- Associated Press - Monday, August 27, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) - That Kim Clijsters‘ first-round foe at the U.S. Open would be feeling jitters Monday night was perfectly understandable.

Victoria Duval, after all, is a 16-year-old American wild-card recipient, she’s ranked 562nd, and was appearing in the first tour-level main-draw match of her nascent career against former No. 1 Clijsters _ under the lights at 23,000-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium, no less.

“I was freaking out,” the bubbly, squeaky-voiced Duval acknowledged after her 6-3, 6-1 loss.

That Clijsters would be a little shaky, too? Well, that’s a bit more surprising, given that she’s a four-time Grand Slam winner, including three titles at Flushing Meadows. Clijsters, though, knows every time she steps on court in New York could be her last match as a professional tennis player.

The 29-year-old Belgian began her final tournament by winning her 22nd consecutive U.S. Open match.

“It was a special occasion. … I was nervous, maybe almost as much as she was,” Clijsters said.

“I’m happy that I’m still here,” she added, “and still winning some matches.”

Duval, who lives in Boca Raton, Fla., earned an invitation to the year’s last Grand Slam tournament from the U.S. Tennis Association by winning the under-18 U.S. national championship.

Cheered by thousands of fans while walking out to face Clijsters, Duval explained, was an “indescribable feeling.”

“It was much more than I expected. The whole atmosphere was just incredible,” she said. “I was really nervous. But I thought I did a good job of not showing it.”

Young as she is, Duval has dealt with some trying life experiences already. She was born in Florida, but grew up in Haiti, where her parents were from, and as a kid, Duval and some cousins were taken hostage by robbers. Then, in January 2010, when a massive earthquake struck Haiti, her father was buried in rubble, his legs broken, but survived.

“It helped my tennis in the sense that in those circumstances, we were just saying: No matter how tough things get, you’re always going to get out of it.’ So in my tennis, that’s basically what I’ve been living by,” Duval said. “No matter how down and out I am, I can get out of it.”

After dropping the first two games Monday, Duval took advantage of a series of forehand errors by Clijsters to take the next three for a 3-2 lead after 13 minutes.

“Walking to the chair, I was like, `I am actually up 3-2 right now!’” Duval said, her eyes closed as she replayed the moment in her mind.

And then?

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