(August 27, 2013) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Last year at the US Open, Victoria Duval gained a wild card into the US Open when she won the US Junior Girls’ National 18 and under championship. This year she had to win three matches in the qualifying tournament to make the main draw. She made good use of extra practice on the courts during qualifying to upset No. 11 seed and 2011 US Open Champion Sam Stosur 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 to move into the second round at Flushing Meadows.
Originally, the 296th ranked Duval who is just 17-years-old said she wanted to be a ballerina but she took after her brothers’ interest in tennis.
“Actually, my brothers played,” she said. “So I was a ballerina before tennis. I would just run around and hit the ball. I could never hit the strings. My brother would go to this tournament in Santo Domingo every year. The tournament director said, your daughter comes and sits on your lap. Why don’t you have her play in the tournament?
“I was seven. I had no idea how to keep score, nothing. It was a 10‑and‑under tournament, I think, and I won it. I had no idea where to stand on the court or anything. After that, my mom was, Okay, you have to choose now. Tennis seemed to be appropriate.”
The effervescent teen born in Florida but grew up in Haiti, with a high pitched voice that could pass for an animated character, did not have an easy road to tennis.
“It was definitely financially difficult, especially after the earthquake. My dad wasn’t able to work anymore.
“I’ve been very fortunate. A couple family members have helped me. Hopefully with this win today, that will change a little bit.”
At one point as a child she and her cousin were held hostage by robbers.
“We were held hostage,” said Duval. “It’s not a good memory, so I try to forget as much as I could about it. I don’t remember too much of it anymore, which is great.”
Also in 2010 an earthquake hit Haiti and her father, a doctor, was underneath rubble for nearly 12 hours. He survived with the aid of an American friend who found a helicopter to get him out. However, now her father is unable to work.
“But he’s improving so much,” said Duval. “Emotionally it was hard at first. But he’s as happy as he’s ever been. He had a couple surgeries that helped take the pain away. We’re just so happy that, you know, he’s in a good state of mind right now. He’s just here with us. So it’s incredible.”
In her post-match on-court interview she reflected on how fortunate she really is: “I don’t take anything for granted. You never know what can happen any day. My dad’s fortunate to be here. … I thank God every day for everything that’s happened. Life is short.”
Duvall made much better memories on Tuesday in Louis Armstrong Stadium with her victory.
“Obviously it’s a great feeling to beat a past champion,” Duval said. “And Sam is amazing. Although she didn’t play nearly her best today, I played amazing, so I’ll take it,” she said with a smile.
“But, yeah, I mean, I have to worry about the next match, so I can’t celebrate too much.”
The tale of the tape showed that Stosur hit 56 unforced errors to Duval’s 35.
“I think she played from the ground pretty decent,” Stosur said. “You know, she went for her forehand a lot more than maybe what I was expecting, from what I could kind of find out beforehand. She hit that well. She hit that cross‑court forehand well. Moved relatively well, all that.
“I again, she played a pretty good match. It was certainly a match where I feel like I could have played a lot better than what I did. At the end of the day, that’s what happened today. She did well.”
Asked if she was going to become a tennis star, Duval said: That’s what I’m working for. If God will let it, then let’s go.”
Karen Pestaina is covering the US Open as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her updates on twitter at @TennisNewsTPN.