As the dusk descended, and Victoria Duval continued her c comeback, the crowd at Louis Armstrong Stadium seemed to evolve along with her—Zach Schonbrun reports for The New York Times. She began as a relative unknown facing Samantha Stosur, the world’s 11th-ranked player and the 2011 United States Open champion. By the third set, she was “Vicky” — the United States Open’s new fresh-faced darling, a 17-year-old qualifier from Haiti with the lightning quick forehands that belied her thin, goggles-wearing appearance.
It grew apparent, too, that Duval was not just putting on a nice show to cap a long day session of matches. She was a player, sending Stosur scrambling after wicked returns and deftly capitalizing on Stosur’s 56 unforced mistakes.
When Duval rebounded from trailing by two games in the second set to win it, 6-4, her momentum kept building. Two hours 18 minutes into the match, Duval won the break she needed in the third set, and she served out the match, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
“I played amazing today,” Duval said. “The whole match was just an incredible match. I’m happy I pulled through.”
Throughout the match, Duval never needed to look far to see her father, Jean-Maurice Duval, standing in a white button-down in the northeast corner of the arena with 13 members of Duval’s friends and family. He rarely motioned one way or the other. He leaned against a wall like a pillar.
“She said to me this morning,” Jean-Maurice Duval said, “ ‘Dad, we are going to make it. I’m going to play all my game tonight.’ ”
As Duval spoke after his daughter’s upset victory, fans migrated toward him to offer their congratulations.
“Kenbe l’ale!” a woman said to him, offering her hand.
“It means, Keep it going,” Duval said. The language was Haitian Creole.
On Jan. 12, 2010, Duval’s home in Port-au-Prince — the home where Victoria Duval and her two brothers grew up — was destroyed by a devastating earthquake, with Duval still inside. A steel beam fell on his back, and he was buried underneath rubble for 11 hours. His back and five ribs were broken, his lung was punctured, and his left arm was paralyzed.
Victoria and her mother and brothers were living in Atlanta at the time, helping her pursue her tennis career. Jean-Maurice Duval, who ran a gynecology and obstetrics practice, was miraculously saved by a neighbor, who performed emergency surgery in the backyard to save his lung. Duval was airlifted to Miami and spent 16 days in a hospital in Hollywood, Fla.
Duval has since moved to Montreal. The property in Haiti where his house once stood remains empty land. At one point, the Duvals had a court in their backyard. Of course, it was a hardcourt.
On the most famous hardcourts in the country, Victoria Duval stole the spotlight from Novak Djokovic, who won his first-round match over Ricardas Berankis, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2, and Victoria Azarenka, who swept her match, 6-0, 6-0.
With her pipsqueak voice, white-framed glasses and wide grin, Duval lives by the motto “have fun.” She recently went through two growth spurts. And she giddily announced to the assembled news media that the rap star Lil Wayne had mentioned her on Twitter.
“I don’t have Twitter,” Duval said. “But I’m going to have to look that up.”
But she did not appear overmatched by the 29-year-old Stosur. Her ground strokes were solid and a largely defensive game worked well against Stosur, whose errors killed any momentum she tried to build.
“Just let every single opportunity slip away,” Stosur said. “Made way too many errors. At the end of the day, it really cost me.”
Down by 3-2 in the second set, Duval failed to hold serve, losing the game after a drop shot fell short of the net. She threw her arms in the air, clearly upset for the missed opportunity.
It could have led to her undoing, but instead the volley miscue seemed to rally her. She wound up breaking Stosur’s serve in the next game and won the set.
“She held it together,” Stosur said. “She kept going for it. When she got the chance to step up and hit a winner, she did it.”
Duval twice had opportunities to win the match with her serve, but Stosur held her off, once with a screaming return. For a teenager under the Open lights, the pressure might have been getting to her. But after Stosur brought the game to deuce, Duval managed to close it out.
The first person she credited for supporting her was her father, standing there in the corner, raising both arms aloft.
“Every time she plays a big match, she says, ‘Dad, you should be there, or Dad I’m waiting for you,’ ” Jean-Maurice said. “She feels so comfortable to have everyone around when she’s playing a big match.”