MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — At several moments during her match, Luksika Kumkhum said her heart shook. She told herself not to look at the stands. She'd never seen such a huge tennis stadium.
Before long, the crowd at the 5,000-seat Margaret Court Arena was cheering for the speedy, unheralded Thai player, who made a name for herself at the Australian Open on Monday by eliminating former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 in a first-round upset.
It marked a number of firsts for the 20-year-old Thai, who is ranked 88th and had never before played a top 10 player and hadn't expected to win. Before exiting the court, she thanked the crowd with a display of Thai graciousness by bowing with palms pressed together to all four sides of the arena.
"Today is a great day," she said during an on-court interview, openly stunned by her victory. "Thank you very much," she said, and then repeated herself in Thai: "Khup khun kha."
She was then ushered into Melbourne Park's main press conference room, another first, then told media that although she's Thailand's top tennis player, nobody recognizes her in the streets of Bangkok.
Luksika grew up in Chanthaburi province in eastern Thailand. She started playing tennis early because her father was a coach.
He's the one who taught Luksika her grinding two-handed backhand and her more unusual two-handed forehand, she said. Inspired by former Thai tour players Paradorn Srichaphan and her idol Tamarine Tanasugarn, Kumkhum turned professional at 19.
This was her second Grand Slam after reaching the second round in Melbourne last year, on a side court.
Stepping onto Margaret Court, the tournament's third show court, made her "heart shake."
"It made me really nervous, so I tried to look only at the court. I didn't look up," she said during an interview in Thai. "I just looked at the court and focused on the ball. I didn't think I was going to win."
She wore a Buddhist pendant around her neck for luck. It also helped that Kvitova made 40 unforced errors and was serving poorly.
"Unfortunately, I didn't play well," said the No. 6-seeded Kvitova. Asked what went wrong, she said, "Everything."
It was Kvitova's first loss in the opening round of a Grand Slam since the 2011 U.S. Open, months after she won the title at Wimbledon.