©Colette Lewis 2008--
Rancho Mirage, CA--
The last time that Melanie Oudin reached two consecutive major junior tournament finals, she lost the second one. After winning the Eddie Herr last December, she lost in the finals of the Orange Bowl the following week. At this week's Easter Bowl, coming off a title at the ITF Grade 1 in Carson, Oudin finished another grueling stretch of play with a win.
On a scorchingly hot afternoon at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort, down a set to Lauren Embree, Oudin fought back for a 6-7(1), 6-1, 6-3 win, her 12th victory in the past 13 days.
Embree, a 17-year-old from Marco Island, Fla., was determined to avoid a repeat of their last meeting, in the finals of the Spring Nationals in Mobile last year, when she failed to win a game from Oudin.
Her strategy, to keep Oudin from getting a comfortable rhythm in ground stroke rallies, worked perfectly in the first set.
"I had a game plan coming into it," said Embree. "Last time I didn't really know what to do. She likes pace, so I mixed it up. I tried not to give her too many out wide because she's really good on the run."
Embree hit many a high looping shot up the middle, and Oudin admitted that she knew she was in for a long day from the outset.
"From the beginning I knew it was going to be different," Oudin said. "I knew I played really, really well last time, and when we started off today, I was making some errors, and I could tell it wasn't going to be that perfect day like it was last time. She was playing well and not missing, so I knew it was going to be tough."
Embree served for the opening set twice--at 5-4 and 6-5--but wasn't able to hold. It wasn't long before she took control of the tiebreaker, however, with Oudin describing her error-strewn performance there as "horrible."
The sweltering heat--temperatures were in the low 90s in the shade and much hotter on the court--seemed to take a toll on Embree in the second set, and she quickly fell behind 5-0. But she refused to relinquish the set to conserve energy, and kept battling, despite a wealth of double faults.
Due to the extreme heat, the players received a 10-minute break after the split, with no coaching allowed during that time. But Oudin was glad to get a chance to collect her thoughts and find a shady spot to relax before returning for the final set.
It started off well for her, and again she took a big lead at 5-1, but the 16-year-old from Marietta wasn't able to finish it there. A break and a hold by Embree brought it back to 5-3, but when Oudin got her second chance to finish, her serve came through. She hit two aces, and on championship point, rolled a ball deep and finished with a volley at the net to capture her fifth Grade 1 since September.
After a plunge in the pool with friend Alex Anghelescu, to both cool off and celebrate, Oudin had another celebration in mind.
"I really want to have an ice cream or some kind of dessert," said Oudin, who is scheduled to compete in the $75,000 Pro Circuit event in Dothan, Ala. the week of the 21st. "I've been extremely good about not eating anything bad, so I'm definitely going to have dessert."
And savor the sweetness of joining Sam Querrey as the only back-to-back Carson/Easter Bowl winners since the former was established four years ago.
The girls 18s doubles championship was also decided on Saturday, with top seeds Mallory Burdette and Sloane Stephens defeating the No. 2 seeded team of Shinann Featherston and Lauren McHale 6-4, 6-3.
In boys 18s semifinal action, No. 4 seed Chase Buchanan downed No. 16 seed Frank Carleton 6-3, 6-4, while No. 13 seed Alex Llompart of Puerto Rico upset No. 3 seed Tennys Sandgren 7-6(4), 7-6(4).
For complete draws in the 18s, see the TennisLink site.
Saturday, April 12, 2008