Only the day before, Ellicott City's Beatrice Capra was an unknown, unseeded wild card playing her first main-draw Grand Slam tennis tournament at the U.S. Open. But Thursday afternoon she changed all that.
With fans overflowing the Grandstand Court and cheers of support ringing in her ears, Capra came from behind to upset No.18 seed Aravane Rezai of France, 7-6, 2-6, 6-3, and became the latest starlet on the New York tennis stage.
"Oh, my gosh!" said Capra, 18, several hours after the match. "It was such an amazing thing. The match today was the best moment of my life. Winning in front of that many people. I'd never played in front of that many people."
She could be playing in front of many more fans Saturday, as she will face No.14 seed Maria Sharapova in the third round. Sharapova defeated Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic, 6-1, 6-2, later Thursday.
"I think it will be a really great experience," said Capra, who said she looked up to the 23-year-old Russian when she was younger.
"I thought she was just so mentally tough. You know, she always went for her shots and you can never tell any of her emotions. That really inspired me. I always think that I'm mentally tough."
After demonstrating that toughness in Thursday's match, Capra was whisked into the main interview room for a postmatch interview and was faced with an immediate, daunting request.
"Congratulations," said the dean of tennis writers, Bud Collins. "Tell us your life story, please."
Capra laughed at the moment.
"It was really fun," she said. "I was scared going in there, but everyone was really nice to me and all I had to do was sit there and answer questions."
Then it was off to ESPN for her first national television interview, with Patrick McEnroe and Mary Joe Fernandez.
"I know Patrick McEnroe and Mary Joe from other tennis events," she said. "So I wasn't too scared. And after today's match I feel like I really belong. I know what people say, 'Oh, she's a wild card.' It's a spot in the tournament but not really earned, a lucky spot. But now I feel like I've earned my way into the third round."
Though the results of her two U.S. Open matches (she beat Karolina Sprem, 6-1, 6-3, in the first round) left her somewhat giddy, Capra was anything but during her second-round match.
After getting off to a 2-0 lead in the first set, Capra said she suddenly "felt nervous" and quickly fell behind 4-2.
She regrouped and came back to take the opening set 7-5 before losing the second 6-2.
"Being mentally tough has always been a key for me," she said. "I'm never going to give up … and I think that attitude helped me today."
She took a quick 3-1 lead in the third, but serving at 4-2, she lost her serve at love to surrender the break. But she dug in and broke Rezai in the next game for a 5-3 advantage and then served out the match.
Rezai actually won more points than Capra, 94-91, but Capra was able to earn the big points.
Former WTA player Andrea Leand, who is also from the Baltimore area, was sitting with Capra's mother, Laurie, during the match. Leand's and Laurie Capra's friendship goes back to the Maryland juniors league 35 years ago when they played each other every week.
"I think this is fantastic," Leand said. "I'm excited for both of them. Trice [Beatrice Capra's nickname] had to earn it. The win and the opportunity to be here. I think she has been a little bit overlooked in the juniors. But her parents got her what she needed by sending her to Florida for the last three years, and now I think she is the most improved American junior this year without a doubt.
"The reason she's in the third round of the U.S. Open is because of her maturity, and she has that because her parents have made her take responsibility. Today in that third set, when things got tight, you could see the impact of that. She had to think about her game plan. She showed maturity and composure you don't see often in young players in that situation."
Capra thought about that and acknowledged that she has been traveling outside the country by herself since she was 14, but said there is more to it.
"I think traveling, taking care of myself like that has helped me to depend on myself more," she said. "But from the first time I played tag I've always been composed. I love to win. I love the feeling of winning. To do that, I'll push myself as far as I possibly can."