American Vicky Duval could not quite pull off a giant killing feat at the Hopman Cup but the 20-year-old, on the comeback trail after overcoming Hodgkin’s lymphoma, saw plenty of positives in her effort against world No.19 Elina Svitolina.
Duval was a late call-up after world No.1 Serena Williams withdrew from the match against Ukraine with knee inflammation.
Svitolina’s experience proved the difference in the 6-4 6-1 victory, putting Ukraine 1-0 in the match against USA, but Duval showed glimpses of her potential, a double-handed backhand proving very effective against her opponent.
“It was amazing,” a beaming Duval said of the experience of playing for her country on Perth Arena. “The crowd was really special. I was kind of nervous; I was like, filling in really big shoes.”
But Williams’ late withdrawal was possibly even more difficult for Svitolina. “I was really disappointed; I hope she gets better; it was really surprising for me because I was preparing for her game; I didn’t play so well because I was surprised (at Duval as her opponent) You’re energy goes down because yesterday and all the months before you think you are going to play the No.1 in the world and your energy goes down, that’s why it was a bit tough for me,” said the 21-year-old.
Duval, an official alternate for the US team, was told an hour before the scheduled 10am start that she was playing. The USA had the chance to level the tie with Jack Sock taking on the flashy Alexandr Dolgopolov.
Now ranked 656 in the world, Duval was ranked as high as No.92 in 2014 before being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and putting her career on hold to have treatment.
“The first set today I thought how I look forward to playing and realised that my level is really good…it’s really encouraging,” said Duval, who may yet have more matches in Perth before heading to Melbourne for the Australian Open, depending on how Williams recovers.
In full health again, Duval has her sights set on improving her ranking, staying healthy – and holding a koala during her visit to Australia.