Georgia Qualifier Oudin Finds Zone and Place in Round of Sixteen
April 15, 2009 -- Ten minutes into her match Melanie Oudin had broken the #9 seed Aleksandra Wozniak once and had won a game at love. The American qualifier was on a mission: to win.
But as most matches go with hot stars such as Wozniak across the net, that had finished second last week at Ponte Verde Beach, she came back and leveled the set 4-all. But "Mel," as her friends call her, wasn't nearly done. She reinstated herself with another break, got the upper hand at 6/5, and closed the set 7/5 to the thrill of Charleston fans.
"I had a 4/2 lead and got down 5/4," Melanie said. "And then I actually called my coach, and he didn't really say anything. He just calmed me down. I knew I was right there with her, but yeah, it was a big game for me to hold to make it 5/5 and then I didn't lost another game."
A spunky fighter, Oudin kept up her barrage to start the second set with another break. She used drop shots to pull in Wozniak then whizzed passing shots down the line or crosscourt with plenty of topspin to keep them out of Wozniak's reach. And keeping balls away from the tall Canadian attested that Mel who is, well, maybe five-foot-four inches tall had delved deep inside and reached an intuitive cache of shots, mental acuity, and conviction.
The tenacious qualifier set herself apart from her opponent with brilliant returns of serve, too. She won 15/34 on first return points and 15/27 on second return points, pressuring Wozniak to come up with something better than 80-90 mph serves.
"Well, I've always been a pretty good returner," the Georgia native said, so excited she almost lifted off her chair. "I mean I'm pretty confident in my return of serve, but today I was like seeing the ball somehow. It was like a baseball to me... it was like a basketball."
Oudin's trademark "come on," grew louder and louder as the ball grew bigger and bigger in her mind. She cracked several service returns cross-court for winners, leaving Wozniak flatfooted with shoulders slumped -- not a recommended body posture in competition. Oudin hit out like a champ and hung in the longer rallies, too, sending the Canadian home in straight sets 7/5 6/0.
"Every time I hit it totally clean, and it went exactly where I wanted it to go," she added. "So it was just a good day."
This was Oudin's fourth round of the 2009 Family Circle Cup, having played two rounds of qualification before main draw action started. But her adrenalin and spirit remain high.
"I feel pretty good," she said, confidently. "I think I'm in pretty good shape, so I'm not too worried about the physical part of it at all. I think I'm going to practice a little bit later, too."
Practice makes perfect and Melanie Oudin's time on court and in the gym rewarded her with a call today from Fed Cup officials. They asked her to play in the April 25-26 tie in the Czech Republic.
"I just got invited to play in Prague," she said, proudly. "So I have to leave Monday to go there."
Shenay Perry was the only other remaining American qualifier left in the main singles draw. Her fourth head-to-head with American Varvara Lepchenko ended dismally, too, with another loss. She is now 0-4 with Lepchenko, a gritty lefty with severe grips on serves, forehands and backhands. Her ultra-spin balls dictated, leaving a normally aggressive Perry to continually defend, which is not her game. Score 6/2 6/3.
The shot of the day, though, was Shenay Perry's. After several rallies, she scrambled deep to the backcourt and hit a tweener on the run for a cross-court winner, and a standing ovation. She deserved it! Such athleticism shouldn't go unmentioned.
But all was not lost for Perry. She and doubles partner Alexa Glatch came from behind later this afternoon, on the same court Perry suffered her singles loss, to put out the lights for Alona Bonderanko and Anastasia Rodionova, 26 64 (7). The wildcard team of Perry and Glatch had lots of fan support in their victory, showing once again the overwhelming love of doubles in American tennis.
The difference in matches between top twenty WTA players is slight. Hit a couple errant forehands, send one too many serves into the wheelhouse of your opponent, and voila... you've jeopardized your ranking. The swing up and down the list could make any player dizzy.
However, the difference between a top-ten player who has won five Wimbledon titles -- Venus Williams -- and a player ranked 100 -- Sonia Mirza -- is remarkable, even if Mirza fired off multiple forehand winners and hinted that she might steal the "W." But Venus Williams doesn't mess around.
After splitting the first two sets, neither player held serve until the fifth game of the third. Venus bit down hard then and didn't let go, running off four games in a row as she crossed the finish line: 61 36 62.
"I have a lot of experience, so I definitely rely on that," Williams began, when asked how she won. "And, I've been in these situations before and I've come through."
Venus mentioned in her press conference that's "it's always fun out there..." and that "these kind of matches are great to pull out."
You'd expect this super star to return to tournaments time after time after time for something other than "fun," but she meant more.
"I love what I do, and while I'm here and while I have the opportunity and the talent and the strength and the blessings, I want to give 100 percent," she said, thoughtfully. "I could never hang it up knowing that I have a ton left in me, so I'm going to go for it until it's over."
For tennis fans and tennis in general, these words are encouraging.
Tonight's feature match saw Caroline Wozniacki, seeded 5th, against Alla Kudryavtseva. Both players stumbled around for the first three or four games, each marked by long rallies where neither stepped in to take a point. Another game went 8 deuces until Wozniacki put an end to the silliness and held. After that, she ran off the remainder of the set like a store clerk checking out groceries... Click... Clack.... Click.
If Caroline hadn't set the standard then, this match could have been one of the longest on record. Why??? They played exactly the same style -- aggressive baseline tennis. Their strengths were groundstrokes, anticipation, and foot speed. Unfortunately for Alla, she had no plan B, which said little for her repertoire and potential growth in the game. Obviously she wasn't going to get past Caroline at her A game. What's the saying... Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity.
Alla took the poison and died a quick death, as Wozniacki broke in the ninth game to win 63 63.
"I went out there and just wanted to have fun," Caroline said after her match. "She [Alla] started well, I thought. She played a little bit different than I'd expected, so I had to change my tactics. I started to hit all that I could at my serves."
Caroline attributed much of her growth as a player to confidence and better fitness.
"Winning three titles last year and one last week made me believe in myself that can do it," she began. "And, I've been working with Gil Reyes in Las Vegas, and that has just helped me so much. I was just a totally different person when I came out of that gym and have been playing lately. So, a big thanks to him."