EASTBOURNE, England—It’s been a good day for Jamie Hampton. The 23-year-old qualifier beat Lucie Safarova for the second time in a month to become the first American since Jennifer Capriati in 2003 to reach the semifinals in Eastbourne.
It was tough going, with the start delayed by a rain shower and the match played while atmospheric but inconvenient heavy mist hung over Devonshire Park. Hampton fell over twice in one game to be broken in the first set and showed, as she later admitted, more emotion than she normally would, but staged a resurgence with Safarova serving for the match and eventually prevailed, 3-6, 7-6 (1), 6-4. She will face former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinals tomorrow.
This will be Hampton’s second WTA Premier-level semifinal (she reached her first in Brussels before the French Open) and she finds her in the midst of a rich vein of form, having reached the round of 16 at Roland Garros. When the new rankings come out next week, Hampton should be the third-ranked American behind Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens. She sits down with me to answer some increasingly silly questions after the match as I try to find out a little bit about this tough, talented young player.
Q: How excited are you to be heading into Wimbledon with such a strong run of form?
A: I’m really excited, Wimbledon has always been my favorite slam and I look forward to hopefully a great week there. It’s not going to be easy, you got the best players in the world there, so …
Q: Did you watch Wimbledon on TV growing up? You’re from Alabama, right?
A: Yeah, we have TVs there. [laughing] Yeah, I loved watching Wimbledon on TV. Wimbledon and the night matches at the U.S. Open were my favorite to watch.
Q: Can you remember the first Wimbledon final you ever watched?
A: No, but I can tell you that my favorite final was definitely Federer-Nadal [in 2008]. I was so amped up, I was jumping around the room. My coach was like, “You need to calm down.” No, but it was great.
Q: How old were you then?
A: 18. I was acting like I was four, though.
Q: I think we all were. So would that be your most iconic Wimbledon moment?
A: Yeah, for sure.
Q: What about on the women’s side—anything come to mind in particular?
A: I think when Sharapova won. That was pretty incredible, she won as a 17-year-old, that’s probably going to be unheard of for a while.
Q: So, I’m just going to ask you some random questions.
A: All right. Hopefully I’ll have an answer for them.
Q: Did you talk to anybody after you won today? Anyone from your family?
A: No, I normally don’t talk to my parents during the tournament. They try to let me do my own thing and then afterwards I’ll give them a call.
Q: If you won Wimbledon, who would be the first person you would call?
A: My mom. Growing up, she would take me everywhere for tennis, I mean, she would come to all my lessons, whatever I needed, she was there for me.
Q: Is it difficult to be away from somebody who’s been so supportive for you?
A: It was a little bit at first, but, you know, it was time to grow up. She doesn’t travel with me any more and I’m an adult so it was time to let go a little bit. Kick me out of the nest, send me off on my own. [laughing]
Q: Fair enough. Sounds very healthy. Who was the last person who made you laugh?
A: Don’t tell her this, but Taylor Townsend.
Q: What was the last film you watched?
A: The last film I watched … Oh, OK, got it. I watched Rise of the Guardians, the little animated film. I was in my hotel room in Birmingham and I had nothing else to do so I ordered a movie. But I do want to see Man of Steel.
Q: When was the last time you cried?
A: Easy. In Brussels. […] I lost two matches in a row in qualifying, two tournaments in a row, Madrid and Rome. And then I came to Brussels and they lost my baggage. I didn’t have any racquets, I didn’t have any clothes, no strings, no drinks. I was struggling, big-time; I was dealing with stuff off the court as well, and then I developed an eye infection, and I was just ready to go home. I was like, “Why is this happening to me?” And I definitely cried a lot.
Q: I think we would all cry in that situation. If you were going to be marooned on a desert island and you could have one book, one song (or one album), and one luxury item, what would you go for?
A: Oof … Books? I love the Harry Potter books. I know that sounds, you know, like I’m a kid, but I’m still a kid at heart. […] I loved Harry Potter in my childhood, growing up, when I was a kid and I loved when the movies came out and everything. So Harry Potter would be my book. What was the other one? Music? You know, I kind of like this dance/electronic music right now. But if I had to take an album, that I’ve really liked recently, I’d probably take the Imagine Dragons.
And the luxury item—[…] Can I take a yacht? [laughing]
Q: That’s good lateral thinking.
A: I don’t know, to be honest. I’m a pretty simple person, I don’t need a lot of luxuries.
Q: I hear you like chocolate, you could have a lifetime supply of chocolate.
A: Oh, that’s considered a luxury? OK, yeah, I’d take a couple of boxes of chocolate.
Q: One more question about the desert island. If you could be marooned with one other player, who would it be?
A: I’d have to bring my buddy Shelby Rogers. She makes me laugh.