Jamie Hampton jumped to the No. 29 rankings after several strong tournaments in Europe. (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
STANFORD, Calif. -- It was a brand new experience for Jamie Hampton, who arrived in Stanford a week ago for the Bank of the West Classic, only to twiddle her thumbs and pass the time until her first match on Thursday. Now ranked No. 29 after a strong European season, Hampton -- now the No. 3 American behind Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens -- is playing her first tournament as a seed and was given a bye through to the second round.
"I've never had anything like that," Hampton said of her four-day wait. "I guess that's one of the perks if you look at it like that of being a top 4 seed. You get a much later start. It's just something that I have to deal with and learn as I go."
Hampton, who made the fourth round of the French Open and advanced to her first WTA final at Eastbourne this year, killed the time by filling in for any promotional events the tournament needed. She put on a big smile as she manned the autograph booth and posed for pictures, visited VIP booths, and walked the Stanford streets in search of Jamba Juice.
"It's not something that I'm terribly great at," the naturally soft-spoken Auburn, Alabama native admitted, "but I have enjoyed it this week. One of the highlights this week was getting to go to the children's hospital. I've always wanted to do that."
It was Hampton's introduction to life as a top 30 player.
"It's been really weird. It really has. I don't really know what to think about it right now."
The flipside of earning a bye as the No. 4 seed is the lack of match play. Coming off a four-week break after losing the first round of Wimbledon to Stephens, Hampton admitted she was rusty in her opening match against Stanford standout Nicole Gibbs, which she won 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-3 on Thursday.
"We're coming from the clay court season and the grass court season where you're just playing constantly and you do get into a rhythm. And then to just completely shut that down and get back into two-a-day fitnesses and maybe an hour of tennis a day it changes everything, it changes the balance. You definitely have to come back and find your way. I mean, there's definitely something to be said about a match count."
Hampton struggled to find her range on the quick hard court; she fought back from a 1-4 deficit in the second set only to lose the tiebreaker on two poor forehand errors. Then, Hampton regathered herself to build a 4-0 lead in the third set and eventually served out the match.
"It's just some rust," Hampton said. "I haven't played a match and I'm going up against somebody who's very familiar with these courts, the crowd was tough, and she had been playing a lot of matches and she's been winning a lot of matches. ... I wasn't expecting to be at the top of my game ... I competed hard. I didn't get too down on myself when things weren't going my way, because they definitely weren't going for a while."