For just the second time in her career, American Taylor Townsend is through to the third round at a WTA 1000 event -- and she did it in grand fashion at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia on Thursday with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 upset of No.3 seed Jessica Pegula. 

Townsend's only previous Top 10 victory came during a breakthrough fourth-round run at the 2019 US Open, where she beat then-No.4 Simona Halep in the second round inside Arthur Ashe Stadium. But she entered Thursday's match against Pegula with a winning head-to-head record, 2-1, though the pair had not played in three years and only once previously at WTA level; two of their three meetings came in ITF World Tennis Tour events in the U.S. in 2013 and 2017.

In 1 hour and 55 minutes, Townsend extended that lead, and notched her fourth win thus far in her Rome debut. The left-hander is playing her 14th career WTA 1000 event this week, but had only previously reached the third round at the 2017 BNP Paribas Open.

“It was 100% mental for me. I knew I didn’t have anything to lose. ... I just felt super prepared,” Townsend said afterward on Tennis Channel. “I tried to stay as free as possible and have a lot of fun out there, and I did.

"As the match went on, I started to believe more and more and more, and I just really carried that momentum throughout the match."

Embracing new experiences, Townsend challenges tennis to do the same

How the match was won: Townsend won seven straight games after trailing 2-0 in the first set to lead by a set and a break, but it was a quick start in the third that helped the serve-and-volleying American claim the first three-setter in the pair's all-time meetings.

The World No.168 won the first three games, and 14 of the first 15 points, to take a lead she'd never relinquish. She was dominant behind her serve in the final set, landing 85% of her first serves and dropping just five points in five service games. 

Even in a moment where her serve could've faltered after failing to convert two match points in the eighth game, it did not, and Townsend wrapped up the victory by finishing off another point at net. 

Stat of the day: A beacon of consistency since her ascent into the Top 10, the second-round loss for Pegula is the first time that she's lost her opening match at a tournament in more than a year. Her last such defeat came at the hands of Marie Bouzkova at the 2021 BNP Paribas Open. 

Up next: Townsend's next opponent, China's Wang Xiyu -- who is now coached by Nigel Sears -- also scored a second-round upset. Wang was a 6-4, 7-5 winner over No.31 seed Irina-Camelia Begu. They split two meetings on the ITF World Tennis Tour in the U.S. last year as Townsend first began her comeback following the 2021 birth of her son.