Scoring the US Open’s biggest upset so far, 17-year-old American Victoria Duval ousted 11th seed and 2011 champion Samantha Stosur in a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 evening thriller at Louis Armstrong Stadium.
Move over Sloane— a new star is born, and one with a backstory that involves near-death experiences and overcoming disaster.
At the age of 7, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Duval and her cousins were held hostage at gunpoint. More recently, her father, Jean-Maurice, had to be rescued from the wreckage of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, where he suffered a shattered left arm, fractured vertebrae, five broken ribs, and a punctured lung.
Duval’s father was on hand at Armstrong to cheer on his daughter, who’d posted impressive stats and scorelines in the qualifying rounds. Decked out inVenus Williams EleVen gear, she allowed herself quick (and often funny) flashes of teen exasperation in response to losing points, but fought strong and steady throughout the lengthy three-set battle, going toe-to-toe with Stosur from the baseline, and unsettling the Australian by moving far into the court to return second serves.
In fact, Duval’s tendency to take the ball early helped her fight back from deficits during the match, neutralizing Stosur’s own early-ball skills. Duval’s serve, while compact, was reliable, without much difference in speed between first and second attempts. After Stosur staved off a series of match points, Duval sealed the victory with a forehand winner.
During her on-court interview with Pam Shriver, the munchkin-voiced Duval, who recently trained with Nick Bollettieri, was mature and poised. She expressed admiration for her opponent before admitting, “This is the best I’ve played in my career, so I’m really excited.” When Shriver alluded to her backstory, she replied, “There’s a lot to be thankful for, I don’t take anything for granted. My dad is fortunate to be here.”
Next up for Duval? A second-round match against Daniela Hantuchova—and a ton of media attention.
RAONIC’S REFUSAL: Since Milos Raonic won the SAP Open for three straight years before it folded, IT presented an idea to the Canadian.
Q. Work with us here. Novak Djokovic bought a tournament in Serbia, as you know, and we’re desperate to get a tournament back in the San Francisco Bay Area, where you’ve kicked butt. Would you consider underwriting a tournament there?
RAONIC: I don’t have the financial means like Novak did when he bought that tournament. I think he was already top 3.
Q. Maybe in the future?
RAONIC: Who knows?
BIG JOHN, SMALLER COURT: On the subject of scheduling, Tennis Tweets remarked, “The Federer bumps Isner from Ashe to grandstand, that’s like going from first class, skip biz, to coach. #thatscold.” But after his first-round victory over Filippo Volandri, Isner said he was glad about the change: “”You know, I feel like I’m probably a better player on Grandstand than I am on Ashe, given that the court is smaller.”
HEADLINES: “Slo’ Starter” “Open Starts With a Hot Set” “Short Night for Merciless Serena” “American Flagging”
GRAB THOMAS: Chris Evert said Caroline Wozniacki needed another pair of eyes (i.e. a new coach) and said, “If I were her I’d grab Thomas Hogstedt.”
I’LL BE MISSING YOU: The retiring James Blake said, “I will miss pressure-packed moments, break points, set points, match points.”
BEST FEET AT THE OPEN: The swift squirrel who stole the show—racing from one side of the court to the next—during Sabine Lisicki’s first-round win over Vera Dushevina.
HARD PROOF: Everybody knows American tennis is in trouble, but here’s one stat from writer Christopher Clarey which proves the point: thirty years ago, the 10th-ranked US male player was 16th in the world, while today, the 10th-ranked American is 116th.
A WONDERFUL DAY TO BE A WILLIAMS: When have Serena and Venus Williams had as dominant day in singles? The duo won their first-round matches by a combined 24-4 score.
LINGUISTIC QUESTION OF THE DAY: During Serena’s 6-0, 6-1 win over Francesca Schiavone, Tim Curry asked, “What’s Italian for “beat down”?
DOMINANT DUO: On Twitter, coach Patrick Mouratoglou announced that Serena reached the 100-victory mark since working with him. Their record together: 100-5.
WHAT’S A GIRL TO DO?: When Madison Keys met fellow Illinois native First Lady Michelle Obama, she said she didn’t know whether to bow.
AND NOW FOR A LITTLE R-RATED ITALIAN CANDOR: Some players are in deep denial when it comes to dealing with lousy draws. Years ago, a British player who drew Venus Williams in the first round responded by saying, “I’m just where I want to be.” Ryan Harrison said of his first round matchup against Rafa Nadal, “It’s not that tough. I’m not thinking, ‘Gosh, I’m going to be done on Monday’ as soon as I see the draw.” But Italian Francesca Schiavone was candid when asked for her reaction to drawing Serena in the first round: “Oh s—.”
IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED: After his first-round loss to Rafa Nadal, Ryan Harrison held forth on success and failure. “Whether it’s tennis or whatever, you look back and reflect on unsuccessful moments,” he said. “You reflect on failed opportunities and trials and things you’re trying in your game. You learn from it. You ultimately come out a better player from not having the success you want … [Coach] Tres [Davis] helped me stay in that positive, humbled mindset through a rough patch.”
FERNANDO’S FIVE PACT: In all four of this year’s Slams, Spaniard Fernando Verdasco was knocked out in five-set matches.
NAME THE EX–PLAYER WHO IS NOW A BROADCASTER AND EN ROUTE TO BECOMING THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMAN PRESIDENT OF THE USTA: New Yorker Katrina Adams.
ON THE SOAPBOX: When she conducted an on-court interview with John Isner for the Tennis Channel, Katrina Adams had to stand on a platform.
SHOT OF THE TOURNAMENT: Sprinting far off the court to retrieve a Ryan Harrison overhead, the incredibly athletic Rafa Nadal unleashed a scorching down-the-line overhead winner. The shot was almost as astounding as a similar running overhead that Federer hit years ago off of a Roddick smash, but Federer leaped even higher to get his.
WHAT ROCK HAS SHE BEEN LIVING UNDER?: Russian Maria Kirilenko says she hasn’t heard about the controversy over Russia’s new anti-gay laws or the talk of a possible Olympic boycott.
FORGET THE MATCH, I WANT A HUG: It might not match a devastated Jana Novotna collapsing on the Duchess of Kent at Wimbledon, but the totally outmatched Francesca Schiavone hugging a ball boy during her loss to Serena Williams was the most poignant moment of the Open so far. Still, Schiavone said, “I don’t need a hug in that moment. I needed a game.”
FLOWER POWER: Online tennis fandom scored a small victory when the message board tennisforum’s nickname for Ying-Ying Duan— “Baby Flower Chinese Davenport”—was added to Wikipedia and then used with great vigor by Virginia Wade during US Open streaming coverage of Duan’s match against Caroline Wozniacki.
DOING HER HOMEWORK: Caroline Wozniacki told the Tennis Channel’s Rennae Stubbs and Ian Eagle that while she isn’t “a morning person,” she woke up early to scout the 8:30 a.m. practice session of her opponent Ying-Ying Duan.
PAGING COCO—CHANEL, NOT VANDEWEGHE: When South Africa’s Chanel Simmonds defeated US hopeful Taylor Townsend in qualifying, she earned a first-round match against another Chanel(le), fellow South African Chanelle Scheepers. But Simmonds has yet to face Coco Vandeweghe in a Coco-Chanel matchup.
NO THANKS FOR THE SUPPORT: After her first-round defeat, Kimiko Date-Krumm complained about the pressure of playing in front of Japanese fans. “Though there was another match buffering [Kei] Nishikori’s unfortunate loss and mine, as soon I entered the court it still felt like a thick heavy tension permeated the air … t felt like this heaviness in the air sucked all of the energy out of me. Why is it that Japanese fan “support” in bad times becomes so suffocating?”
TWITTER INTRIGUE: Rising 17-year-old player Donna Vekic tweeted Fernando Verdasco a picture of her hand clutching Verdasco’s US Open player pass, with the message, “Did you lose something?”
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: How tough is life on the circuit? In a New York Times piece on 35-year-old veteran Michael Russell, writer Harvey Araton outlined the challenges. “There is only so much jet lag that human body can be expected to endure,” he wrote. “Only so many locker rooms and hotel rooms and practice courts. We won’t even get into the emotional scars of losing week after week for all but the chosen few. This is basically the routine in tennis for the vast majority of professionals, lifestyle of the not-so-rich and chronically fatigued.”
HARSH TALK: When ESPN’s Chris Fowler coupled news of Grigor Dimitrov’s first-round loss with an assertion that contrary to some reports, Dimitrov and Maria Sharapova haven’t broken up, John McEnroe chimed in, “Not yet—[we’ll see] after that result.”