By Ann Liguori
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Each year at the US Open, there is a story that captivates and stands out more than any other. This year, it was only two days before 17-year-old Vicky Duval became ‘that’ story. The qualifier, who was born in Miami and spent her early childhood in Haiti before moving back to the U.S when she was 8 years old, became an ‘overnight ‘ sensation when she ousted former US Open champion Samantha Stosur in three sets, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
Her parents are Haitian. Her father was a doctor in Port-au-Prince and was injured in the earthquake there in 2010. During the earthquake, apparently a steel beam fell on him, breaking his back, ribs and puncturing a lung. After a neighbor saved him, he was air-lifted to a hospital in Miami.
Her father Jean-Maurice is still not able to work but according to Vicky, he’s improving so much. “Emotionally, it was hard at first,” she said. “But he’s as happy as he’s ever been. He had a couple of surgeries that helped take the pain away. We’re so happy that…he’s just here with us.”
Jean-Maurice and the rest of her family were watching joyously from the player’s box as she won the match of her career in this, her second US Open. Last year in her Grand Slam debut, she lost to two-time US Open champ Kim Clijsters in the first round. Her match against Stosur was the first time Duval had ever faced a top-twenty player before.
In addition to her father’s challenges, she and “a couple cousins” were kidnapped when she was seven years old. When she was asked about that, she replied, “Yeah. We were held hostage. It’s not a good memory, so I try to forget as much as I could about it. I don’t remember too much of it anymore which is great.”
Duval has been guided on the court by the USTA and USTA National Coach Kathy Rinaldi since she was ten. She won the 2012 USTA Girls’ 18s National Championships in San Diego which got her the Wild Card entry into last year’s main US Open draw.
This past July, Duval reconnected with Coach Nick Bollettieri. Billie Jean King has been helping her. All this contributing to Duval being able to raise the level of her game in beating Stosur, and voila, the teenager has arrived!
“Getting to the next level in tennis is being able to go after your shots,” says Duval. “These girls hit really hard. I wouldn’t have pulled it off today if I wasn’t confident in my shots.”
With all the drama and adversity Duval experienced at such a young age, Duval looks as innocent and as fresh as a daisy.
Duval describes herself as “very goofy off the court and very much of 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.”
This girl is already at the top of my US Open favorites list, just based on her attitude and character. Here’s to a fresh new face on the global tennis stage and America’s next young hero. Based on what she and her family have already had to overcome, I think she’ll be able to handle the pressure. Her story is destined to be a Hollywood movie for sure.
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