Tennis Fans Get a Sneak Peek At America's Tennis Future
By: Nicholas McCarvel
Monday afternoon during the WTA All-Access Hour for the Volvo Car Open, 16-year-old Vicky Duval (pictured on right) nervously skirted around the draped tables where the tournament's top stars were being interviewed.
"I'm embarrassed," Duval said meekly. "I don't want to do it."
'It' was get a photo with world No. 1 and top seed Serena Williams, her fellow American. But after Serena was done talking with print media and headed to do camera interviews, the two crossed paths and Serena, now 31, said to Duval, "I know you."
The 2013 Volvo Car Open is a who's who of young American tennis - both the generation that has arrived and the generation that is next, Duval being a part of the latter. The bubbly baseliner stole hearts at the US Open last year with a giggly interview before playing her "hero" Kim Clijsters on Arthur Ashe Stadium. This week, she lost in the first round of qualifying.
"I'm learning," said Duval in an impromptu interviews with reporters minutes after her Serena photo. She was there to observe the workings of the media hour. "I need to work on my fitness. And my serve... and get going on the clay season!"
It's then that Duval did a couple of snaps with her finger in front of her face, jokingly putting on attitude that she clearly doesn't have. In fact, it's a common theme among this generation to be low key and often times sarcastic.
Duval's peer is perhaps more well-known: 16-year-old Taylor Townsend was the world No. 1 junior to end 2012, the first time an American has ended a year at that post in some 20 years.
Sunday night at the Player Party it was Townsend who donned giant pink bunny ears for the occasion as it took place Easter night. As her older fellow players donned the highest of heels, the braces-clad teenager smiled widely, later saying that there was little of the candy at the candy bar she could have - much of it would get stuck in her mouth wiring.
Wednesday a host of the generation now players are in action at the Volvo Car Open. Rising teenager Madison Keys, 18 and ranked No. 77, faced 2011 US Open junior champion Grace Min (pictured on left) who at 19 has continued a steady climb up the rankings and sits at No. 187. Keys won the match 6-4, 6-2, booking herself a spot in the third round against Bethanie-Mattek Sands.
While the wild card Townsend lost in the first round to former top ten player Andrea Petkovic, the Keys-Min battle assured at least one rising American would join Sserena in the third round.
Mallory Burdette, a 22-year-old who turned pro after her junior year at Stanford last season has won three matches this week in Charleston including qualifying, took down 2009 champion Sabine Lisicki on Althea Gibson Court following Keys-Min, winning 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5. It was the biggest win of the young American's career. Her next opponent? Serena.
In all, 12 American women aside from Serena and Venus Williams entered the main draw here. One of them was Sloane Stephens, the No. 4 seed who made the Australian Open semifinals and is ranked a career high No. 16 in the world. She was upset Tuesday night, losing to compatriot Mattek-Sands, herself going through a mid-career renaissance following a series of injuries.
Christina McHale, Jamie Hampton and Vania King also made appearances in Charleston, each in their early 20s and with potential to move up the rankings.
So too did Melanie Oudin, who made the US Open quarterfinals in 2009 and Jessica Pegula, who at 19 is having her breakout event.
Pegula won her first-ever WTA match Monday against Garbine Muguruza, and backed that up with a big upset over No. 8 seed Mona Barthel on Billie Jean King Court.
"I think I did really well. I have fought really hard," Pegula said after the win. "Especially my first round win, which was really tough. The girls [I beat] have been playing well, too. So I think I just really, you know, stepped up mentally."
In Monday's rankings, 11 US women were inside the top 100, the most of any country.
"I try to stay focused on my own game, but it's definitely nice to see other Americans do well," said Pegula, ranked No. 148. "But yeah, I think it's helped seeing girls my own age do well and kind of gives you motivation that you can do the same thing and it's if you just believe that you can you can just beat any of these girls out here. So it definitely, yeah, it's helped a lot."