Victoria Duval stunned the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium after defeating the 2011 champ, Samantha Stosur, in the opening round of the U.S. Open.
At just 17, Duval entered the match ranked 296th in the world (Stosur was ranked 11th). But it didn’t matter; Duval fought her way to victory, defeating Stosur 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
Duval, who was born in Miami, but spent most of her childhood in Haiti, has a harrowing story. Her family returned to the U.S. after she and her cousins were kidnapped and held hostage when she was just seven.
That Duval is a resilient and emotionally sturdy player should perhaps not be a surprise, given her life’s journey. At 7 years old in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, she and several cousins were held hostage by armed robbers in her aunt’s house before being freed.
“It was traumatizing, (but) worse things have happened to people,” Duval said. “I’m lucky I got out of it. I’ve kind of erased that all from my mind.”
Victoria’s parents, Jean-Maurice and Nadine Duval, both of whom are physicians, decided to move the family to Florida almost immediately, though her father kept up with his obstetrics/gynecology practice at a Port-au-Prince clinic and would shuttle back and forth. Then, on Jan. 12, 2010, the earthquake hit, and Jean-Maurice Duval was buried alive beneath the rubble of the family home. His legs broken and left arm shattered and seven busted ribs puncturing his lung, Jean-Maurice Duval somehow dug himself out, and ultimately was airlifted to a Fort Lauderdale hospital, thanks to the generosity of a family in the tennis club Victoria was competing with at the time.
Duval’s gutsy victory signals her entry to the world’s stage, but it’s not going to her head.
“There’s a lot to be thankful for, I don’t take anything for granted,” she told ESPN. “I thank God everyday for everything that has happened. Life is short.”
Check out Duval’s post-game interview with ESPN: