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Thursday, September 3, 2009

August Aces: Oudin Energizes US Open with Upset

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.


Eric Amend said...

Jon King, Atlanta Amy, J, and all the other people who want(ed) to deny/ignore/discount the credit Melanie Oudin deserves for the outstanding year she has had up until this point.

When you post your thoughts about players and their style of game, you MUST specifically state that your topic of discussion is about the next hope for an American Grand Slam Champion because it isn't understood that your comments are in that context unless otherwise stated by you. And for the record Jon, they were not stated in that context, and it makes all of you sound as if you are ignorantly trashing a player while making it increasingly obviously that you don't understand what you are talking about.

I'm not going to sit here and say that I called Melanie's victory over Dementieva before it happened, because I didn't, or that I think that Melanie Oudin is going to win a Grand Slam or make it into the Top 10, more power to her if she does, but because of her performance over the past 9 months, she is, and has been, trending upward. She qualified for the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and three other summer Tour events, which isn't easy, had credible wins in BIG time situations, and saved the U.S. Fed Cup Team when Venus and Serena were unwilling to play, so, you're refusal to acknowledge her as a legitimate player after that “body of work” is a reflection on your inability to judge players and their potential.

Now, we look back at what you naysayers liked to call lucky wins, ones that you thought Jankovic and Pavlychenkova played poorly and lost the match instead of Melanie winning the match, and conclude that Melanie has demonstrated that her big wins are NOT a fluke because they are becoming a trend in multiple tournaments over a significant period of time and today's win just reinforced that fact.

Having said that, I'm going to take this rather gratuitous opportunity to "slap the back of a few hands."

Atlanta Amy's quote was "A dose of reality here. Oudin and her first round opponent are the same age. They are 2 months apart. Pavlyuchenkova has a much better body of work and is the much better player."

I'm going to go out on a limb here (sarcasm) and say that I highly doubt that Pavlyuchenkova has yet to garner two wins over Top 10 players in the two biggest Grand Slam tournaments of the year. So, in my estimation, Pavlyuchenkova's "body of work" isn't as good as Melanie's and she isn't a "much better player" otherwise she would have beaten Melanie the other day. How about that for a dose of reality, Amy??

Jon King has numerous quotes but I'll just pick out a few. On his August 31st post, he said "And no offense to Oudin, I have seen her play several times. In my opinion she just doesn't have much size or speed or weapons compared to the very elite players, and won't ever break the top 40. She caught Jankovic on a very, very bad day."

Melanie's win over Dementieva was her second over an "elite player" ranked in the Top 10 but I'm guessing that Jon is just chalking that win up to a "very, very bad day" for Dementieva just as it must have been for Jankovic and Pavlyunchekova.

Also, on that same August 31st post, Jon said Melanie would NEVER break into the Top 40 YET on his September 2nd post he changed his prediction to Melanie "not making the Top 20" fearing that he might be proven wrong sometime soon. So, which is it Jon?? Because if Melanie keeps going at this pace, she'll be Top 40 by the end of THIS week!! Maybe, if Melanie can keep this up, I'll "alert you when Oudin is in the Top 20" after next week which doesn't classify her as "a player winning here or there" as you mistakenly said earlier!!

Jon, Melanie is 17 now, she was 17 at Wimbledon, and she was 17 during Fed Cup in February!! You stating that “she's 18 in two weeks, a totally mature 18” once again is qualifying and denying her success while you try to save face.

And Jon, I don't take things personally. It's just difficult for me to contain my frustration when reading some of the drivel that people are posting on this blog!!!

steven s said...

First off, my sincere condolences to the family of Sloane Stephens for such a devastating loss.

After hearing such terrible news, talking tennis feels very awkward and difficult, but do have a comment regarding the performance of the two young Americans: I find it interesting that the player with the "weapon" (Mchale)..the huge forehand that jon king talks about...she looked outclassed by the big hitter Sharapova, while Oudin, who Mr King is definitely not the President of her fan club..she of the "no weapons" fights and claws out a win against the big hitter Dementieva.

TechGirl said...


I appreciate your qualifications and desire to silence the critics but I just think you're wasting your breath. Ive been reading ZooT since its inception and the only posters I've seen who seemed to have any idea about tennis were Austin (who still posts here) and AndrewD (whose comments I miss). Sadly only one of them still posts here so you're not left with much more than naysayers and hollow vessels.

Unfortunately because the odds are against everyone who turns pro its so much easier to say that someone wont make it than go out on a limb and say someone will succeed. People opt for the easy route so they criticise. Thats especially true of people who don't know anything about tennis. Without the intelligence or knowledge to make a reasoned prediction they just say player X wont make it and rely on the law of averages.

Knowledge? said...

TechGirl, If those 2 are the only 2 with an idea about tennis then you are showing how little you know. While it is fun to read Austins comments I'm not to sure he knows much. Keeping up with tennis and knowing tennis are 2 different things.

get real said...

at least she looked more hungry to win than McHale. That match was a joke and so was the commentating. Time will tell. I think the US is very desperate.

5.0 Player said...

In addition to many of the new comments defending Melanie Oudin's game and her future, I would also like to object to the false premise that Oudin does not have weapons.

This is simply not true. People who make these comments are either blind or incredibly stubborn or both. How many freaking winners do you need to see Melanie hit before you acknowledge that she can and does often hit a big ball?!!

That was an ace on match point (did you miss it?!!) against Dementieva and she hit numerous other clean forehand and backhand winners against both Dementieva and Jankovic. Did your television lose reception on all of those points/!!

A lot of ignorant people just see that she is only average height and that she is fast and then conclude that she must have no power. I'm getting sick and tired of so many posters on this site who are obsessed with height. Weren't you alive just a couple of years ago when Henin started dominating the women's game with not only finesse and speed, but with power?!

In summary, I agree with those who point out that power isn't everything and those who defend Oudin's variety, speed and heart. However, I object to the false premise that she has no power or weapons because this is simply not the case. Open your the next time you see her play!

J said...

"I think we are bringing in a group of kids from all age groups" said Patrick Mc Enroe. What Patrick didn't say was a group of kids from all "ethnic" background. Not one black girl was chosen by the USTA to train at the USTA center. Isn't that a shame! So let me get you Patrick, there are no black girls out there at this time worth training on taxpayers money! Same ole, same ole!

Jerry said...

To J:
#1. I do not think this is taxpayers' money, USTA funds itself.
#2. I do not think it is 'same ole', last year Addison was there, Vickery (she left on her own to go to Mouratoglou); in Carson there're Stevens and Muhammad.
If anything, most of the players (all younger ones) are of 'ethnic' background, which is a case from year to year.

justthefacts said...

"J"..your "same ole same ole" is so wrong. If anything, their focus on minorities (not just Blacks) has been a bit excessive. Do your research.