Jamie Hampton upset No. 25 Lucie Safarova 7-6, 3-6, 9-7 on Wednesday in the first round of the French Open. Hampton, who rallied after Safarova served for the match at 7-6 in the third set, won her first career match at the French Open and became the 10th American woman to reach the second round.
Hampton, 23, has made two semifinals this year and improved her ranking to a career-high No. 54. She re-aggravated a back injury during a three-set loss to Victoria Azarenka in the third round of the Australian Open in January, but, Hampton said, “I haven’t had any major problems with it since. So it’s positive.”
In a chat with SI.com the other day, Hampton expressed a preference to ban on-court coaching, discussed her tennis nerdom and lamented her piano-playing skills and sense of style.
SI.com: When did you first realize you were good at tennis?
Hampton: Not to be arrogant or anything, but when I started tennis [at age 8] I was pretty good. I picked it up pretty quickly. I had good hand-eye coordination. Anything with my hands I was good at when I was a kid. I played piano, I played all kinds of sports, and the ones I was best at was because of the hand-eye.
SI.com: How long did you play piano?
Hampton: I played for three or four years. I picked it up really quickly, too.
SI.com: Did you play because your parents wanted you to?
Hampton: Yeah. I had to choose between tennis and the other sports and piano, and I chose tennis and I gave up piano. I wish I had stuck with piano just as a hobby. It’s just such a cool skill to have. Unfortunately, I don’t play anymore.
SI.com: You don’t play at all? You don’t have a piano or keyboard?
Hampton: No. I have a piano, but it’s like, I can’t even play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. It’s atrocious.
SI.com: If you could go back and replay one match, which one would it be?
Hampton: I’d like to play Roberta Vinci again in Fed Cup and try to win it for my country. [Hampton lost to Vinci in the opening round of Fed Cup in February, but she beat the Italian veteran at the Brussels Open last week.]
SI.com: Who’s the person you call to see if she’s free for dinner at a tournament?
Hampton: Probably Mel [Melanie Oudin]. Madison [Keys] or Mel. We all hang out and we know each other pretty well.
SI.com: Which player do you go out of your way to watch?
Hampton: [Maria] Sharapova. I believe that she’s extremely professional and there’s so much to learn from her in so many different ways. I have a lot of respect for her.
SI.com: Describe your last meal on earth.
Hampton: Probably a dinner of desserts. Just straight desserts. Chocolate first course, second course, third.
SI.com: Name a guilty pleasure.
SI.com: I’m seeing a theme here.
Hampton: [Laughs] Yeah.
SI.com: Have you ever been mistaken for another player or celebrity?
Hampton: I get mistaken for Vania [King] all the time. I think it’s an Asian thing.
SI.com: If you were the commissioner of tennis, what’s the first thing you’d do?
Hampton: Even though I call my coach out all the time [during WTA matches], I’d get rid of that. Even though I know it’s great for the viewers to hear what the coach has to say, I think that tennis is a unique sport in the sense that the match is a test. When you go out there, you’ve already prepared and everything. You’re on your own. It should be about that, about being mentally tough and not having to have someone come out there and settle you down. You can do it yourself.
SI.com: iPhone or BlackBerry?
Hampton: I have a BlackBerry, but I don’t even care about that thing anymore. I’ve dropped it so many times. I’m going to get an iPhone. I was so loyal to my BlackBerry for so long and I kind of caved in to peer pressure.
SI.com: Would you say you’re a tennis fan? Do you like to actually just sit and watch tennis?
Hampton: I’m a big tennis nerd. The only TV I watch is Tennis Channel or ESPN or whatever the Grand Slams are playing on. I watch matches online, tracking scores and everything. Yeah, I’m nerdy like that.
SI.com: What’s at the top of your bucket list?
Hampton: I hope to pick up another language.
SI.com: Which language do you want to learn?
Hampton: I’m half-Korean and I wish my mom had taught me Korean when I was a kid. She didn’t. She said I was too stubborn and I didn’t want to listen.
SI.com: What’s your favorite candy bar?
Hampton: Twix. Easy. Next.
SI.com: What’s the most embarrassing song on your iPod?
Hampton: It’s Gonna Be Me, ‘N Sync.
SI.com: That’s not even embarrassing!
Hampton: How is that not embarrassing?
SI.com: What’s the biggest perk of being a tennis player?
Hampton: I’m totally blessed to be a tennis player. I get to travel the world and see everything that others may not get an opportunity to see.
SI.com: Who’s the best dresser off the court?
Hampton: Oh, easy. Sloane [Stephens]. Next.
SI.com: Who’s the worst dresser off the court?
Hampton: Me. Next.