Back on court, Vicky Duval gets a win in U.S. Open qualifying
NEW YORK (AP) Vicky Duval suspects tennis' locker rooms were a bit too quiet without her.
''Everyone I see, I'm like, `Hiiii!''' the American teen said of her return to the U.S. Open, bursting into giggles.
''I think they miss my loudness,'' she added. ''I'm probably the goofiest one in there. I keep everything light.''
Duval was a beam of sunshine in Flushing Meadows two years ago, the darling of the tournament when she upset 2011 champion Sam Stosur in the first round at age 17. She was back Tuesday playing a qualifying match - still wearing that visor and rimmed glasses and gushing after a win with the same squeaky voice.
So much has happened since, but now she simply calls it ''just a hiccup'' in a promising career.
During qualifying for Wimbledon last year, Duval found out she had cancer. She played through it, making the main draw and upsetting a seeded player in the first round - and crying on court at what awaited.
Duval finished treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma last September and recovered well. But feeling healthy for everyday activities and playing tennis at a world-class level are very different.
She could manage only 15-30 minutes on the court at a time in late fall. By February and March, it was up to 60-90 minutes. Finally in May, Duval, who is based in Bradenton, Florida, could really go all out in her training.
She played her first competitive matches in more than a year at a $25,000 tournament in Landisville, Pennsylvania, earlier this month, winning twice in singles.
The U.S. Tennis Association then awarded her a wild card into qualifying. Max Eisenbud, the vice president of tennis at IMG, tweeted it was a ''total crime'' she wasn't given a wild card into the U.S. Open main draw, with the hashtag ''youcanbeatcancerbutcantbeattheusta.''
All Duval would say Tuesday was ''that would have been nice, but I'm just grateful to be out here playing matches and hopefully I can get through.''
One down, two to go. She rallied from down a set to beat 147th-ranked Luksika Kumkhum of Thailand 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 on Tuesday. On a steamy August afternoon, Duval was the one who looked fresher in the third set.
On her first match point, she made an unforced error, then spun around and smiled sheepishly. No such nerves on the next point: Duval blasted a backhand winner, and then leapt high into the air, pumping her first toward her supporters in the stands.
She next faces 119th-ranked Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia.
''I'm not limiting myself at all because I went through what I went through,'' she said. ''I think I put in enough work that I can qualify.''
Duval advanced through qualifying at the U.S. Open two years ago before her upset of Stosur. Her ranking climbed into the top 100 in 2014 before she had to step away from the sport.
Her goal remains the same: reach the top 10 in the world.
She's still just 19, preternaturally poised and girlishly goofy at the same time.
Even before the cancer diagnosis, hers was a story of hardship and triumph, and she would always express her gratefulness while looking forward to the future.
When she was 7 and living in her parents' home country of Haiti, she and her cousins were taken hostage by robbers. When she was 14, her father was buried in rubble and badly injured in the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
When she thinks of all that has happened in the last year, she considers herself lucky.
''I've been really blessed even though I had to go through something like that,'' she said. ''I recovered really well and some people don't recover as well as I did. I think I was given this illness to inspire other people, and I'm going to try to channel that the best way possible.''