Photo: Susan MullaneVictoria Duval (USA)
Victoria Duval is not 17 until November but she has already been compared to Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters asked her if she could have her picture taken with her.
It is a lot for any young player to take in but on Thursday, the American showed she has the game to back up her reputation as she took out the Wimbledon champion Eugenie Bouchard and recovered in time to see off Kathinka Von Deichmann of Liechtenstein to reach the quarter-finals.
Bouchard had been tipped to back up her Wimbledon triumph by winning the US Open but though the Canadian ripped through the first set, the smart tactical play of Duval was enough to see her complete a 26 61 64 win, which was a big upset, at least on paper.
“I’m not the most powerful player out there,” Duval said. “Genie has a lot of power and she kind of blew me off the court. I thought, OK, let’s not embarrass myself and think a little bit out here. I do win a lot of my matches by thinking through it.”
“At 5-4 (in the third set), I was just like, ‘Jesus, I need to close this out’ and then I double-faulted and I was nervous as a brick, I could not even breathe. But her missing the return at 15-0 definitely helped me relax and I am glad I pulled through it. On the fourth match point, I kind of hit that forehand with my eyes closed.”
Duval became an overnight star when she played Clijsters in the opening round of the women’s event at Flushing Meadows last week, a match in which she showed her obvious talent as well as the ability to handle an occasion.
That experience was a huge boost to her confidence and her 62 62 win over Von Deichmann was an exercise in efficiency, even if her body was aching all over in the process.
“I was really sore and I physically struggled in that second match because it was such an intense match with Genie,” she said. “But I was just telling myself, if I can just go through this pain for an hour instead of trying to make the match longer than it needs to be, then I’ll be happy at the end, so I was just pushing through all the pain.
Duval said hanging around the stars of the game had been a fun experience. “As soon as I walked in to the pro locker room, I saw Venus but I didn’t want to be a creeper, so I just walked by. Then she talked to me, and I was like, hi, (thinking) I kind of love you.”
The 16-year-old has already been through a lot in her life, including a harrowing episode when she was held hostage for a few hours by robbers in Haiti. Understandably, she would rather not speak too much about that now, and is enjoying being centre of attention on the court instead.
Duval plays ninth seed Anna Danilina of Kazakhstan in the last eight and admits she is starting to think about winning the title. “Obviously my goal is to win it but I’m not going to look that far ahead because I don’t know any of these girls,” she said. “It’s almost like another generation, I feel like, coming up.”
Top seed Taylor Townsend and number two Yulia Putintseva are both still going strong after also recording two wins in a day. American Townsend overcame Elise Mertens of Belgium and Mexico’s Marcela Zacarias while Putintseva ousted another Belgian, Elke Lemmens and Carol Zhao of Canada to make the last eight.
In the boys’ event, the world’s top two, Kimmer Coppejans and Filip Peliwo advanced to the quarter-finals with two confident wins apiece. French Open champion Coppejans took out Russia’s Karen Khachanov and Hyeon Chung of Korea while Wimbledon champion Peliwo beat both Markos Kalovenlonis of Greece and Britain’s Kyle Edmund.
Another Briton, Liam Broady, remains on course for a first junior grand slam title, though, after two hard-fought wins. The left-hander, the runner-up at Wimbledon last summer, beat Herkko Pollanen of Finland and then survived an exhausting battle with France’s Maxime Hamou to take his place in the last eight.
Broady suffered from cramping during his 67 64 63 win over Hamou, who had upset fourth seed Thiago Monteiro of Brazil in the second round. The Briton needed three hours, 50 minutes to get through his two matches on Thursday and will need to recover quickly if he is to advance to the semi-finals.
“At 31 in the third I ran out wide for a backhand and my leg almost gave way,” Broady said.
“At 52 I had a couple of match points and I was beginning to struggle. At 53 I couldn’t land on my serve so I just tried to hit a forehand on one leg, and it worked.
“It feels really good to get through. Sometimes people have said that I’m a bit of a nutter on court but I’ve worked really hard on that and wins like this just go to show that it’s working.”