The only unfortunate thing about the Cinderella of the U.S. Open, Melanie Oudin, is that her next opponent will not be from Russia. The wide-smiling 17-year old from Georgia (the American state, not the country) has stolen the hearts of U.S. tennis fans more-so than any countrymate since a then-17-year-old Serena Williams won the tournament over Martina Hingis in 1999.
Oudin (pronounced EW-den) has knocked off four Russians en route to her quarter-final appearance against ninth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark. Say good-bye to a three-time Grand Slam winner and former No. 1 (No. 29-seed Sharapova), the reining Olympic gold medalist and Rogers Cup champion (No. 4 Elena Dementieva), as well as a former world No. 3 (No. 13-seed Nadia Petrova). Say hello to the most recent teenage sensation.
Interestingly, Oudin has won her last three matches after dropping the first set. Her made-for-Hollywood shoes have the inscription BELIEVE, and that’s exactly what she has made out of the crowds at Flushing Meadows. Through the first eight days at the U.S. Open, Oudin has been a bigger story than even Federer’s quest for a sixth straight win in New York. It’s funny what reaction a young American does for the local press.
Oudin’s notoriety came just a couple of months ago in Jolly ‘Ol England. She reached the fourth-round of a Grand Slam for the first time at Wimbledon (as qualifier, defeated No.29 seed Bammer and No.6 seed Jankovic en route). Afterwards, she made her Top 100 debut and entered the final Grand Slam of the year at No. 70. She will soar to Top 45 most likely when the U.S. Open is over. Not bad for a woman who claimed the Quebec City Challenger quarter-final appearance as one of her best accomplishments. The big wins for Oudin at Wimbledon proves that the kid might not be just a flash in the pan.
At the beginning of the 2009 U.S. Open there were 15 Russian women in the main draw. Heading into the Final 8 of the tournament, there are no Russians left – and they have Melanie Oudin to thank for more than a quarter of the fatalities. Whether the American teenager goes down Wednesday or keeps the dream alive, she has been the lead story in the Big Apple.