If you haven't heard, Melanie Oudin, who turns 18 later this month, defeated No. 4 seed and the tennis pundits' US Open favorite Elena Dementieva this afternoon 5-7, 6-4, 6-3. Chris Fowler of ESPN2 pronounced it the match that gave the Open some excitement after four days of rather uninspired tennis, especially on the women's side. Oudin used her speed, intelligence and determination to snatch the match back from the Russian, who had won the Olympus US Open Series for her play on the hard court circuit this summer.
The usopen.org live streaming (with Sam Gore and USTA National coach Kathy Rinaldi doing commentary) allowed me to watch the match from the beginning, and it didn't start out well for Oudin, who made a slew of unforced errors before finally finding her form midway through the first set. She lost it 7-5, but she nursed an early break in the second set to the point where she was serving for it at 5-3, but was broken at love. Fortunately for Oudin, Dementieva is far from threatening on her own serve, and Oudin was able to break for the second set. She went up 2-0 in the third set, lost it, and at 2-1 had a trainer out to re-tape her left thigh, which was bandaged when she took the court. A few tears emerged in the next game, but she continued, and later she told ESPN2 that she thought nerves may have contributed to what she described as cramping. She had treatment at the next changeover as well, up a break at 3-2, and seemed to be moving fine as she extended her lead to 5-2. At that moment, the upset seemed possible, even when Dementieva finally held. Serving for the match, Oudin took a 40-0 lead, but Dementieva won the next two points. In her win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Tuesday, Oudin had needed several match points to finish the job, in a much less pressurized situation, but surprisingly, it was Oudin's serve that got it done. She hit an ace to end it Tuesday, and a service winner to end it today, a day that the Wall Street Journal called "her last day of anonymity."
Unlike Jelena Jankovic, who was something less than gracious after her third round loss to Oudin at Wimbledon, Dementieva had several compliments for the teenager, which can be found in this story on the New York Times website. The Straight Sets blog also has other angles on her win from John Martin, Chris Clarey and Jeffrey Marcus.
For Greg Garber's story on the match, see espn.com. And Tom Perotta, at tennis.com, explains (some of the commenters here might want to take note) how many of those looking for the next big thing in U.S. tennis (and he includes himself) overlooked her talent.
Oudin will play on Saturday, and her opponent will be the winner of tonight's match between Christina McHale and Maria Sharapova. McHale certainly will enter the stadium inspired by Oudin's accomplishment. I'll be watching on TV and will be commenting on twitter.
McHale leads off my August Aces post, now up at the Tennis Recruiting Network. She's got a good start on being a September ace too. The US Open Junior Championship preview will be up Friday morning. Qualifying draws and order of play for Friday is here.
There is some sad news in the junior tennis world. John Stephens, former New England Patriot running back and the father of Sloane Stephens, was killed in an automobile accident in Louisiana Tuesday. The Boston Globe had this obituary.
Thursday, September 3, 2009