After suffering a crushing 6-1 first-set loss at the hands of Meghann Shaughnessy of Scottsdale, Ariz., Abigail Spears of San Diego had an ephiphany: "The worst thing that could happen is that I could win this match."
Remarkably, 14 games later, 92nd ranked Spears walked off the court here at the 2005 Australian Open with an upset 1-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory over 40th-ranked Shaughnessy. It was the biggest upset of Spears' budding career in professional women's tennis.
What gave her the confidence to weather the disastrous first set?
"At end of that set, I said to myself: 'It can't get any worse than this. I've got to put some balls on the court.' I thought the worst thing that could happen is that I could win," said Spears with a laugh.
With the very first game of the second set, the match began to turn around. Spears sped off to a 4-2 lead, then turned up the pressure, winning seven straight games and ultimately hitting 29 winners over the three sets. By the time she led, 5-0, in the third set, the pressure began to show.
Shaughnessy began to climb back, winning two games, before Spears put the match out of reach.
The victory marks a new level for Spears, whose 2004 season ended with a three-set loss in the final of the Quebec WTA tournament and a year-end ranking of 92, well above her ranking for much of the year.
Spears' coach, Larry Willens of San Diego, gave her the major credit for the victory. "She was able to absorb that first-set loss and play on. That was a major factor," he said.