Vickery vanquishes Muguruza for first Top 10 win


American qualifier Sachia Vickery pulled off the biggest victory of her career on Friday night at the BNP Paribas Open, rallying to stun No.3 seed Garbiñe Muguruza in the second round, 2-6, 7-5, 6-1. 

Muguruza looked on course for an early night on Stadium 1 as she built a 6-2, 3-0 lead and 40-0 on serve in the match, but the American qualifier, who has Guyanese roots, put up some spirited resistance in front of partisan fans to not only work her way back into the match, but score her first Top 10 victory, in two hours, 12 minutes.

“I just tried to fight every point and hang in there. The crowd was so amazing and got behind me, and the atmosphere really helped me even though I was feeling it a little bit physically,” Vickery said on-court after the match.

“I think at 3-0, we had a few really long points. I actually got the break, and I was like, ‘Run, put the ball in and do your best.’ I’ve just worked so hard for so many years and I’ve been so close…and this is just the most amazing night of my life and I couldn’t be happier.”

Vickery hit 26 winners to 30 unforced errors in the match, as she moved into the ascendency with stunning counterpunching over the course of the match.

On the Spaniard’s side of the net, Muguruza struck 22 winners – but nearly doubled her total of unforced errors – finishing with 45 overall.

Playing against a Top 10 player for just the third time in her career, the win against the World No.3 is the American’s best in terms of ranking by 25 places. 

Previously, Vickery defeated then-World No.28 Agnieszka Radwanska at the ASB Classic in Auckland to begin 2018.

“I started out pretty nervous,” she admitted in the press conference afterwards. “Obviously, for me, I haven’t played matches on such a big court before. For her, it’s the norm.

“So in the first set it really took me a while to find the ball and get over those nerves. But then after, in the second set, I let a few go, and, you know, I started to get a lot of confidence and the crowd got behind me.”

She came into Indian Wells ranked inside the Top 100 for the first time, squarely at No.100, and reached the third round of a Premier Mandatory event for the first time in her career.

Vickery’s upset books her a third-round date with the in-form Naomi Osaka, after the Japanese 20-year-old has scored straight-set victories over both Maria Sharapova and Radwanska to reach the last 32 this week. 

That match-up seemed the furthest thing from possible early on in Friday night’s encounter, as the two-time Grand Slam champion largely got the better of extended rallies between the two players to win nine of the first 11 games of the match. 

Undaunted by her deficit, Vickery began to work her way into points, attacking Muguruza’s forehand side with her own and reaping rewards – landing winner after winner as her comeback effort gained steam. 

After pulling closer, Vickery finally achieved parity with a break to love in the eighth game of the second set, and took her first lead of the match with a similarly emphatic hold in the next game.

Muguruza had a pair of game points to take the second set into a tiebreak as she also saved a trio of set points in another marathon final game, but Vickery would not be denied her fourth and sent the match to a decider with another forehand winner.  

From 1-1 in the final set, the 22-year-old never looked back, as she claimed the last five games – and 12 of the last 14 points – to score the biggest victory of her career so far. 

Muguruza insisted she would take a lot from the experience: “I’m going to learn from this match. I’m going to watch it and see what went wrong. I felt I was in control, and it slipped away a little bit from me. 

“When players with not a lot of experience play against top players, they are very motivated. They kind of elevate their game. I think [it] was a little bit the case. She was getting a bit more excited, and the key points went her way, she was getting more into the match and, at the end, had a lot more confidence.

“Me maybe making a few mistakes helped her also to advance a lot, but she earned the match today.” (WTA Tennis)

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