Victoria Duval, of the
United States, jumps for joy after defeating Samantha Stosur, of
Australia, in the first round of the 2013 US Open.
Certainly, the odd-ball glasses help. So does her excellent tennis.
But what makes Victoria Duval stand out at this tournament is the power
of her story, one that started in violent circumstances in Haiti when
she was a small girl and which hit a heartwarming pitch here on day two,
when she beat the 2011 champion Sam Stosur.
born in Miami to Haitian parents, was held at gunpoint, along with two
cousins, for several hours by intruders to her aunt's house in the
island's capital, Port-Au-Prince, when she was just seven.
"We were held hostage," she recalls. "It's not a good memory, so I try to forget as much as I can about it."
she and her family retained their Haitian links, through family, and
three years ago, her father Jean-Maurice, a gynecologist and
obstetrician, returned there when the earthquake struck, and was buried
alive for 11 hours. After digging himself out of the rubble, despite
broken legs, a broken arm, five cracked ribs and a punctured lung, and
surviving an emergency operation in the backyard of the house which had
been wrecked by the quake, he recovered and returned to Florida, where
his talented daughter has developed as an outstanding young tennis
Last year, when only 16, she had the distinction of being
the last player to lose to Kim Clijsters – in the match before the
former world No 1 lost to Laura Robson.
It is Duval's demeanour
that has captured hearts at Flushing Meadows and she has become an
overnight star through her quiet and thoughtful presence in TV
interviews since beating Stosur 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 on Tuesday night. She
still watches SpongeBob SquarePants (her favourite character is Gary, a
snail, whom she finds "rather cute").
am very goofy off the court," says the unaffected teenager. "I think
I'm very much a child at heart. On the court, you have to be a warrior
because that's just the sport we are in. Off the court, I think it's
important to have fun and be a good role model for other people. My
motto is: Have fun."
Asked how she felt in victory, Duval said:
don't even remember match point. A lot of different emotions. Mostly
happiness. I think I played amazing today. It was incredible. The whole
match was just really an incredible match and I'm happy I pulled
Only a few weeks ago, she was losing in the
quarter-finals of the national under 18 championships. How did she turn
around her tennis in such a short time? "By just forgetting about what
happened before, because I've been changing a couple things in my game.
So I knew eventually it would come together, and I did today. That's all
I can ask for. I definitely think that getting to the next level in
tennis is being able to go after your shots. These girls hit really
hard. I wouldn't have pulled it off today if I wasn't confident in my
When Duval, a qualifier ranked 296 in the world, raked a
closing forehand past the Australian Stosur, seeded 11, to seal one of
the big early shocks of these championships, Jean-Maurice raised his one
good arm in celebration and did not stop smiling until well after the
applause stopped ringing all around Armstrong Stadium.
Wednesday morning father and daughter were front-page news. "That's the
joy," Jean-Maurice Duval told the New York Daily News.
very fortunate that a couple family members have helped me," Victoria
said later, referring to her preparation with her brothers for the final
slam of the summer. "Hopefully with this win, that will change a little
bit. It was definitely financially difficult, especially after the
earthquake. My dad wasn't able to work anymore."
She might have
got her knack of leaving bad memories behind her from her father. Asked
again about his horrific experience in the Haiti earthquake,
Jean-Maurice said: "I just forget about it because I'm thinking, you get
into a big accident on your way and you can't stand back and look at
it. You fight again, fight for the next step, not thinking about the
The next scheduled step for his daughter, who clearly has
his fighting genes, is the Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova, ranked 48 in
Meanwhile, the world has come to Victoria. Among her
new admirers on Twitter are the rapper Lil' Wayne and the New York
basketball star Amar'e Stoudemire. The only problem is, she is not on
Twitter - "because I'm not famous," she said.
She is now. Asked if
she might one day be star in the game, she said, "That's what I'm
working for. If God will let it, then let's go."