Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Teen Duval, with harrowing past, shocks Stosur

Victoria Duval lost to fellow 17-year-old
and eventual champion Mayo Hibi in the
first round of the Gold River Challenger
last month. Photo by Paul Bauman
   After everything that Victoria Duval has endured in her short life, she was unlikely to be fazed by playing No. 11 seed and 2011 champion Samantha Stosur in Louis Armstrong Stadium in the first round of the U.S. Open.
   And she wasn't.
   Not that there weren't some tense moments.
   Duval, a 17-year-old qualifier from Bradenton, Fla., shocked Stosur 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 today in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. Duval saved three break points while serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set and converted her fourth match point with a forehand passing shot.
   Afterward, Duval jumped for joy like the teenager she is.
   "It's the best I've played in my career," Duval, last year's USTA girls 18 national champion, gushed in an on-court interview. "I'm really excited."
   The stunner came one day after the No. 11 men's seed, Kei Nishikori of Japan, lost to qualifier Daniel Evans of Great Britain. Evans, only 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters), reached the final of this month's $100,000 Comerica Bank Challenger in Aptos.
   Stosur and Nishikori are the highest seeds to lose so far in the U.S. Open.  
   Both Duval and Stosur fell early in Northern California tournaments last month.
   Duval, seeded eighth in the $50,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger in the Sacramento area, lost to another 17-year-old, Mayo Hibi, 7-5, 5-7, 6-0 in the first round. Hibi, an Irvine resident who plays for her native Japan, went on to win the title.
   Whereas Duval breezed through three qualifying matches to advance to the main draw of the U.S. Open, Hibi lost in the second round of qualifying to 13th-seeded Anastasia Rodionova, a 31-year-old Australian citizen from Russia.
   Stosur, seeded second in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, was upset by Olga Govortsova of Belarus 6-2, 6-4 in the second round after drawing a first-round bye. Wanting more matches, Stosur accepted a wild card in the Southern California Open in the San Diego suburb of Carlsbad the following week and won the title.    
   Duval, with her cherubic face and high-pitched voice, looks and sounds even younger than she is. However, she is mature beyond her years. It isn't difficult to understand why -- she has had to grow up fast. Victoria and her father almost lost their lives in separate incidents.
   Duval, whose parents are Haitian physicians, was born in Miami but lived in Haiti as a young child. When Duval was 7, she and her cousins were held hostage for hours by armed robbers at her aunt's house in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
   "Generally in Haiti, this is a death sentence for the occupants," Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News wrote in 2011. "In this instance, the children were freed."
   Victoria's mother, Nadine, promptly gave up her neonatal practice and moved back to South Florida with her daughter and two sons. Her husband, Jean-Maurice, stayed in Haiti to continue his gynecology and obstetrics practice.
    In January 2010, an earthquake struck Haiti and killed an estimated 158,000 people. Jean-Maurice was pinned by collapsing walls outside his house and suffered broken legs, a shattered left arm, seven broken ribs and a punctured lung. With the help of a large donation from an American family, he was airlifted to a hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He eventually recovered except for paralysis in the arm.
   "I don't take anything for granted," Victoria said of her background after beating Stosur. "Everything can change in a minute. Life is short."
   Also falling today was No. 17 seed Dominika Cibulkova, the Bank of the West champion. The 5-foot-3 (1.61-meter) Slovakian was ousted by Elina Svitolina, 18, of Ukraine 6-4, 6-3. Svitolina won the 2010 French Open junior girls title.    
   All three women with strong Northern California ties in action today lost in straight sets.
   Unseeded Mallory Burdette, a former Stanford star, fell to Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 27th seed and 2004 champion, 6-3, 7-5. The 22-year-old Burdette, who turned pro after reaching the third round of last year's U.S. Open, will drop from No. 96 to about No. 127.
   Burdette's former Stanford teammate, 20-year-old wild card Nicole Gibbs, lost to Flavia Pennetta of Italy  6-0, 6-2. Pennetta, 31, advanced to the U.S. Open quarterfinals in 2008, 2009 and 2011.
   Wild card Maria Sanchez, who was born and raised in Modesto, succumbed to Daniela Hantuchova, 30, of Slovakia, 7-5, 6-2. Sanchez, 23, made her U.S. Open singles main-draw debut.
   Hantuchova, a quarterfinalist in the 2002 U.S. Open, is playing in the tournament for the 13th straight time. She climbed to a career-high No. 5 in singles in 2003 and No. 5 in doubles in 2002.
   On the men's side, No. 26 seed Sam Querrey stayed on track for a possible third-round match against five-time U.S. Open champion Roger Federer, who's seeded seventh at age 32.
   Querrey, a 25-year-old San Francisco native who has played part-time for the Sacramento Capitals in World TeamTennis for the past two years, defeated Guido Pella 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.
    Pella, a left-hander from Argentina, was seeded first in Aptos and lost to Evans in the quarterfinals.

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