A little confidence, and some good health can go along way in the sport of tennis. It’s a story that’s been told so many times.
Jamie Hampton knows that all too well.
Playing this week at the U.S. National Indoor Championships in Memphis, the 23-year old American, who reached a career-high ranking of No. 62 back in January is brimming with confidence, and she’s cruised into the quarterfinals only dropping six games in her first two matches.
For the most part, Hampton says she is feeling healthy and feels 2013 means a new lease of life, or at least the WTA Tour.
“I put in a lot of hard work in the off-season,” Hampton stressed. “To be honest, my confidence has come from the off-season.”
As for her play so far this week in Memphis, Hampton says she’s getting more and more comfortable with each match.
“Once I’ve settled in, it’s been good. I’ve been mixing it up, keeping the ball low and playing well.”
She also said that her approach to tournaments like this WTA International event in Memphis has changed.
Once content on just qualifying or winning a round or two, Hampton said she expects more of herself each and every day.
“My approach now in the tournaments is that no matter who I play, I’m looking to win the match. I feel I can beat anybody I come across, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a first seed or a qualifier.”
The match that most people point to when talking about Hampton is her three-set marathon with top-seeded Victoria Azarenka at last month’s Australian Open. Hampton smiled and said she has watched a tape of the match since she returned home, but she’s looking bigger picture and was happy so many people not only watched the match, but are watching tennis and maybe getting more interested in the sport.
“I’m happy with the way I played (that match) and I’m happy people watched it.”
As with most tennis players, the Jamie Hampton story runs much deeper that looking at first serve percentages or break points saved.
Hampton said most people don’t know her story and that it wasn’t a given she was going to turn pro and not go to college.
“I turned pro really late, and while a lot of girls on the tour turn pro really early, like maybe 13,14, or 15, I turned pro at 19 and was almost going to college.”
She had given a verbal commitment to Florida, but a wrist injury put her out of action and it convinced her more to turn pro after she had surgery.
Hampton added that she needed to be patient on so many fronts to get where she is now.
For one, nothing was given to her. There were no main draw wildcards into tour events.
“It takes time to go from 10K’s to main draws at grand slams and being seeded in other events,” said the Alabama native.
Hampton said that has helped her immensely.
“There’s a lot of experience to be had and experience to be gained at the lower levels that will help you in the future.”
Then there was the fact that for years she was best known as Melanie Oudin’s practice partner, and she was totally aware of that perception.”
“Yea, they did, and it was,” smiled Hampton. “Melanie and I are completely different people and different personalities and game styles.”
Hampton said all the American players have progressed at their own pace, and she’s starting to come into her own. She also said she learned a lot from watching Melanie and even though it was tough for her at times, she feels she’s on the right track as well.
“You watch a girl you played with every single day make the quarters of the U.S. Open, and that’s everyone’s dream. Of course I wished that was me, but that was her story and this is mine now.”
Even Oudin says it was just a matter of time before Hampton grabbed some of the spotlight.
“Jamie is playing so well, and we are pushing each other, when one person does well, the other wants to do well”
I also asked Hampton about those daily drives from Alabama to Atlanta to train when she was younger and if she ever looks back on that.
“I give a lot of credit to my mom, when I was younger, I used to complain about it all the time,” admits the American who recently played Fed Cup wearing the Stars and Stripes against Italy. “Now I look back on it and I’m glad she was there with me, and she had cancer at the time, so it wasn’t easy.”
To this day, Hampton said she passes the time each day listening to music.
“If that was taken away from me, I’d go haywire.”
Now working with the USTA and having the services of a trainer, Hampton thinks she can better survive the rigors of a year long tennis season.
“It’s already making a difference, I feel I’m being more professional and hopefully my body won’t fall apart.
As for the ongoing chapter of 2013?
“I think I’ve done well, and will keep improving as there are a lot of aspects to my game that can improve.”