Victoria Duval, a 17-year-old qualifier ranked No. 296 in the world, provided the 2013 U.S. Open with it’s first shocking upset, defeating No. 11 seed Sam Stosur, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, in a first round victory on Tuesday.
Duval was playing in only her second Grand Slam tournament and showed early jitters, falling behind a set and a break under the bright lights of Louis Armstrong Stadium, before taking full advantage of the many errors from the 2011 U.S. Open champion Stosur.
Stosur ended the match with 29 winners and 56 unforced effors, while Duval had 23 winners and only 35 unforced errors.
“It was a big moment, big stage, not easy closing any match out, let alone a past U.S. Open champion,” said Duval, who received a wild card into qualifying.
“I don’t even remember match point,” she added. “I guess I was really happy. I mean, you could tell by all the jumping I did.”
Duval played in her first Grand Slam match at the 2012 U.S. Open and became the last player six-time major winner Kim Clijsters defeated before retiring. Duval lost the first round match — played at night in Arthur Ashe Stadium — to Clijsters, 6-3, 6-1.
That match helped prepare Duval for the atmosphere on Tuesday night.
“The crowd didn’t seem so overwhelming, because I felt like I was in that position before,” Duval said. “Also I got a lot of experience at the World TeamTennis. I think being in that kind of situation is really helpful, too.”
“I heard that Lil Wayne tweeted me, so I need to go check that out,” she said, drawing laughs [at the post match news conference]. “I don’t have Twitter, so I’m going to go hit that up. Maybe I have to create one and be at Weezy like ‘thank you.’ ”
But the joyful and bubbly personality she displayed hides a darker past.
When she was 7, Duval, a Haitian-American who was born in Miami, was held at gunpoint for hours by armed robbers while at an aunt’s house in Port-au-Prince before her captors freed her and her family. Her parents, Jean-Maurice and Nadine Duval, decided to leave Haiti and move the family to Florida.
Duval’s father was in Port-au-Prince to attend to his physician’s practice in 2010 when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake ripped through Haiti. Her father was buried under the rubble of their home and wasn’t found for 11 hours. He suffered broken legs, a broken arm and seven broken ribs that punctured his lung, yet managed to dig himself out. He was air-lifted back to Florida, and despite developing paralysis in his arm, he recovered.
Duval says she tried to block those memories of the past.
“It was definitely financially difficult, especially after the earthquake,” she said. “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.”
Joining Duval in the second round is fellow rising-star Sloane Stephens, who Duval is close to and is a player often touted as the future of American tennis.
“We’re obviously trying to make American tennis become what it used to be,” Duval said of the group which includes Madison Keys. “We’re all working towards the same goal. We’re all a tight-knit group. Helping each other is important. We’re all doing amazing. I think we’re on an amazing path.”
Duval next plays 48th-ranked Daniela Hantuchova on Thursday.