Thursday, September 6, 2012
“If I had a dollar for every time someone mentioned my voice, I’d be a millionaire.”
, the sweet-faced, squeaky-voiced 16-year-old American who charmed fans and TV viewers during her first-round loss
to Kim Clijsters
in a night session match on Arthur Ashe last week, has just held court with a small flock of journalists in the press center.
The Haiti native and Florida resident isn’t done talking, and grabs the ear of one journalist as they make their way to the door. “This woman told me the other day, ‘You sound like Lisa Simpson.’ …Is that a compliment?!”
The journalist can’t help but laugh, and “Vicky” as she introduced herself to the journalists—shaking everyone’s hands—has seemingly scored another victory on a day in which she won two main draw matches in the junior girls’ draw, advancing the wildcard into the quarterfinals, where she’ll play No. 9 seed Anna Danilina
Up until Thursday, it may have been Vicky’s persona—her wit, her abnormally high voice, her smiling face on Ashe when, at one point, she led Clijsters in their match, her family’s Haitian history—that was what she was most well-known for in tennis circles.
But the Boca Raton, Fla., resident registered a huge upset early in the day, beating Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard
1-6, 6-2, 6-4. Bouchard, the No. 3 seed in the girls’ draw, has already been making her transition onto the pro circuit, a fact that Vicky didn’t miss.
“I had no pressure on me because she has been doing really, really well,” Duval said. “Not only in the juniors, but also in the pros too. I knew it was going to be a great match because she’s a great player and great competitor. I just wanted to enjoy it—enjoy the moment.”
This “moment” has been nearly two weeks long for Duval, who said she first learned that she was playing Clijsters, a childhood idol of hers, when friends started posting on her Facebook wall.
“I was like, ‘I guess I’m playing Kim,’” she said about her reaction. “I was shocked at first, but then excited. I knew she was playing her last tournament and not a lot of people get that opportunity [to play Kim] so I was super excited.”
After the match Clijsters, who ended up bowing out in the second round of the Open, requested a picture with Duval in the locker room, much to Vicky’s surprise.
“I was confused at first. I was like ‘What? You want a picture with me?’” Vicky recalled, giggling. “She’s super nice. We took a gazillion pictures. I was kind of sad to see her [lose her next match]. I was crying after she lost. She was such a great role model.”
Duval said her most memorable Clijsters match was the one the Belgian played against Venus Williams
in the 2005 Open, Kim winning in three sets.
“I look up to Venus a lot too because I get compared to her a lot,” Vicky said. “So that match is my favorite.”
Venus—perhaps more than Clijsters—has helped shape Duval’s US Open experience this year into something she describes as “surreal."
“She’s obviously such a great champion. She was super nice with me in the locker room,” Duval said, describing her interaction with the two-time Open champ following her Clijsters match. “Venus was like, ‘You played really well, I enjoyed watching you play.’”
At this point, Vicky started giggling again, her face breaking into a smile similar to the one she had when she led Clijsters on court briefly. Asked if Venus has called or texted her prior to the match, she broke into an even bigger grin.
“I mean, I hope I get her number one day!” The circle of journalists around Duval once again couldn’t help but laugh along with her, her earnest honesty simply contagious.
But it hasn’t all been smiles and laughter for Duval up to this point. One of the big reasons she came into the US Open as a known entity was the backstory of her father, a doctor in Haiti who suffered life-threatening injuries in the 2010 earthquake there. He had to be airlifted to Florida to be saved, a moment she doesn’t necessarily like to talk about.
“A lot of people are bringing up what has been going on. But it’s in the past. They’re not great memories and I don’t want to keep thinking about them.”
What she does think about, however, is her childhood in Haiti, where she lived with her family until she was 8. She feels the support of that nation, which has followed her success in tennis. Haiti had just two female athletes in the London Olympics.
“I had a terrific childhood growing up,” she said. “A lot of support from Haiti. They don’t have much in sports at all. Having so many people from such a small country… they’re going through a lot right now. Thinking about everything is really sad. Being able to make them proud is incredible.”
It’s that type of maturity that could help carry Duval from the upper echelons of junior tennis into the pros. She’s showed plenty of promise by winning the junior national title, which earned her the spot in the main draw and helped her receive a wildcard for juniors, too. She’s still growing (“I felt a lot of growing pains last week”) and—for that reason—is often compared to Venus. But she’s also worked with the great Nick Bolliettieri, who has helped her develop a thinker’s game on the court.
“I do learn a lot in my matches by just thinking through them. I try to learn something from every point.”
For now, however, there is still time for Vicky to be a teen, to giggle, to have fun with her tennis—and with her life. That smile comes back to her as she describes walking into the pro locker room this tournament, seeing Venus—of all the girls on tour—there first.
“I saw Venus and I didn’t want to be a creeper so I didn’t say anything,” she laughed. “But she talked to me so I was like, ‘Hi! I kind of love you!’”
The same kind of love, it could be said, that the public could develop for Duval in the not-too-distant future if she continues down the path she’s so aptly trotted down during this US Open.