(Reuters) - Having battled and overcome cancer, American Vicky Duval is just happy to grab any time on court she can.
The 20-year-old Haiti-born world number 656 gratefully accepted one unlikely opportunity on Monday at the mixed team Hopman Cup in Perth when world number one Serena Williams was struck down with inflammation of the knee.
As first reserve, Duval was delighted to fill in for her revered compatriot, even if she struggled to a 6-4 6-1 loss to world number 19 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.
The Eastern Europeans won the tie after Alexandr Dolgopolov beat Jack Sock 6-4 6-2 but a beaming Duval recovered to score a rare win by teaming up with Sock to take the doubles 6-2 6-3 and said the experience had been a good one.
“It was amazing. I was kind of nervous because I was filling in big shoes. But I had a really fun time today,” Duval said.
The American is expected to revert back to the sidelines for her country’s next tie on Tuesday night against Australia Gold with Williams’s knee expected to be up to the task.
Duval, previously tutored by legendary coach Nick Bollettieri, has no problem with the role, her perspective on life completely different after she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma ahead of Wimbledon in 2014.
The gutsy American, who reached a career high 87th in the rankings in 2014, somehow overcame the distressing news to make the second round of the grass court championships in London before achieving her most important victory — beating cancer.
“This illness is behind me now. I’m just grateful I went through it really well,” she said of her fight against cancer.
“I have a whole new outlook on life. I really appreciate the time I have out on the court.
“Every opportunity I have I embrace it on a whole new level.
“I’m just really grateful to be back and do what I love. And I’m going to keep pushing until I get the results I want.”
Duval was told she would be playing on Monday only an hour before the match but she showed glimpses of her talent, impressing with a double-handed backhand.
She will be hopeful of more opportunities ahead of the year’s first grand slam, the Australian Open in Melbourne which begins later this month.
“The first set today I thought how I look forward to playing and realized that my level is really good... it’s really encouraging,” she said.
Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; editing by Sudipto Ganguly