NEW YORK -- In one single match, Ukraine's Daria Snigur crossed off at least three major milestones. Ranked No.124, the 20-year-old qualifier came into the US Open having never played a Slam main draw, never won a tour-level WTA match, and never faced, let alone defeated, a Top 20 player.
Snigur proceeded to pull off the shock of the first round, knocking out World No.7 and Toronto champion Simona Halep 6-2, 0-6, 6-4. No one was more stunned than Snigur, who confessed she just hoped to win a few games.
"I just wanted to enjoy this match," Snigur told WTA Insider. "I was playing Simona Halep, ex-No.1 in the world. My father told me to enjoy it, have fun. I tried to do it and fight for every ball. I was playing Simona so I was trying to do my best. Now, this was the best match of my career."
Here are five things to know about Snigur:
She's coached by a former WTA player
Snigur has been coached by Larisa Neiland (née Savchenko) for the last five years. Neiland was a premier doubles player on the tour, rising to No.1 in doubles in 1992 and winning Roland Garros 1989 and Wimbledon 1991, both with Natasha Zvereva. In singles, she reached No.13 and made a pair of Grand Slam quarterfinals at the 1988 US Open and Wimbledon 1994.
"Before the war, Larisa taught me in Kyiv," Snigur said. "Now she lives in the U.S. and she was in Riga before the US Open. I practiced with her for a few days and I tried to keep as much information. I think it's good."
Her forehand sets her apart from the pack
Snigur credits Neiland for her unorthodox forehand technique, which allows her to hit flat and fool her opponents with direction.
"I played flat but Larisa gave me this technique," Snigur said. "I think it's very good because many players cannot understand how I play. It's not an ordinary shot."
Her father wanted her to be a professional tennis player
Snigur started playing tennis when she was seven. Unbeknownst to her at the time, her father already had aspirations for his daughter to play on the Hologic WTA Tour.
"When I started I didn't understand what my father wanted," Snigur said. "But after I had some victories in Ukrainian tournaments I thought I could play professionally, first in juniors and then the tour."
The rise of Daria Snigur 🇺🇦📈— ITF (@ITFTennis) August 29, 2022
2019 ➡️ Girls’ singles champion at @Wimbledon
2021 ➡️ W100+H Dubai champion. Biggest of six ITF World Tennis Tour titles 💯
2022 ➡️ Earns her first Grand Slam win, edging past No. 7 Simona Halep at the #USOpen pic.twitter.com/LuowJpouD4
Snigur counts her flat game and adaptability as her biggest strengths.
"I can play fast, I can play slow, I can play near slow, and near fast," she said. "I can change. I can play against a player who pushes the ball, and players who don't push the ball."
The war has upended her career
When Snigur is asked what her goals for the season were, she makes a distinction between the hopes for her burgeoning career before Russia's invasion of Ukraine and after.
"Before the war, I had plans to play main draw of the Slams, stay in the Top 100," Snigur said. "But since the war, the plans changed because I had a base in Kyiv. I lived in Kyiv before the war.
"After the war, I tried to just stay in my position, 120, and play maybe qualies at the Grand Slams and win one or two games."
Snigur's training base in Kyiv was destroyed when the war began, displacing the 20-year-old and her family to Poland.
"It's very difficult now because I don't have a base," Snigur said. "I live in Warsaw and my coach lives in the U.S. But I don't want to live in the USA because Poland is next to Ukraine. Europe is better for me.
"But who knows. If I need Larisa I will go to U.S. to practice with her. But if she comes to Europe I will practice with her all the time."
She dedicated her victory to the Ukrainian people
Before the tournament, Snigur took part in the Tennis Plays for Peace exhibition event at the US Open. Along with fellow Ukrainians Dayana Yastremska and Katerina Zavatska, the event saw Iga Swiatek, Coco Gauff, Rafael Nadal and others join together to raise $1.2 million for Ukrainian relief.
After finally converting on her third match point to close out Halep, Snigur wept as she saluted the crowd, making a heart around her Ukrainian ribbon.
"Everyone is different after the war," Snigur said. "I sit here and it's very good because I won this match. I tried to play for Ukraine, for Ukrainian people, I want to live in this country when the war is finished."
Last week - qualifying & Tennis Plays for Peace 🇺🇦— Eurosport (@eurosport) August 30, 2022
This week - Beating former world no1 Halep 💪
Is it any wonder that Daria Snigur can’t quite believe what she’s achieved?! #USOpen pic.twitter.com/nYE4wyPC3F