Victoria Duval walked into the interview room under Arthur Ashe Stadium about two hours after her upset win against 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur, looked at her name on the placard at the front of the table and giggled in disbelief.
“Is this for real?” Duval said in a high-pitched voice that makes her sound even younger than her age of 17.
Less than three weeks after losing in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Tennis Association’s Girls’ 18-and-under national championship, Duval last night pulled off the biggest women’s upset so far at the season’s final Grand Slam tournament in eliminating the 11th-seeded Stosur.
Duval, who came to the U.S. from Haiti with her family when she was eight, celebrated like a teenager after her victory in Louis Armstrong Stadium, throwing her arms in the air and jumping with joy. Afterward, Duval said she received a text message of congratulations from Billie Jean King, a four-time U.S. Open champion after whom the National Tennis Center in New York is named.
“I don’t even remember match point,” said Duval, who was buoyed by chants of ‘U-S-A’ during the third set. “I guess I was really happy. You could tell by all the jumping I did.”
Duval closed out the 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 win on her fourth match point, sending Australia’s Stosur to her first opening-round loss at the U.S. Open since 2008. Duval’s victory came a year after she lost in the first round of her Grand Slam debut to another former champion, Kim Clijsters. Duval said facing Clijsters a year ago was a valuable experience.
“The crowd didn’t seem so overwhelming because I felt like I was in that position before,” she said.
The 5-foot-10 Duval was a ballerina before she turned to tennis at the age of seven and won the first tournament she ever participated in, a 10-and-under event in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where her brother played each year.
“After that, my mom said, ‘Okay, you have to choose now,’” Duval said. “Tennis seemed to be appropriate.”
Duval, whose father was injured in the 2010 earthquake that struck Haiti, won the 2012 USTA’s Girls 18-and-under national championship and earned a wild-card entry into the U.S. Open. She made this year’s field as a qualifier and had a world ranking of 296 entering her match against Stosur.
Duval said while she’s a goofy child at heart, she has a warrior’s mentality on the court that helped her stay focused in the closing stages of her win last night. She also took advantage of Stosur’s 56 unforced errors. Duval made 35.
“She played well,” Stosur said. “I certainly helped her along the way.”
Next up for Duval is a second-round meeting with Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova.
While Duval said she doesn’t know what the future holds, she hopes to follow the lead of a player like 20-year-old Sloane Stephens in continuing the success of U.S. women in the sport when sisters Serena and Venus Williams, who have 23 Grand Slam singles titles between them, eventually retire.
“We’re trying to make American tennis become what it used to be,” Duval said. “We’re all working toward the same goal. I think we’re on an amazing path.”