Wimbledon 2014: Young American Qualifier Says she has Cancer

Victoria Duval, at 18, will make her debut in top 100 of WTA rankings but has revealed that she will be away from tennis competitions briefly as she has been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Updated: July 05, 2014 13:49 IST
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Victoria Duval
Victoria Duval is at least the third tennis player in the last four years to receive a diagnosis of Hodgkin's lymphoma.

© AP

Wimbledon: Having reached the second round of Wimbledon as a qualifier, 18-year-old American Victoria Duval will make her debut in the top 100 of the WTA rankings Monday, the next step in what has been a steady climb up the rankings.

On Friday afternoon, however, she released an unsettling statement through her management company, IMG.

"It is with a heavy heart that I will have to step away from tennis competition for a short period after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma," Duval said. "I received the news after my first round of qualifying at Wimbledon but decided to continue to compete. Being on court provided me with much comfort."

After learning the results of a biopsy, Duval not only continued to compete but competed well, even with pain she felt from her back down her leg. She won two more matches to successfully qualify for a Grand Slam for the first time. In her final match of qualifying, against a fellow American, Nicole Gibbs, Duval won the match when a backhand return clipped the tape and dribbled to Gibbs' side.

"I thought I was really courageous today because the pain was really a lot," she said after the match. "But that's part of the game."

Duval was initially uncertain if she would be able to participate in the main draw because of her back pain, but she beat 29th-seeded Sorana Cirstea in the first round, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1. She then lost in the second round to 17-year-old Belinda Bencic in two tough sets, 6-4, 7-5.

When Duval returned to the United States, tests confirmed the result of the British biopsy. IMG said that the cancer was caught in an early, isolated stage and that the prognosis was for a full recovery within a few months.

"I have complete faith that God will assist me and my family with all that we need to achieve victory and become stronger from this journey," Duval said. "I intend to put up my best fight and have a full recovery. I picture myself healthy, stronger and competing again soon with even more appreciation for the game I so love."

Duval is at least the third tennis player in the last four years to receive a diagnosis of Hodgkin's lymphoma, after Russian Alisa Kleybanova (in 2011) and British doubles specialist Ross Hutchins (in 2013). Both made successful recoveries and returned to playing on tour full time.

"I am grateful in advance to my fans and friends for their support and positive thoughts while I will undergo my treatment and fight this battle," Duval said.

Duval was a fan favorite in last year's U.S. Open, where as a wild card she upset Samantha Stosur, the 2011 champion, in the first round. After her second-round loss, she was a guest on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno."

Despite her seemingly seamless rise, Duval and her family are no strangers to hardship. A Haitian-American, Duval was kidnapped in Haiti as a child. She was in the United States during the major Haitian earthquakes of 2010, but her father was trapped in the rubble and sustained lasting damage to his arm.

Billie Jean King, who has mentored Duval during her time playing for the Philadelphia Freedoms in King's World TeamTennis league, was one of the first to voice her support for Duval after the cancer revelation. The Freedoms will wear a patch with Duval's initials on their uniforms.

"We are all supporting Vicky and her family at this difficult time," King said. "Vicky is a fighter, and she will approach this new challenge with a plan and a conviction to win."

© 2014 New York Times News Service

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