Tennis

Hampton becomes 10th US woman in French 2nd round

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PARIS (AP)

For whatever reason, professional tennis player Jamie Hampton finds that people have a lot of trouble remembering her name.

''Everyone calls me `Julie Hamilton.' Julie Hamilton? And you've got Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova,'' Hampton said, referring to a top-20 Russian player, ''but you can't get `Jamie Hampton' right?''

More folks will learn what to call her if Hampton keeps on picking up victories at Grand Slam tournaments, the way she did Wednesday by beating 25th-seeded Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 7-6 (5), 3-6, 9-7 to give the United States 10 women in the French Open's second round for the second consecutive year.

Hampton, a 23-year-old who calls Auburn, Ala., home, earned her first victory at the clay-court tournament after losing in the first round last year.

Her best Grand Slam showing came at the Australian Open in January, when she pushed eventual champion Victoria Azarenka to three sets in the third round while dealing with a lower back problem.

The 10 American women into the second round at Roland Garros in 2012 and 2013 are the most since 11 went at least that far in 2003. As few as four did so in several recent years: 2011, 2009, 2008, 2006 and 2005.

''We're all competitors. A year ago, or a couple years ago, we weren't even in the scene. There wasn't even a group of us,'' said Hampton, who is ranked 54th. ''We've progressed, and I think the whole group will continue to progress. We've all got really good games. We're just trying to find our way on the clay right now.''

That's long been a lament about U.S. players on the slow surface, which dulls big serves and forehands and requires more patience from point to point.

''It's attitude. It's mindset. Some of us accept it. Some of us don't,'' Hampton said. ''The main thing that's the biggest issue is the movement. ... When you get in longer rallies, can you sustain it? Do you have good legs? The points are going to be a few balls longer.''

She is one of two Americans who eliminated seeded players from Europe in the first round this time: Melanie Oudin, a surprise quarterfinalist at the 2009 U.S. Open, defeated No. 28 Tamira Paszek of Austria 6-4, 6-3 on Monday.

Five U.S. women were in second-round action Wednesday, and the two who are seeded won: No. 1 Serena Williams and No. 29 Varvara Lepchenko, who beat Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 7-6 (5), 6-1.

Unseeded Mallory Burdette lost track of the game score at one juncture and lost her match to No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3, 6-2. Also exiting: Madison Keys and Shelby Rogers.

As her match against Safarova pushed deep into the final set, Hampton drew upon confidence she gained by winning three three-setters last week en route to the semifinals on red clay at a tournament in Brussels.

''I have those memories that I can pull from last week and they're very fresh and they're very recent,'' she said.

Safarova praised Hampton's resolve at key moments during their 2 1/2-hour match, and also the American's touch, which led to three winners via drop shots.

''My game has a few more dimensions than other players', so that gives me a few more options, even when clay is not my best surface or it's not my favorite,'' said Hampton, who cut her left knee on a tumble Wednesday. ''If I'm not hitting one shot great, then I can go to Plan B.''

Up next is a second-round match against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, an 18-year-old qualifier from Slovakia who is ranked 150th.

Hampton said she'd like to move her ranking into the top 30 by the end of this year, which would allow her to be seeded at Grand Slam tournaments.

''I'm looking to beat good players, beat top players, and move on in the Slams,'' she said. ''Get deeper in the tournament, for sure.''

In other words, make a name for herself.

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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