Anastasia Gasanova in disbelief after toppling Karolina Pliskova at Abu Dhabi WTA Women's Tennis Open
World No 293 is competing in her maiden WTA main draw and was facing a player ranked in the top 100 for the first time
Anastasia Gasanova's reaction said it all. As Karolina Pliskova, the world No 6 and third seed this week at the Abu Dhabi WTA Women's Tennis Open, sent her return of serve wide, the young Russian brought her hand to her mouth in disbelief.
She had just toppled one of the biggest stars on the WTA Tour and in convincing fashion, too, with a 6-2, 6-4 win sending her through to the last-16.
Gasanova, ranked 286 places below her illustrious opponent, is competing in a WTA main draw for the first time having come through two rounds of qualifying. She had never previously faced a player ranked inside the top 100 and her biggest victory before Saturday's heroics came against the world No 142.
Gasanova finished last year's shortened season by competing on the third-tier ITF Tour in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt where her last completed match was a heavy defeat to the world No 365. Eleven days later, she retired injured against the world No 693.
Which is to say Gasanova is mixing with different company in Abu Dhabi and even as she sat down for her press conference, it was quite clear her achievement still had not sunk in.
"It was like it wasn’t me on the court. I was so sure in myself and I’m really happy right now," Gasanova said, struggling to complete her sentences through fits of nervous giggles.
"When I step on the court, I’m a different person. I’m more angry but in normal life I like to think I’m a kind person. I gave everything I could for today … sorry,” she said as she trailed off.
Gasanova's nervousness can be forgiven. She is, after all, in unfamiliar territory – not that it showed on court. The 21-year-old Russian dominated the first set, racing into a 4-0 lead and comfortably closing out the opener for the loss of just three points on her serve.
She held her nerve in the second set when faced with five break points in the fourth game and then broke in the fifth to take command of the contest. Pliskova looked to have forced her way back into the match with her first break to level at 4-4 but again, Gasanova dug in to reclaim the advantage the very next game and give herself the chance to serve out the match.
At 40-0 and holding three match points, Gasanova wobbled ever so slightly but there was no denying her a famous win when she converted on the third attempt.
"I’m really surprised but when I woke up today I thought ‘why not? Why can’t I win this match?’," Gasanova said. "I thought I might lose in qualifying but I kept pushing myself because I wanted to win, so yeah, I’m very surprised."
After revealing her targets for 2021, it looks as though Gasanova will need a new one already – and the season is only a few days old.
"My first goal is to get inside the top 200," she said. "I don’t know if I’ve already achieved this after today! To play against a top 10 player is a great opportunity for me and a great chance to show how I can play."
Published: January 9, 2021 04:57 PM