On Thursday, news of Pegula's withdrawal from two high-profile tournaments on the WTA calendar emerged. The American will be an absentee at this year's Middle East swing, which is comprised of tournaments in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Pegula signed up to play in the Qatar Open in Doha and the Dubai Championships, entering both events as a top-five seed. But because of a neck injury, the 29-year-old Buffalo native has chosen to skip those tournaments and focus on her recovery.
Withdrawing from Doha and Dubai (two standalone WTA 1000s) will come at a personal cost because it will directly impact her ranking. Pegula is ranked as the World No. 4 but will be overtaken by Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina. That is because she is defending a lot of points this month.
She was a runner-up at the 2023 Qatar Open, where she lost to Iga Swiatek in the final, and was a semifinalist at the Dubai Championships a week later. If Pegula can recover ahead of schedule, she might play in the San Diego Open, where she is the top seed.
It has been a modest start to 2024 for the four-time WTA titlist. Pegula won one match at the United Cup at the start of January 2024, where the USA's title defense ended in the group stage.
A lot of fans were backing Pegula to overcome her quarterfinals hump at the majors, but she suffered a shock exit in Melbourne, losing to Clara Burel in the second round in just 72 minutes.
Her preparation for the first Grand Slam of 2024 was hardly ideal as Pegula withdrew from the warm-up tournament in Adelaide before her semifinal match due to stomach illness.
For a player who has been one of the most durable and consistent with her fitness for the past four years, this is a very challenging time for Pegula, who will certainly prioritize restoring her health in time for the Sunshine Swing in March.