With Quiet Confidence, Jamie Hampton Climbs Rankings
(June 19, 2013)--Jamie Hampton didn't look surprised at all after she notched her first top five win of her career on Tuesday in Eastbourne, and she didn't suffer the all too familiar letdown when she faced a lesser opponent in Taiwan's Su-Wei Hsieh on Wednesday. Instead, she looked calm, matter of fact; not quite nonchalant, but certainly not too wired to focus either.
It's been a fantastic late spring for the 23-year-old, and that uncanny sense of calm--shall we call it maturity?--most certainly has a lot to do with it. Hampton will bid for her third WTA semifinal of 2013 on Thursday when she faces Lucie Safarova, but no matter whether she wins or loses, Hampton already has learned the most valuable lesson a young player can learn in 2013: that she can play with the best.
When asked by reporters on Tuesday, Hampton cited her three-set loss to Victoria Azarenka as the match that set the tone for her 2013 more than any other. "I think the Azarenka match... I was able to bring my game out and compete against the best in the world," Hampton said. "And even though I didn't come out on the winning end of it, just to have the belief, 'okay, I am on the right track, this is the right thing, and even though you didn't win today, you know, you still can compete with them and you can beat them,' " she added.
Hampton has been competing ever since. At the French Open, Hampton upset Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova before finally bowing out to Jelena Jankovic in the fourth round. Playing with an ethereal disposition that is in direct contrast with her gun-slinging tennis, Hampton is part poise and part reckless abandon, but never does she look overwhelmed by where she is, who she is playing, or what the stakes are.
After qualifying for this week's Aegon International in Eastbourne, Hampton wasn't running scared when she found out she'd be playing top seed and 2012 Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska in the first round. Rather than curse the cruel gods of the draw, she was actually hoping to play the top seed. She revealed in her post-match press conference that, yes, indeed, she wanted another shot at Radwanska and believed she could beat her if she got it. "When I found out the qualifying spots, you know, I told my coach, 'I want to play Radwanska,' I hope I draw her, because, one, we have never played on grass and she's beaten me the last four times," Hampton said. "I want to have the opportunity to play her again and make sure I come out on top. I have been close before, but, you know, it's nice to come out with a win today."
At a time when young Americans Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys are soaking up all the press's ink, Hampton has been quietly demonstrating, week in and week out, that she is a player to be reckoned with on any surface.
Hampton, an army brat who lived in Germany until she was eight, is half-Korean, and she regrets never learning the language from her mother. Reportedly, her mother said she was too stubborn as a kid to learn it, but when it comes to soaking up the nuances of the grass court game, Hampton is proving to be a quick study. In just her second career event on the green stuff she's already reached her first quarterfinal. "I think that the grass suits my game much better than the clay," said Hampton. "I have never played on grass. Last year at Wimbledon was my first match, and everyone told me that, you know, you're going to have a ton of fun on grass. Your game translates well. You're going to be able to come forward and take balls out of the air."
Turns out they were right. Hampton has been aggressive in her matches on grass, using her big serves and forehand to set up put-away volleys at the net. She plays a very clean, assertive game, with a lot of gusto and very little drama. At times, she'll berate herself, but her self-chiding seems constructive rather than pathological.
There's a lot to like about Jamie Hampton at the moment, both in her results and in her approach to the game.
And with another big quarterfinal coming up, Hampton hopes the fun doesn't stop any time soon.
"I'm having a ton of fun on the grass, to be honest," she says.