Tennis: Hampton sees chance to win her first title

By Michael Brown

Jamie Hampton of the USA. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Jamie Hampton of the USA. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Tuesday's carnage at the ASB Classic didn't go unnoticed by Jamie Hampton, who is the only seed remaining in the top half of the draw and sees it as an opportunity to claim her maiden WTA title.

Five seeds were ousted in the first round of the tournament, including top seed and world No 14 Roberta Vinci, who was toppled by promising 16-year-old Ana Konjuh on Tuesday night.

Hampton yesterday eased through to today's quarter-finals with a comfortable 6-3, 6-4 victory over Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic.

Third seed Kirsten Flipkens and second seed Ana Ivanovic stand out in the bottom half of the draw.

The 23-year-old Hampton was beaten by eventual winner Agnieszka Radwanska in the semifinals of last year's tournament, which set her up for her best year on tour. She rose to a career-high 24 in July and finished 2013 ranked 28.

"Absolutely," Hampton said when asked if she saw the loss of so many seeds as an opportunity for her.

"The top half of the draw has kind of fallen apart but also you have unseeded Venus Williams, which is a bit of a tough one."

Williams survived a tough three-setter against experienced Austrian Yvonne Meusburger but her form has so far been erratic - plenty of winners but also numerous unforced errors - and Hampton will fancy her chances if the pair meet in Friday's semifinals.

Before that, she is due to take on the winner of the match between Konjuh and Lauren Davis, who breezed past New Zealand's Marina Erakovic in her first-round match.

Hampton is the third-ranked American behind Serena Williams (No 1) and Sloane Stephens (12) but further down in the profile stakes with the US public.

"It's OK," she said. "It has its advantages. No one really knows who I am so I can fly under the radar a little bit. I would like some exposure.

"Maybe not [as much as Venus]. It comes with the territory. If I do well, I'm going to get more exposure and I will have to embrace it."

That might come if she continues her upward trajectory. Last year she played in her first WTA final (Eastbourne), appeared in three semifinals and made the third round at both the US Open and Wimbledon and fourth round at Roland Garros.

Those results helped "prove I can compete with the top players and win".

Flipkens also came to Auckland on the back of her best year on tour highlighted by a semifinal appearance at Wimbledon and US$1.1 million ($1.3 million) in prizemoney.

- APNZ

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