Different Emotions after Crucial Wins

By Jane Voigt

August 28, 2013 -- Billie Jean King told Victoria Duval to have fun last night before the 17-year-old walked on court to play the 2011 U. S. Open Champion Samantha Stosur. And earlier in the day, Vicky, as her parents and brothers call her, told her mom she was headed for a win. She believed.

The match has ramped up the Open, as its first real blast from the bleachers. It was way beyond an upset. No. 11 seed, Kei Nishikori, may have lost on Monday to a Brit qualifier named Daniel Evans and other seeds may have fallen before their times since then. Yet nothing can compare to the euphoric energy that now fills the atmosphere at the National Tennis Center all due to Vicky's smash hit match play under the lights on Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Her charm spread like softened cream cheese on a fresh warm bagel, moments after she won. 

"I don't even remember match point," Duval said later. "I guess I was really happy. I mean you could tell with all the jumping I did."

Pam Shriver scooted on court and stuck a microphone in Duval's face, after reality struck. The second the Haitian-raised teen opened her mouth, millions of people had to have stopped in their tracks.

Her voice was a high dainty thrill of words that tumbled from her mouth, all wrapped up in a teenager's mind and body. She was not the Stosur slayer. Had she reinvented herself? Were we entering the land of Oz, like the Wizard of Oz? No. We witnessed the youthful child-like nature of Duval, another side. She was sincere, sweet, humble, and deeply in touch with a spiritual centeredness. 

The day before, in contrast, American Christina McHale defeated Julia Goerges on Grandstand. There was no fanfare afterward, although fans lifted the New Jersey native's spirits during the match. But Pam Shriver didn't run out on court for post-match sound bites. McHale, though, had her own breakthrough. She won a match. The first since Wimbledon. 

"Yeah, it was a huge relief," McHale told the press. "It was one of the best feelings I felt in a while on court."

This is McHale's fifth Open. She is 22. She stormed the tennis scene as a teen. She wasn't 17, like Duval. She was 19. Not a big difference, yet enough to detect a touch of maturity. In August last year she reached her highest ranking, No. 24. That was before she contracted mono after the Olympics. Since, her ranking has tumbled to No. 114.


Christina McHale whips a forehand at the 2012 Western & Southern Open, Cincinnati. She retired in the third set of this match. About a month later she came down with mono.
Photo credit tennisclix

"It's definitely been a struggle this year," she said. "I'm working really hard in practice. I'm doing the right things, so I think a match like today really will help me, and hopefully I can continue to build on this for the rest of the year."

McHale has scored big against top WTA players: Svetlana Kuznetsova; Victoria Azarenka; Caroline Wozniacki when she was number-one in the world; Petra Kvitova; Daniela Hantuchova; and Marion Bartoli, our recent Wimbledon champion. McHale knows the satisfaction of playing her truth to power. She wants to get back there, too.

"This is just one match," she said. "I don't want to get too ahead of myself.  I think I'm getting back to the basics of my game more. I felt like my consistency was a lot better than previous matches this past summer. I think I'm headed in the right direction. I just have to keep working hard."

Next up for McHale is Elina Svitolina; she ousted Dominika Cibulkova, seeded No. 17, in her first round match. McHale's emotions and hopes are not getting too far away from the one-match-at-a-time theory. However she did admit this match-up would be a tough one. 

Vicky Duval will face Daniela Hantuchova in round two. 

Duval's belief and fresh-outlook will be tested by the Slovackian. The 30-year-old one-time Sports Illustrated swim suit model turned pro in 1999 when Duval was 3. Hantuchova is playing in her 13th Open. She is a four-time mixed doubles slam winner. For this Open, she has hooked up with Martina Hingis to play women's doubles -- speaking of young champions. 

Hantuchova's results in Flushing Meadows are not the best. She made the semifinals in 2011, but has exited the tournament before the 3rd round 11 out of 12 times. 

Both Duval and McHale started fresh, their hearts and soul filled with anticipation and hunger to be, what else, number one in the world. We will have to see the path Duval lays. She, too, could be defeating top-ranked WTA players in a year or two. Or, she could fall prey to injury or poor health, as did McHale. Their emotional reactions will tell a tale of victory and defeat. However, it is over the long haul of a tennis career that greatness is built. Both these young woman have that in common. 

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013