Top seed Roberta Vinci has been bowled out of the ASB Classic by a 16-year-old expected to be the next sensation in women's tennis.
Ana Konjuh, who has a world ranking of 259, beat the world No 14, 3-6 6-4 6-2.
She celebrated her 16th birthday in Auckland on December 27 and this is her first WTA tournament.
Classic tournament director Karl Budge made the incredibly astute move of signing up Konjuh for three years and he may have locked in someone who will be a worldwide superstar by the end of that period.
Although she lost the first set, all the signs were there that she could still win this match.
Konjuh won the junior Australian and US Opens last year and, despite being able to play juniors for two more years, she has decided only to play senior events from now on.
Budge said Konjuh was a player they had their eye on and felt she was worthy of a wildcard.
"We keep a close eye on all of the junior Grand Slams and when she won both singles and doubles at the Australian Open and then backed that up with the US Open, it was pretty evident that this was a kid in the making," Budge said yesterday.
"To then beat Ursula Radwanska in the Fed Cup at the age of 15, it was pretty clear that this girl had something special about her."
What is so impressive about Konjuh is that not only does she have a great game, but she also displays huge mental strength at such a young age.
Naturally, the Croatian teenager was nervous going into the match, but when she was a set down she was still able to keep believing in herself.
"I was a bit nervous at the start of the match, until the second set when I was 5-1 up and I started thinking about winning the set and that wasn't good and she got to 5-4," Konjuh said.
"But my team helped me get through this and it was a great experience for me."
Konjuh said she was disappointed to find herself drawn against the tournament's highest-ranked player but said she was still prepared to fight.
"When I heard, I wasn't that happy about the draw, but right now I realise that this was a great experience for me.
"It was a great match and I hope that I'm going to have a few of them in the future."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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