NORCROSS, GA, USA - Young American Sachia Vickery came through a packed field at the Australian Open Wildcard Play-off event in Norcross, Georgia on the weekend, battling past three of her countrywomen - including Victoria Duval in the final - to secure her spot in the main draw.
Unseeded in the eight-woman draw, Vickery had to battle past three seeds en route to the title - No.2 seed Madison Brengle in the quarterfinals, 46 64 63, No.3 seed Grace Min in the semifinals, 63 67(3) 64, and finally No.4 seed Duval - one of the breakthrough stars of the US Open - in the final, 62 63.
That final performance was Vickery's best performance of the weekend, but it was not a cakewalk.
"I wanted to start off more aggressive and take control of the points more, and I also wanted to stay calm mentally, which was my biggest thing today," Vickery said. "But there were nerves through the whole match, from the first point to the last point. There wasn't one point where I was completely calm.
"But I just tried to go point by point and not think too much ahead."
That mental approach worked, particularly on the big points, where she came up with key winners.
"On those points I just felt like, 'Go for it - if I miss it, I miss it. If I make it, great.' I just wanted to go for it and just do what I could to hit my best shot. And it gave me a lot of confidence. As soon as I hit the first couple I was like, 'Maybe I can go for a bit more.' And I did. I guess I was just the luckier one today."
And there was another secret weapon. "I think she started noticing I was going wide a lot on my serve, so I just started trying to mix up my serves, and my T was working well today, so I was happy with that.
"My serve really pulled me out of some situations today, too."
And so the 18-year-old Vickery is now through to her second Grand Slam main draw, having already played the US Open this year - for which she won a wildcard as well, and made the second round.
Has it hit her yet? "No it hasn't - maybe in like a week and a half from now I'll be in Auckland, playing a match or something, and it'll hit me. But now I can't process anything. I have no idea what's going on.
"I'm excited to go either way, attention or not, under the radar or in the spotlight. I'm just so happy to get the win today. I'm so happy to be in the tournament. So whatever happens, I'm just happy to play."
And does she feel any pressure? "I'm going to do my best and play my hardest, and if I do well that's amazing, but if not I have hundreds of tournaments throughout the year. But hopefully I'll have a great tournament. I'm more used to playing on big stages now, after the US Open, so I think I'm prepared."