Taylor Townsend pulled off a stunning upset, defeating No. 4 Simona Halep 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) in the second round of the U.S. Open on Thursday.
Townsend, who won three qualifying matches just to make the draw, has persevered to win her last four matches despite losing the opening set each time.
She excelled on Thursday largely due to her exceptional net-rushing abilities, winning 64 of 106 net points for a 60 percent success rate.
Halep, the 2019 Wimbledon and 2018 French Open singles champion, has made the finals in four of her last 11 majors.
She didn't encounter much trouble in the first set, winning 12 of her 14 first-serve points and committing just four unforced errors to Townsend's 16.
The momentum changed in the second set, however, as Townsend started dominating at the net. She won 15 points compared to Halep's zero at the net and won 70 percent of her first-serve points versus Halep's 59 percent. The left-hander also cut down the unforced errors, committing only seven.
Both players turned up the heat in a thrilling third set that saw Halep break Townsend when she was serving for the match. Townsend had double match point up 5-4 in the third set but committed a double-fault before Halep fought back to even the score.
The set eventually went to a tiebreaker, and Townsend took over despite her 19 unforced errors in the final set. She won a point on Halep's serve with the tiebreaker knotted at four before holding serve to win 7-4.
Tumaini Carayol of the Guardian praised Townsend's drive to excel at the net after not converting two match points:
Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times also called the match a "blast from the past" given Townsend's net-rushing strategy.
The victory is all the more impressive considering the associated feats Townsend accomplished.
ESPNW noted that Townsend is the first American woman to take down the defending Wimbledon champion at the U.S. Open since Serena Williams in 2008. ESPN's Pam Shriver also mentioned on the television broadcast that this marked Townsend's first win over a top-10 opponent.
After the match, Townsend noted her fearless attitude in her matchup against Halep, who had defeated her in straight sets in each of their previous three matchups.
"This means a lot. It's been a long journey," Taylor Townsend said post-match, via WTA Insider. "I've had close matches this year and wasn't able to get over the hump. This match gives me so much confidence to know I can do it.
"In the past when I played her I was just trying to make balls. I was playing not to lose. Today I just played to win. I said 'eff it.' I don't think I can really say what was going in my head because it's TV."
Townsend will face unseeded Sorana Cirstea in the third round on Saturday. It will be their first meeting.