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Hampton shocks Kvitova to cap banner opening week for U.S. women

June 1, 2013 05:17 PM
Bethanie Mattek-Sands celebrates match point following her win over Paula Ormaechea of Argentina. The U.S. has four women into the fourth round of a major for the first time since the 2004 US Open.
By Matt Cronin, special to USTA.com
PARIS  Jamie Hampton has frequently said that there will come a time when she will be able to out-gut the world’s top players at big tournaments. Younger players will sometimes say as much, but the vast majority of them don’t succeed, as there isn’t much room at the top.
But the 23-year-old American wasn’t just vocalizing pipe dreams. On Saturday at Roland Garros, she pulled off the biggest win of her career, shocking former Wimbledon champion and No. 7 seed Petra Kvitova, 6-1, 7-6 (7), to reach the fourth round of a major for the first time.
And it wasn't just Hampton who had an impressive afternoon. On the first sunny day of the tournament, Sloane Stephens and Bethanie Mattek-Sands also scored wins.
The three joined top seed Serena Williams in the round of 16, which is the first time that the U.S. has four women players in the round of 16 of a Grand Slam event since the 2004 US Open, when Serena, Venus Williams, Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati all made the fourth round.
"Yeah, impressive, huh?" Hampton said. "Got a unique group I think between Serena – obviously the best player in the world – and Bethanie, Sloane and myself. Three different players with very unique games, it's cool."
In men's action yesterday, John Isner, the last American man remaining in the singles draw, came up just shy of his second straight comeback victory. One day after rallying from two set down to defeat compatriot Ryan Harrison, he again rallied from two sets down against No. 12 seed Tommy Haas, saving an astounding 12 match points before falling, 7-5, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-7 (10), 10-8, in a third-round match.
Hampton’s ability to keep her composure, as well as to successfully go right at the powerful left-handed Czech, keyed her victory. She ran through an near error-free first set to shock Kvitova, who didn't seem to realize Hampton had that level in her.
"I think I was the second player on the court and she plays quite offensive," Kvitova said. "I did a lot of mistakes and I really didn't know what's happen on the court. She is quite talented girl, and she played quite fast. That was the problem for me, I think, because I tried to play fast, too. But I did some easy mistakes. It was very tough match today for me."
Hampton was well aware that Kvitova is streaky player, so she tore the cover of the ball when she had the right opportunities, but she also went on defense and played steady and dared her foe to try and hit through her. Kvitova was able to do that at times in the second set, but not often enough.
Hampton has had trouble maintaining her nerve before, but in the tie-break she didn’t completely waiver. She crushed a backhand pass down the line to give herself two match points at 6-4. But Kvitova caressed a drop shot winner and Hampton missed a backhand and fell down on the clay. The Czech then powered a forehand down the line to gain a set point at 7-6. But the Alabama native kept her head in the match.
"It's all a blur," Hampton said. "I was like, ‘OK, you've got to stick with it. Weather the storm. Make her play as many balls as possible and make her as uncomfortable as possible. Mix it up; keep it low; keep it high; don't hit it in her strike zone."
Hampton swerved a serve into Kvitova’s body that the Czech couldn't do anything with, and then Kvitova couldn’t cash in on a backhand down the line. On her third match point, Hampton sent a ground stroke deep and the Czech flew her backhand long. Unlike at the Aussie Open, when she could not hold a lead against eventual champion Victoria Azarenka in the third round, this time she was able to raise her arms in victory.
"I have some memories to look back on and be like, ‘Hey, listen, I can play Top 10 tennis,’" she said. "I've definitely progressed a lot, I mean, as a player and as a person. I think that I've just matured a ton. Going into the Azarenka match, the previous year I had gotten thumped. I just went in with a really good attitude, with a lot of belief, especially from the off-season. It gave me a ton of confidence."
Last summer, Hampton left her longtime private coach and began to work under USTA Player Development. In the off-season, she spent 10 weeks at the USTA Training Center Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla., working with coaches, fitness trainers and playing against her peers. It made a huge difference overall, especially with her attitude.
"When I went down to Boca Raton and decided to be there full time, I really had to grow up pretty quickly," she said. "Before, living with my parents – my mom – I was pretty sheltered as a kid. My mom was doing everything for me, cooking, laundry, everything. When Iwas little she used to string my racquets as well. All of that I have to do on my own. I have to go to the grocery store by myself. Scary thought, I know. When I went [to Boca], I made it a point that I have to do everything by myself. I have to grow up. I had to make that decision pretty quickly."
Hampton mentioned that not only is the coaching top notch, but going up against her U.S. peers such as Madison Keys, Grace Min and Shelby Rogers – all of whom competed in the main draw at Roland Garros – in practice and in the gym also drove her as they all wanted to outwork the other.
"They all piss me off when they're working harder than me," she said with a laugh.
Hampton will next face former world No. 1 and 2008 Roland Garros semifinalist Jelena Jankovic, whom she has beaten before. But Jankovic has been on a roll as of late and on Saturday took down former French Open finalist Sam Stosur, so it will not be an easy contest by any means. But Hampton is game.
"I think that I'm playing good tennis, and I'm just going to try to stay positive, compete for every single point, and make her as miserable as possible," Hampton 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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