American teen Victoria Duval gave up ballet to pursue her dream of playing tennis

Victoria Duval returns the ball during a match

Victoria Duval returns the ball during a match against Samantha Stosur at the U.S. Open. (Aug. 27, 2013) (Credit: Getty)

When Nadine Duval was a teenager in Haiti, she loved ballet. Her dream was to be a ballerina.

"Then I sat down with my father before going to college and he said 'No, no, no,' " Nadine Duval said Wednesday.

She went on to be a doctor. But her dream of a ballerina lived on in her daughter, Victoria.



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"She was good at ballet, but she told me she wanted to be a tennis player," said Nadine, who did not say 'No, no, no.'

"I was disappointed because she was living my dream," Nadine said. "But now she is following her dream, her passion and it is so wonderful."

Victoria Duval, just 17 and not yet a fully fledged professional, pulled off a huge upset Tuesday when she ousted 2011 Open champion Samantha Stosur in three taut sets before a roaring and adoring Louis Armstrong Stadium Crowd.

She won with a strong forehand, good court sense, aggressive inside-the-baseline play, and a pair of nimble feet, likely the legacy of her youth as a ballerina.

"It had to help," said her coach Tom Morelle. "A lot of great athletes have taken ballet."

"My brothers played [tennis]. I would run around and hit the ball. I could never hit the strings," said Victoria Duval. "My brothers would go to this tournament in Santo Domingo. 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, 'OK, you have to choose now.' Tennis seemed to be appropriate."

That decision proved prophetic, but another event in the life of a 7-year-old proved terrifying. She was in her aunt's house in Haiti when armed robbers took over the place. The situation was resolved with a SWAT team and her mother then made the decision to move back to South Florida where Victoria was born. "It's not a good memory so I try to forget as much as I could about it," she said. "I don't remember too much of it anymore, which is great."

The memories now are of a momentous win at the Open, and her focus is on her upcoming match with Daniela Hantuchova.

As you might expect of her coach, Morelle was effusive about the potential of his 5-10, 150-pound charge. "She is going to be one of the best," he said. "She is half as good as she is going to be. She is going to get bigger and stronger. She is a really quick learner, really smart. She can pick something up in 30 seconds. We've worked on changing her game around, her return of serve, her ground strokes, positioning. That's a lot to absorb, and she's done it."

Without not quite predicting it, Morelle sees stardom in Duval's future.

Asked about her potential for stardom, Duval said: "That's what I'm working for. If God will let it, then let's go."

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