INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - Christina McHale and Jamie Hampton showed how bright the future of American tennis is on Friday afternoon, both beating very tough opponents to reach the third round of the BNP Paribas Open.
The 22-year-old Hampton was the first to advance, scoring a 64 63 upset over No.12 seed Jelena Jankovic. Hampton, a wildcard into the draw, had recorded her career-best win in the first round against World No.38 Polona Hercog, but bettered that against the No.14-ranked Jankovic, a former World No.1 and, perhaps more relevantly, the 2010 champion right here in Indian Wells.
"I was pretty nervous before the match. I didn't really know what to expect," Hampton commented. "I think the fact I got a match under my belt here the round before helped me a lot. Earlier this year in Australia I didn't have that opportunity, and Maria Sharapova came out and wiped the court with me.
"When you play somebody like Maria or a top player, you feel the pressure of them. In Australia I backed up. I'm very proud that I didn't today."
Jankovic was coming off back-to-back semifinals the last two weeks in Dubai and Kuala Lumpur, but couldn't keep it going a third tournament in a row.
"It was just a bad day of tennis for me," Jankovic said. "I just didn't feel the ball. My legs felt really heavy on the court and I was moving very badly out there. Hampton played solid - she was playing very well, but I was a shadow of myself. I guess it's one of those days you just come on the court and the legs don't go, the reactions are not there. I tried my best, but it just didn't work today.
"But credit to Hampton. She did what she had to do. She took advantage."
McHale followed Hampton into the next round 13 minutes later, completing a tighter 63 75 victory over Elena Vesnina. The No.32-seeded McHale served for the match at 63 54 but lost serve, then served it out two games later.
McHale is the first American to be seeded at Indian Wells since 2008, when Lindsay Davenport was No.24 - but she says it doesn't change a thing.
"It was nice to get a bye in the first round, but my mentality is the same," the 19-year-old McHale commented. "It's the first time, so it's weird seeing a number next to my name, but it doesn't change my mentality at all."
Two more young Americans, Vania King and Sloane Stephens, played later on Day 3. Another young American who isn't in the draw is Melanie Oudin, a quarterfinalist at the 2009 US Open but now struggling with her form - Hampton was asked in her press conference whether Oudin would turn things around.
"I think she'll turn it around. She has the capability to do it," Hampton said confidently. "Mel's a good friend. I support her in whatever she does."