On Tuesday night at the U.S. Open, Victoria Duval captured the hearts of a nation.
With a powerful forehand, poise beyond her years and a leap of pure, unadulterated joy, the bubbly 17-year-old took it to the 2011 U.S. Open Champion and No. 11 seed Samantha Stosur on Louis Armstrong Stadium in the first round—and walked away with the 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 upset.
In her box, her parents, coach, family and friends all jumped for joy along with her.
Growing up, her brothers were the tennis players in the family. But after unexpectedly winning her first tournament, Duval chose tennis over ballet.
It looks like she made the right choice.
Duval is 17 yrs old, looks 15 and sounds like she's 12. And she can play. One to watch out for in the future— Anne Keothavong (@annekeothavong) August 27, 2013
That doesn't mean it has all been smooth sailing. Duval has had far from a conventional journey to the big stage. Though she was born in Miami, she spent her formative years in Haiti.
When she was seven years old, she was with her aunts and cousins when a robbery turned into a hostage situation.
"It's not a good memory, so I try to forget as much as I could about it," she told reporters after the match. "I don't remember too much of it anymore, which is great."
That event was the impetus her mother needed to get her family out of Haiti. They moved to America and, on a scholarship, Duval started training at Nick Bollettieri's academy.
The man she now calls "Uncle Nick" saw traces of Venus Williams in the young protege.
But the struggles didn't end there. Her father, a doctor, flew back to Haiti the day before the earthquake in 2011. He was trapped underneath the rubble. Though he eventually made his way out, his injuries were extremely severe.
So the Kitchens, friends in Atlanta that Duval had met through tennis, chartered a plane to go pick him up, effectively saving his life.
Do you think that Duval will win her second-round match against Daniela Hantuchova?
"Not everyone just pays $30,000 to fly a helicopter to save someone," Duval said. "They're amazing people. I mean, they're angels."
Her father hasn't been able to return to work since the earthquake, but he is improving every day. The Duvals have had to rely on family and friends to help them out with expenses through the last couple of years.
"Hopefully with this win today, that will change a little bit," she said.
While Duval showed early promise and has had a successful couple of years, nothing indicated that she was ready to get her first big win.
But on her fourth match point, after almost seeing the upset slip through her fingers multiple times, the vivacious teenager beat Stosur on a forehand winner.
She bounced in the air, she laughed and she blew a kiss to the crowd.
With all she's been through in her short life, she certainly didn't take this win for granted. Still, the teenager wasn't above enjoying the perks brought on by instant fame:
I told Victoria Duval that Lil Wayne tweeted her congratulations and her jaw dropped. "Weezy F Baby??" #USopen— Jane McManus (@janesports) August 28, 2013
However, don't count on Duval getting carried away in the limelight of celebrity. Like a steely veteran, her focus remains on tennis.
"I have to worry about the next match," she said, "so I can't celebrate too much."