It’s the standard question in every winner’s post-match press conference.
“Thoughts on your next opponent?”
Sachia Vickery was momentarily perplexed.
“I didn’t even look at first, to be honest,” she said. “I mean, who knew I would have beaten Muguruza? So I didn’t even look past that point.”
It certainly took the tennis world by surprise, as any major upset does. And Vickery’s 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 second-round victory Friday night at the BNP Paribas Open over Garbine Muguruza was indeed an upset.
Not only is Muguruza the world No. 3 and a two-time Grand Slam champion, making her the first player Vickery, ranked No. 100, has beaten inside the Top 20. But Spaniard also held a one-set, 3-0, 40-0 lead when Vickery made her move.
“I just tried to fight every point and hang in there,” Vickery said.
It was not unfamiliar territory for the Hollywood, Fla., native, who learned the game by hitting balls against a wall with a wooden paddle her grandmother bought at a dollar store, and travelled by Greyhound bus to tournaments.
Sachia’s mother, Paula Liverpool, who immigrated from Guyana, worked as an administrator for Kaplan (online) University by day and as a bartender at a strip club in a dangerous section of Miami at night, once told the Miami Herald that she wanted to make sure her daughter could compete “with the girls who carry Louis Vuitton luggage to tournaments.”
“I was hitting against the wall every single day,” Sachia said. “I think one day I broke the window and my mom was, like, ‘OK, enough is enough. I will try to find somewhere for you to get to play.’ She’s always been supporting me since I started playing tennis and has been right there by my side.”
Vickery, 22, next plays Naomi Osaka, a 20-year-old resident of Boca Raton, Fla., ranked No. 44.
“I’m just going to go in with the same mentality as I did [Friday],” Vickery said. “I literally have nothing to lose. Everybody expected me to lose [against Muguruza]. I just came out and surprised myself, and I surprised everyone.”
Not necessarily her coach, however. Adrian Zeman unabashedly called Vickery’s backhand “one of the best in the world,” and issues a reminder that Vickery has been at this for a while.
“I think she’s one of those American girls who got out of juniors and everyone was expecting results,” Zeman told BNPParibasOpen.com. “But the bottom line is it has just taken a bit of time. She works incredibly hard and as she matures emotionally and mentally, she’s starting to understand what it takes to be a top 100 professional.
“Obviously the wins are very important in building that confidence and showing her that all that hard work is paying off. Obviously, beating Muguruza shows what she’s capable of shows the enormous potential is coming to fruition.”
Vickery, a fan of Venus and Serena Williams since those days of hitting against a wall, considers LeBron James’ mother, Gloria, an aunt, and has spent holidays with LeBron. But walking onto Stadium 1 Friday night to face Muguruza, she admitted the moment was overwhelming.
“I started out pretty nervous,” Vickery said. “Obviously, for me, I haven’t played matches on such a big court before. For her, it’s the norm. So in the first set it really took me a while to kind of find the ball and get over those nerves. But then after, in the second set, I let a few go and started to get a lot of confidence and the crowd got behind me. I just started really getting to play my game.”
It helped that Vickery defeated Eugenie Bouchard on Stadium 1 in her first-round match.
“I feel like I kind of got over that kind of stage fright a little bit because when I walked out on the court against Genie, I couldn’t believe how big the court was,” she said. “I have played on big courts, obviously, but nothing like this. I feel like that was really a hump to get over. And then [Friday night], I relaxed a little bit more after I was down. It just worked out.”