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Column: Sachia Vickery surprises Garbine Muguruza and herself with upset victory

Before the BNP Paribas Open began, third-seeded Garbine Muguruza of Spain cautioned that the women’s competition might very well produce some big surprises.

“There is a lot of dangerous players,” said Muguruza, a two-time Grand Slam champion who’s ranked No. 3 in the world. “I feel between 20, 30, 40, everybody can give a big surprise. Everybody can just make the draw and just win the tournament, so you are always in kind of danger.”

As it turns out, she was prophetic.

Muguruza was a victim of one of those surprises, falling in the second round Friday to an incredulous Sachia Vickery. The 22-year-old Floridian, who’s ranked No. 100 in the world, shook off her initial nerves to come back for a gutsy 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 victory to the delight of an enthusiastic crowd at Stadium 1 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

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When it was over, Vickery covered her mouth with her hand in disbelief and said several times during an on-court interview that her accomplishment hadn’t sunk in. It still hasn’t hit home.

“I didn’t expect to win, just because I was down so much, and to make that kind of turnaround on the world No. 3 player, you don’t do that often,” Vickery said. “I think that’s why I kept saying I was so surprised. I couldn’t believe I won.”

Muguruza was disappointed but gracious in defeat, saying Vickery had earned the win by seizing control of the match just as Muguruza seemed about to run away with it. “I think she played very well those key points there, and she took the second set,” Muguruza said. “And I think in the third set, it doesn’t … the score doesn’t really match because we were playing a lot of rallies and good points. So I felt like, you know, a lot of key points went her way. Yeah, I think it was a tough match.

“I watched her play a little bit. I think she has a great physical skill. And, you know, I just think that when players with not a lot of experience play against top players, they are very motivated. They kind of elevate always their game. I think today was a little bit the case. She was getting a little bit more excited, and the key points went her way, and she was getting more into the match and, at the end, she had a lot more confidence.”

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Vickery said her biggest strategic change was to take away Muguruza’s wide serve. Her biggest attitude change was to become more aggressive. “Even if you lose, just lose hitting,” Vickery said.

Her win set up a third-round match against 20-year-old Naomi Osaka of Japan, who is ranked 44th in the world. That was news to Vickery.

“I didn’t even look at first, to be honest. I mean, who knew I would have beaten Muguruza. So I didn’t even look past that point, to be honest,” she said. “But another great player. I’m just going to go in with the same mentality as I did [Friday]. I literally have nothing to lose. Everybody expected me to lose [Friday]. I just came out and surprised myself, and I surprised everyone.

“You know, she’s top 50 in the world, once again, so I feel like I have nothing to lose, as well.”

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helene.elliott@latimes.com

Follow Helene Elliott on Twitter @helenenothelen


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