DUBAI, UAE - A few days ago Flavia Pennetta was nearly out in the qualies - yes, the draw is so packed the World No.22 had to play the qualies - but she got through all of that and on Wednesday she pulled off the biggest upset of the week, stunning No.2 seed Agnieszka Radwanska second round.
Pennetta had lost their last three encounters in straight sets and this one seemed headed the same way as Radwanska jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first set and Pennetta threw in a double fault to start the next game - but she came alive in a big way from there, reeling off eight games in a row to build a 64 30 lead and, after letting one service game slip, winning three more games to prevail, 64 61.
"I'm of course really happy. It was the first time I've beaten her in six years - I thought I would never beat her again," Pennetta said. "But today I played really well. My idea of what I had to do was clear, and I tried to go for the points all the time. I made a few mistakes in the beginning - I was down 4-1, but every game was a big fight - but I kept going and stayed aggressive and it worked in the end."
Radwanska is a player who a lot of players have trouble playing - Pennetta described the feeling.
"Sometimes when you play with a player like Agnieszka it's not easy because the ball is always coming back - you have the feeling like you cannot win any points, because it's like a wall, completely. So you start to get a little bit frustrated and you start to make so many mistakes without making any sense.
"But you have to try to be aggressive all the time - play every point the same way and don't go away."
Pennetta certainly doesn't go away. In the first round of qualies she was down 3-0 in the third set - and serving 15-30 in the next game - against No.149-ranked Kristina Kucova. She won, 36 61 64.
Fast forward four days later and Pennetta is outdoing the World No.3 - her fifth career win over a Top 3 player. The first four came at Zürich in 2008 (No.1 Jelena Jankovic), Cincinnati in 2009 (No.3 Venus Williams), Sydney in 2011 (No.2 Vera Zvonareva) and Beijing in 2011 (No.1 Caroline Wozniacki).
Radwanska - who was coming off a semifinal run in Doha - met the press later and broke it down.
"I think I started well, but the conditions were worse for me than Doha, for example," she said. "The ball was really flying. I didn't really feel the ball today at all. And I think she was using the wind much, much better than I was during the match. I just couldn't really control the ball that well here this year."
And on playing someone like Pennetta in her opening match? "The first match is always the most difficult in a tournament, especially here when you're playing someone Top 20 or Top 30 first round."