Mighty Melanie Moves On
September 5, 2009 -- In her second-ever match on Arthur Ashe Stadium Court, Melanie Oudin upset the 29th seed Maria Sharapova to advance to her first-ever round of sixteen at a Grand Slam. Oudin had beaten the #4 seed Elena Dementieva two days ago on this the largest tennis stage in the world. Seems like the mighty Melanie has nerves of steel, darn good tennis skills, and a love for the game that stokes her high-octane engine.
After the two women split the first two sets, a battle for control pursued in the third. Both women fought bravely; however, neither one could win the fight on their own serve, after Oudin got off to a quick 3/1 lead.
Sharapova saved six break points to get the match back on serve in the fifth game... one that lasted well over ten minutes.
Then the three-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova called for the trainer, a well-seasoned move by the Russian. Every strategy was on the table for the woman who would wrack up a total of 21 double faults by the end of the match. After the medical time out, Sharapova broke the #70 ranked Oudin and evened the set at three-games all.
From that point until the winning cross-court forehand from Oudin, neither woman held serve except the victor Oudin held in the last game of the match. Final score 36 64 75. The third set went sixty-nine minutes.
Oudin had 26 break point chances and converted eight. Whereas, Sharapova had 14 chances to break. She, too, converted eight.
But this match was not won by shady strategies or missed opportunities, however the insanely high number of double faults from Sharapova didn't make her job any easier. Oudin won this match because, as she says, belief. It's written on her pink and yellow shoes just in case she momentarily forgets -- BELIEVE. She fought when down, steadied herself at the optimal time -- at 6/5 in the third -- and, served out the match.
Melanie Oudin has never lost a match on Arthur Ashe Stadium Court. Something Nadal told the world about Roland Garros, after his second title in Paris.
Ironically, a 17-year-old Maria Sharapova stunned the world when she won her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2004. Although Maria towers over the petite Oudin, they have similar spirited competitive natures. They are tenacious to the hilt.
After Oudin's defeat of Dementieva on Thursday, a loss today would have been expected and many predicted Sharapova would stop the Oudin energy from advancing past the third round. However, Oudin proved them wrong. Her victories at this U. S. Open are not flukes. She hasn't won these last two matches because of the full moon or because of cheering fans. Melanie Oudin is an authentic tour tennis player.
She displays great timing on the ball. Her groundstrokes land deep in the court, which pins her opponent to the baseline and allows her to continue to dictate play. Her foot speed makes up for one problem area -- a weak second serve that averaged 79 MPH today. However, her strategic and tactical senses demonstrate an on-court competitive maturity that is well beyond her age and years of competition. She seems to intuitively know when to vary the pace and speed of the ball. When to move her opponent, and when to go for broke. She wasn't successful one hundred percent of the time; however, the risks she took will certainly pay off in the future as she gains more Tour experience. Consistency is her goal. She is more than halfway there.
All But One Qualifier Left in Both Draws
After a brilliant winner from Jesse Witten's racquet sizzled past Novak Djokovic, the Serb turned to his coaches in a nearby box seat. He raised his shoulders and turned his palms heavenward, an incredulous look on his face, like what is going on here... what more can I do?
But just because Novak Djokovic is the #4 seed at this U. S. Open and holds one Grand Slam title from the Australian Open doesn't preclude him from defeat by a virtually unknown Jesse Witten, a player ranked #276 and granted a wildcard into the Qualification Tournament. The difficulty of the match, though, again confirmed to players and fans alike that the thin edge a victory rides on extends out until the very last ball is struck.
Jesse Witten lost his third round match to Djokovic 76 (2) 63 76 (2) 64 in just under four hours. This match was his sixth of the tournament. He was tired toward the end and his movement sluggish. However, he won more points off his second serve than did Djokovic and broke more often than Djokovic broke, too.
Before this U. S. Open Jesse Witten had never won a match at the Tour level. His arena has been the Challenger Circuit, which he returns to in the near future. He also plays World Team Tennis alongside a frequent teammate John McEnroe for the New York Sportimes.
Witten thrilled fans on Louis Armstrong Stadium this afternoon in Flushing Meadows. The atmosphere vibrated with energy and felt similar to a Davis Cup Match. An underdog, like Melanie Oudin was an underdog against Sharapova, is a natural draw for sport fans... especially if the person is an American. Underdogs evoke empathy and fans oblige the sentiment by allowing the players to take risks, go for their shots, and give the big-named stars a tussle.
Another third-round qualifier Marco Chiudinelli saw his run at the Open come to an end today against the eighth seed Nikolay Davydenko 64 75 75 on Court 11. Why Davydenko was assigned this outside court and not the Grandstand Court seems implausible; but, the eighth seeded Russian would probably prefer to advance through the draw without the spotlight spoiling his view into next week.
Anastasia Rodionova, another qualifier who hails from Australia, lost her match today, too, against Katarina Bondarenko 76 (4) 64. Rodionova is a fine doubles player who would like to expand her portfolio in the singles category. She has won two doubles titles on the ITF circuit and was a finalist at Wimbledon in 2003 with partner Rajeev Ram. Katarina Bondarenko defeated Ana Ivanovic (#11 seed) in her first match of the Open. Bondarenko also beat Venus Williams in her first round match at the year's Rogers Cup in Toronto.