Victoria Duval, who stunned 2011 champion Samantha Stosur in the first round the U.S. Open, discusses how she started playing tennis. The 17-year-old first learned to play in her native Haiti before coming to the United States to train.
“Actually, my brothers played. So I was a ballerina before tennis,” said Duval, who now plays for the United States. “I would just run around and hit the ball. I could never hit the strings. My brother would go to this tournament in Santo Domingo every year. The tournament director said, ‘Your daughter comes and sits on your lap. Why don’t you have her play in the tournament?’ I was seven. I had no idea how to keep score, nothing. It was a 10-and-under tournament, I think, and I won it. I had no idea where to stand on the court or anything. After that, my mom was, ‘Okay, you have to choose now.’ Tennis seemed to be appropriate.”
Duval’s father, Jean-Maurice, is a doctor who stayed in Haiti to run a medical practice while his daughter, sons, and wife left for the United States. He was still in Haiti in 2010 when a massive earthquake struck, leaving him trapped underneath his home.
Atlanta’s Harry Kitchen, a real-estate developer who had become friends with the family, was said to have paid $18,000 to charter a private plane to fly to Haiti and bring Jean-Maurice to the U.S. He now lives in Florida with his family, but is still unable to work.
“He’s improving so much,” Victoria Duval said. “Emotionally it was hard at first. But he’s as happy as he’s ever been. He had a couple surgeries that helped take the pain away. We’re just so happy that he’s in a good state of mind right now. He’s just here with us. So it’s incredible.”