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As part of a series lking at the mind, body and soul of an athlete, ESPNs Prim Siripipat will speak to various tennis players throughout the US Open.NEW YORK -- A year ago, Roberta Vinci pulled off one of the most epic upsets in US Open history.The No. 43-ranked Italian stunned No. 1 Serena Williams in the semifinals, ending Williams 33-match winning streak in majors -- and her quest for the first calendar Grand Slam since Steffi Grafs feat in 1988.After the match, Vinci was emotional, calling it the best moment of her life. Beforehand, it was a much different story. Did she really believe she could beat Williams heading into it?No. Really! No ... Vinci said in her on-court interview. When I woke up, I said OK, I have the semifinals today. Try to enjoy it. Dont think about Serena. Play.Although it was a painful defeat, Serena acknowledged the 12-1 underdog played her heart out.I thought she played the best tennis in her career, Serena said. Actually, I guess its inspiring. But, yeah, I think she played literally out of her mind.Added Vinci: The power of the mind and the mental game is important for this kind of sport.This past Wednesday, that positivity was evident again when Vinci, 33, was down a break in the second set of her second-round match.With American Christina McHale, 24, leading 3-2, the now No. 7 seed maintained her focus and turned a difficult moment into an opportunity. Vinci won four straight games on her way to a 6-1, 6-3 victory.Vinci faced another test of will Friday in her three-set win over Carina Witthoeft, 21, of Germany. Despite dropping the second set, the Italian kept her concentration and made only five unforced errors in the third set, winning 6-0, 5-7, 6-3.Up next in the fourth round, she will face Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine.Indeed, it was the fiery Italians mind that enabled her to take down the most intimidating player on the WTA Tour in Serena Williams last year.She offered espnW these mental tips on how to handle a daunting opponent:1. Forget your opponent.Dont think about whos on the other side of the net. Forget their name. Forget their ranking. Forget their résumé and who theyve beaten. Shift your focus from your opponent to you. Think about your game, Vinci said. Dont think about the opponent. Just play your game and be aggressive.2. Focus on your breath.As in yoga teaching, breathing helps a player stay in the present moment, which prevents them from thinking about past mistakes or lking t far ahead into the match. Slow, deep breaths also help with nerves and pressure, which happens to all players.When asked how often she gets nervous, Vinci said, Always. I always feel the pressure. Im always nervous ... every single match and especially at the beginning. Then, step by step, I try to calm down, focus and the pressure gets low, and then I get back into the match.3. Forget about the future.This means dont worry about winning or losing. Yes, as a competitor, of course you want to win. However, getting t wrapped up in results can cause more stress and cause an athlete to lose focus on the things that will help them earn a victory.Stay focused every single point and dont think about the results, Vinci said. Just play your game.4. Think positive.Her belief may have fluctuated, but Vinci stayed positive throughout the entire match regardless of what was happening.With that said, it begged the question to ask Vinci one more time about the trust in herself. Did she really not believe she could beat Williams? Not even a little bit?OK, a little bit. A little bit ... yes, Vinci said.Just a little bit of belief. Thats all it takes.Prim Siripipat joined ESPN as an anchor in 2011 after spending three years in Miami covering the Dolphins, Heat and Marlins. She has appeared on SportsCenter, First Take, NBA Tonight and ESPN Radio. She played tennis at Duke University and, shortly after, began a career in broadcasting in Raleigh, North Carolina. Follow her on Twitter @ESPNPrim. SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Green Bay got physical with top-ranked Notre Dame and gave the Fighting Irish about all they could take.The Phoenix (2-1) rallied from 17 points down midway through the third quarter and narrowed the lead to five points three times in the final 4 minutes before finally falling 71-67 in a Preseason WNIT semifinal Thursday night.The Irish (3-0) shot just 33 percent in the second half and 36 percent for the game. Arike Ogunbowale led the Irish with 18 points but didnt hit another basket after making a 15-ft jumper to extend Notre Dames lead to 17 points.Jessica Lindstrom led the Phoenix with 20 points and 16 rebounds, hitting a 3-pointer to cut Notre Dames lead to 69-64 with 19 seconds left. But Marina Mabrey, who finished with 13 points, hit two free throws to give the Irish a seven-point lead with 16 seconds left.Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw was disappointed with the Irish, saying they were ragged on offense and struggled defensively against Green Bays screens.Theyre so experienced. Theyre poised. Theyre well coached. Theyre disciplined. Offensively they were really hard to guard and defensively they made it really difficult to get the ball in the post, she said.The Irish, who normally dominate inside, had only a 28-24 advantage inside against the Phoenix and Green Bays reserves outscored Notre Dames bench 22-8.The Phoenix shot 64 percent in the second half and 45 percent for the game.We changed a little bit of the schematic and tried to put it so we could drive it and spread them out a little more, which helped us, Green Bay coach Kevin Borseth said. But we hit some shots, some big shots.Players on both sides described the game as physical.But I feel like thats just part of the game nowadays, Lindstrom said.McGraw believes having such a tough challenge will help the Irish.Hopeffully we learned a lot from it.dddddddddddd I thought we made some big plays in the end when we had to. But overall, just really disappointing, she said. We lked like the younger team on the flr, and I think we were. But I think we can play a lot smarter.BIG PICTUREGreen Bay: The Phoenix, the favorites to win the Horizon League, played their first game ever against a No. 1 ranked team and stayed within reach throughout the game as they gave the Irish all they could handle.Notre Dame: The Irish struggled offensively early against the Phoenix, who ranked ninth nationally in scoring defense last season at 52.2 points a game, but managed to pull out the victory despite being held to 36 percent shting.POLL IMPLICATIONS:Green Bay: The Phoenix were already receiving votes and likely could well move into the rankings with an impressive showing on the road.Notre Dame: The Irish may be hard-pressed to keep the No. 1 ranking after struggling on its home court against an unranked opponent.TIP-INS: The Irish were 0 of 5 from 3-point range in the second half after going 5 of 8 in the first half. ... Green Bay was 6 of 9 from 3-point range in the third quarter. ... The Irish have players from 10 states on their roster. Every player on Green Bay is from Wisconsin. ... The Phoenix dropped to 1-2 all-time against the Irish, with the win coming in 1987.UP NEXTGreen Bay: The Phoenix are knocked out of the Preseason WNIT. Green Bay plays road games against Belmont, Chattanga and Bradley before returning home to face Drake on Dec. 3.Notre Dame: The Irish will play No. 17 Washington in the Preseason WNIT final at South Bend on Sunday. The Irish then play at Louisiana-Lafayette on Tuesday. ' ' '