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Maturing Hampton gets key three-set win in Paris

May 29, 2013 04:09 PM
Jamie Hampton defeated No. 25 seed Lucie Safarova in the first round at Roland Garros.
By Matt Cronin, special to USTA.com

PARIS - Jamie Hampton has become a connoisseur of three-set matches. She has taken some rough marathon losses this season but has certainly scored some key victories  as of late, none bigger than her 7-6 (5), 3-6, 9-7 win over No. 25 seed Lucie Safarova Wednesday in the first round at Roland Garros. 
Hampton’s win gave the United States 10 women in the French Open's second round, which is double the amount of any other nation. But it was by no means a perfect day for the U.S.; Serena Williams, Varvara Lepchenko and Sam Querrey moved into the third round, but Madison Keys, Mallory Burdette and Shelby Rogers all lost tight contests. 
Hampton is a terrific fighter and ball striker, but she has had trouble cramping in the past and closing out matches against elite players. Exhibit A is her three-set loss to Victoria Azarenka at the 2013 Australian Open, when she was outplaying the eventual champ in the third round. But her body began to fail her, her back began to ache and eventually, her game planning and shot selection did too. 
"I was mad I lost that," she said. "I was really disappointed. Of course, my first priority was to take care of my back and address some cramping issues. But looking back it gives me a lot of confidence. I didn’t come out on top, but I knew I can compete with best in world and I was right there." 
Hampton thought her cramping issue was possibly related to nerves, but her doctor told her to make sure to ingest plenty of salt (she has been drinking pickle juice) and now she is pretty sure it wasn’t, which was a relief. 
She could have tightened up against Safarova, a tricky and accomplished lefty who doesn't mind playing on clay and has been though plenty of Grand Slam battles before. But she kept going for her shots and eventually faced the Czech down. 
The week prior to Roland Garros, Hampton had played four long three-set matches in Brussels, winning three. Those experiences aided her on a cold day in Paris. 
"I’ve had a lot of close matches and in Miami and Charleston I wasn't able to come through," said Hampton, who still had a patch of clay on her leg due to diving after a ball. "So it’s always nice to pull through, especially before a Grand Slam. The memories from last week were fresh and recent." 
The 23-year-old from Alabama says that she and her fellow young American women compatriots are still trying to find their way on clay. Part of the success of the surface is having the right attitude, but another issue is moving properly.
"Big one-two tennis can win on clay," she said, "but if you get in rallies, can you sustain it, do you have good legs? The American style is a little more powerful and less patient and it’s tough to try and translate from hard courts to clay, but it’s definitely do-able and takes a lot of determination." 
Hampton prides herself on being able to throw a cornucopia of shots at her opponents and believes that her game has more dimensions to it than many other players, which allows her to adjust to different surfaces. 
She considers herself a late bloomer, as she began to play at the age of 8 and didn't turn pro until she was 19. She’s currently at a career high ranking of No. 54 and should at least crack the top 50 when the rankings are released after the French Open ends.
Hampton is no longer in a place where just winning match or two at a major is satisfactory. In 2014, she wants to be seeded at the Slams. She is a good player who wants to be great. 
"I'm looking to beat good players, beat top players and move on in Slams," she said.
To learn more about up-and-coming U.S. players and to receive the latest US Open news and information, as well as exclusive merchandise offers to the US Open Shop, sign up to become a US Open Insider.
And for more Pro Tennis coverage, including coverage of Americans at the 2013 French Open, go to the USTA.com Pro Tennis page.


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