disappointing final for everyone especially fans. Maybe Samsonova and Rybakina needed to take matters into their own hands and just play one set and then the loser retires, so the winner is fresh for final. Because it’s too unfair of a situation and a vast inequality for Pegula. This final will not help bring back old and new sponsors for 2024. WTA and ATP need to have a back up plan for such situations. But then again, that’s tennis and weather sometimes does play a part in who wins the title.

  • catherine · August 14, 2023 at 10:58 am

    Yes, you’re right – there’s been a lot of comment about this.

    I noticed Leylah Fernandez failed to qualify for Cincy – shame for her but at least The Hopes of a Nation aren’t resting on her shoulders. Every single day one or other of the tabloids here prints a story (usually made up) about Raducanu, who isn’t even playing. The stress must be unbelievable as the day approaches for her so-called ‘comeback’ in an exho.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 14, 2023 at 12:16 pm

    Raducanu lives in a fishbowl and everybody is watching her every move. It might be worse now for her than it was for Borg which he said played a big part in making him quit tennis at 25-26. The media is more smothering now. I said it before, will say it again. She needs a coach who has been through the media frenzies and understands that aspect of pro tennis. Very dew do. That is her dilemma – Agassi and Becker and Seles come to mind to help her the most IMO. Also they could do a lot of talking for her to the media and take some of the media pressure off her.



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