Victoria Duval upset No. 29 seed Sorana Cirstea Tuesday at Wimbledon, joining fellow American teenager Madison Keys in the second round.
© Al Bello/Getty Images
By Sandra Harwitt, special to USTA.com
London – When Victoria Duval started the year, her primary goal was to achieve a Top 100 ranking. She may achieve that in just six months.
Duval entered Wimbledon ranked No. 114 in the world, then won three matches to qualify for the main draw. On Tuesday, she took another big step, pulling off a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 first-round upset of 29th seed Sorana Cirstea.
A second-round showing doesn’t make her a lock to break into the Top 100, but in her mind, Duval was content to already celebrate the accomplishment: “Ka-Ching,” she said after her match, moving her arm as if she was pulling down the lever on a gambling slot machine.
This was not Duval’s first impressive victory at a Grand Slam. At the US Open last year she ousted 2011 champion Samantha Stosur in the opening round. That victory captured the attention of many fans, who watched the teen make her first career statement.
“The Stosur match was pretty crazy,” Duval remembered. “That was one of my best playing days. But, also, today wasn’t easy because the courts were a little faster than I thought they would be.”
In a less familiar style in today’s game, Duval is a player who enjoys moving forward on the court. Her aim is to always get the first strike before her opponent.
She showed a great deal of poise on Tuesday when, after winning the first set, she surrendered the second to the Romanian. But Duval kept her head and dominated the final set, allowing Cirstea to hold serve once, in the second game. On match point Duval showed her penchant for going to the net, winning the match on a backhand approach winner.
Duval, who posted 26 winners to just 11 for Cirstea, isn’t fooled by one or two good match showings. She knows she still has vast room for improvement.
“There’s a lot of things I still need to work on in my game and I’m still a bit young,” said the 18-year-old. “Improving mentally, physically getting a bit stronger, I’m still growing too. When all of those things come together maybe I can do some damage.”
In her second round match, the 18-year-old Duval will actually be the older competitor. She’ll take on Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic, a 17-years-old who was the 2013 ITF Junior Player of the Year. The two have played once before, in the Acapulco qualifying rounds this year, and Duval came away with the hard-fought 6-7, 6-0, 7-6 win.
“It’s the battle of the teenagers,” said Duval, laughing, of her second-round encounter. “At this stage I’m not going to go in thinking I’m older so I have to win. She loves the grass, she plays really, really well and has been having some great results so it will be a test on Thursday.”
Duval is playing at this Wimbledon without a coach. So at the moment, it’s her mother, Nadine, who is doing her best to fulfill all her daughters’ needs in London.
“For now I’m just OK being with my mom at this tournament, and then after I go back home will figure it out from there,” Duval said.
Figuring things out has been a part of Duval’s story of childhood adversity. Born in Miami, her parents moved the family to their native Haiti when she was quite young. When Duval was 7 years old, she and a few cousins were kidnapped by robbers.
Eventually, Duval, her mother and younger siblings moved back to the U.S., but her physician father, Jean-Maurice, stayed behind to fulfill the country’s need for medical care. When the January 2010 Haitian earthquake occurred, her father was buried under the rubble of the family home for many days and remains partially paralyzed following the ordeal.
It is a testament to Duval’s maturity that she can look at what she’s gone through and only extract the positives.
“It’s definitely made me stronger,” Duval said. “I think everyone has a background that helps build their character. To be at the top you have to have total mental fortitude so I think whatever happens in your life and whatever circumstances helps build your character. It helped me.”
Joining Duval in the second round is fellow U.S. teenager Madison Keys. The 19-year-old defeated Monica Puig of Puerto Rico, 6-3, 6-3, the victory coming just three days after Keys won her first-ever WTA title, at the Wimbledon tune-up in Eastbourne.
Keys admitted Tuesday that since she upset the world No. 7 Angelique Kerber in the Eastbourne final, much of life has gone by in a blur. When asked what she’s been doing, Keys responded with a smile: “I don’t even remember,” then went on to detail a few non-descript activities related to getting ready for Wimbledon.
Despite her status as a WTA champion, Keys remains a player who lacks experience and approaches everything as if still a novice.
“Even this morning, I woke up and it was kind of, ‘I’m playing my first round at Wimbledon today,” Keys said. “For me, it’s still an experience every time I get to play [in a Grand Slam]. I was definitely still nervous and still thinking, ‘Oh it’s first round.”
Keys might have been nervous, but it was hardly evident in the 68 minutes it took her to turn back Puig.
“Winning on Saturday … it’s definitely the biggest milestone of mine,” said Keys, adding a message for her press conference audience. “If something else surpasses that, I will let you know.”
Also on Tuesday, five-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams made a statement that she’s serious about reclaiming the women’s singles crown, defeating fellow American Anna Tatishvili, 6-1, 6-2. Firing down a stunning 16 aces and 33 winners, the serve of the four-time Wimbledon champion was on full display in the late afternoon match on Centre Court. She next plays Chanelle Scheepers of South Africa.
In addition to Duval, two other American women scored upset victories on Tuesday. Alison Riske came within a handful of points to losing against No. 26 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, but stormed through the final stages to advance, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1. Varvara Lepchenko rallied from a set down to prevail against former Wimbledon semifinalist Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, 6-7 (2), 6-2, 6-2.
On the men’s side, No. 9 seed Isner encountered few problems in dismissing British wild card Daniel Smethurst, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4. Isner, who has never advanced past the second round at the All England Club, next plays Jaarko Nieminen of Finland.
Rising star Jack Sock recorded his first-ever main draw win at Wimbledon, rallying from a set down to defeat qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-4. The world No. 77 has a tough task for his next match when he takes on No. 8 seed Milos Raonic of Canada.
In other American matches, Denis Kudla won a battle of qualifiers in beating Marsel Ilhan of Turkey, 7-6 (2), 6-4, 4-6, 7-5. And in a match suspended by darkness on Monday, Sam Querrey only needed one game today to finish off fellow American Bradley Klahn, 6-7 (1), 6-4, 6-1, 7-5.
— McCarton Ackerman, USTA.com