NEW YORK -- Among the 128 tennis players gathered in Queens, New York for the final grand slam of the season, Victoria Duval's shot at winning seemed among the most slim on Tuesday.
Although Duval earned a trip to the 2012 U.S. Open after winning the 2012 Under 18 USTA National Champions (she lost in the first round to three-time champion Kim Clijsters), the 2013 journey was tougher. Duval lost in the quarterfinals of this year's Under 18 Championships and entered the qualifying draw. She needed to win all three qualifying matches just to come back to the U.S. Open.
When she did reach the main draw, she was matched with 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur, 29, a veteran former champion with career earnings more than $12 million.
Duval, ranked No. 298 in the world, had no expectations and limited exposure, which is what makes her upset on the biggest stage in tennis that much more exciting. The 17-year-old shocked the 11th-seeded Stosur 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
Duval was born in Miami but spent her early childhood in Haiti. Her father, Jean-Maurice Duval, was a doctor in Port-au-Prince and Victoria trained at the JOTAC Tennis Academy as a youngster. She left Haiti after at age 8. She eventually trained at the RCS Tennis Academy in Atlanta and the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Only a few years later, perhaps the most challenging time of her life came around the time of the January 2010 Haitian Earthquake.
On Jan. 11 of that year, Jean-Maurice left Atlanta for Haiti. The quake occurred the next day.
Duval's father was buried alive for hours. He reportedly suffered a puncture lung among other injuries. Family friends of the Duvals from tennis, chartered a plane to Haiti to save Jean-Maurice.
"We're forever grateful to them," Duval said. "If it wasn't for them my dad definitely wouldn't be here today. Not everyone just pays $30,000 to fly a helicopter to save someone."
Upon his return to the United States, Jean-Maurice's injuries prevented him from working. He relocated the family to Boca Raton, Fla., home of the USTA Training Center.
When Duval took the court at Louis Armstrong Stadium, her racquet was not the only thing in her backpack. She carried 17 years of emotions and obstacles.
In the two-hour, 39-minute match that followed, the world experienced the turbulence of feelings going through Duval. As an American, the stands at Armstrong leapt to her side.
"I felt like I was on Ashe honestly," she said. "They were so loud. It was incredible. The crowd helped me a lot."
After losing the first set, Duval powered to a second set victory. The crowd started to see the attractiveness of Duval. With unstoppable energy and a sweetheart look–Duval were a pink top with goggles and a visor–Duval supplied the crowd with a fresh personality they could root for.
"I think I'm very much of a child at heart," Duval said. "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."
It took four match points on serve against Stosur to finish out the final game.
All the drama made for that much sweeter of a victory. When all was said and done, Duval became the new American 'it' girl.
"I don't even remember match point," she said. "I guess I was really happy. I mean, you could tell by all the jumping I did."
Stosur, on the other end was left in shock. It will be a sour flight back Down Under for the former champ.
"She played a good match," Stosur said. "It was certainly a match where I feel like I could have played a lot better than what I did. At the end of the day, that's what happened today. She did well."
On Wednesday, with the U.S. Open in a rain delay, Duval was still the subject of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Her highlights played all over the grounds. She will take the court versus Daniela Huntuchova, the number 48 ranked player in the world from Slovakia, in the second round on Thursday.
Is she going to become a tennis star?
"That's what I'm working for," she said. "If God will let it, then let's go."
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.
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