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Monday, December 22nd, 2014

US Open: Victoria Duval,17, Scores Huge Upset

Photo by Rueters.

Photo by Rueters.

You have never heard of Victoria Duval. Now you have.

The 17-year-old, born in Miami of Haitian parents, registered a tennis world-shaking upset Tuesday, knocking off former U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur in the first round of the major championship at Flushing Meadows, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

It was not an artistic achievement; Duval had 35 unforced errors. But she overcame them to win, making it a monumental achievement.

“I know (Stosur) didn’t play her best, and this is the best I’ve played in my career, so I’m really excited,” Duval said on the court after the match at Louis Armstrong Stadium. “I just tried to stay in the moment.”

Just having the moment was not as remarkable as her backstory.  Born in Miami, Duval was raised in Haiti until she was 7-years-old, when she and some cousins were held hostage at gunpoint by robbers. For reasons unknown, they were set free, a rare event in that situation there.

And in 2010 her father, Jean-Maurice Duval, a gynecologist and obstetrician, was trapped under concrete when his home collapsed in the earthquake that devastated the island and killed thousands.

Duval wiggled himself free, located his cellphone and called for help. Struggling to breathe, he had to undergo emergency surgery in someone’s backyard. He had suffered a punctured lung, fractured vertebrae,  a broken arm and five broken ribs. He was in New York Tuesday to witness his daughter’s biggest career moment.

“I just forget about it,” Duval said to the New York Daily News. “Because I’m thinking, you get into a big accident on your way and you can’t stand back and look at it. You fight again, fight for the next step and not thinking about the past.”

Victoria Duval was grateful for the win, and not just for herself.

“I’ve been very fortunate. A couple family members have helped me,” she said. “Hopefully with this win, that will change a little bit.

“There’s a lot to be thankful for. I don’t take anything for granted. My dad is really fortunate to be here. I thank God for everything that has happened. Life is short.”

Whatever she does the rest of her career, she will always have Tuesday. Stosur helped her demise with 53 unforced errors, but the hard-hitting Australian who won the Open two years ago, fended off three match points in the final set.

Finally, however, Duval blasted a forehand-winner out of Stosur’s reach for the win and jumped in jubilation–and relief–that she had pulled the upset.

“I just tried to stay in the moment,” Duval told ESPN after the match. “I don’t know, I’m just really excited right now.”

About Curtis Bunn

Curtis Bunn is national award-winning sports journalist and best-selling novelist who has covered and written about sports' largest events and personalities for more than three decades at The Washington Times, NY Newsday, The New York Daily News and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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