ACAPULCO, Mexico -- Wildcard Renata Zarazua notched a massive upset on home soil, as the Mexican dispatched No.1 seed and former champion Sloane Stephens of the United States, 6-4, 6-2, in the first round of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC.
"I think my plan, first of all, was to believe that I can win," Zarazua said, after her victory. "I made some tactical plans before the match with my coach. I think I was actually pretty excited."
"I came here with opportunities to play against the best players," Zarazua continued. "I was really happy."
Stephens claimed the Acapulco title in 2016, but on Tuesday evening, World No.270 Zarazua was able to thrill the excited crowd on Grandstand with a sterling 85-minute victory over the former World No.3 and 2017 US Open champion.
"I really felt the energy, and they’re really always cheering for me, so I’m really thankful for that," said Zarazua, when asked about the crowd. "I think they were screaming ‘Vamos, Renata’ or something, so that was super nice. I really felt it."
Zarazua had 15 winners to Stephens's 10, and the Mexican was able to win 75 percent of points off of the American's second serve. The 22-year-old wildcard is now into the second round of the event for the second time in the past three seasons.
The Mexican's victory continued a trend of upsets at the event, as four of the top five seeds have already fallen in the first round, including defending champion and No.2 seed Wang Yafan and two-time champion and No.5 seed Venus Williams.
Stephens found herself in trouble on serve right away, staving off two break points in her first service game. Zarazua was able to get the break the next time around, though, as the Mexican used deft dropshots and divine defense to earn an early lead at 3-1.
Zarazua saved break points before holding for 4-1 with a backhand passing winner, and then put herself a point away from a 5-1 lead. However, Stephens maneuvered her way out of that predicament to hold for 4-2, keeping herself in touching distance.
With Zarazua serving for the set at 5-3, Stephens finally got back on serve via an error-forcing forehand, moving to 5-4. But the wildcard roared back in the next game, drawing Stephens into errors as she gritted out another service break to claim a stunning one-set lead.
Stephens used all of her guile to fend off four break points in her first service game of the second set, but it was not enough to prevent Zarazua from attaining another early lead, as she broke for 3-1, just as she had in the opening frame. This time around, Zarazua extended her lead even further, when she used a deep return to force an error on break point to move ahead 5-1.
With the match in her grasp, Zarazua dropped serve, handing Stephens a lifeline, but the Mexican was unfazed, and moved to double match point in the very next game after a Stephens volley found the net. On the first match point, Stephens netted a backhand, and the wildcard had closed out a noteworthy victory in front of her elated compatriots.
In her next match, Zarazua will face another American for a spot in the quarterfinals, fellow wildcard Katie Volynets. Volynets beat fellow American Shelby Rogers in the first round.