Oudin Ousts Petrova; All The American Men Gone
September 7, 2009 -- Melanie Oudin has done it again. She came from one set down to knock out an increasingly annoyed 13th seed Nadia Petrova in three sets. Now the teen sweetheart of American tennis is on her way to her first quarterfinals at her first U. S. Open.
Petrova became the third Russian to fall at the feet of the five-foot-six Oudin, another ironic component of this thrilling story. Elena Dementieva, the first and highest seed (#4) lost to Oudin in the second round. However, many pundits felt that Dementieva herself lost the match when she became defensive. In her press conference, Dementieva praised Oudin's tennis and tenacity.
"I think she's very talented," Dementieva said. "She was in the court and not afraid to play. She was playing very aggressively, really enjoying this atmosphere, you know, the crowd support and really going for the winners. It's just the beginning, but it looks like she has a good future."
In the third round, Oudin repeated her pattern against Maria Sharapova (#29 seed). Down after the first set, Oudin fought her way to the win in three. Fans pumped her up as if she were the last American standing.
"I thought she played really well," Sharapova said. "She has many weapons. She certainly held her ground. I still feel like I had my chances, but I have to hand it to her. She really stuck to her game plan. She made me hit a lot of balls. She moved really well around the court."
After Petrova swept Oudin off her feet 6/1 in the first set of their match, some fans probably nodded to each other acknowledging deep down that her run had to come to an end at some point. Labor Day was as good of a day as any. The folks back home in Marietta, Georgia, would put on a big welcome-home parade complete with pink and yellow shoes worn by members of local marching bands.
But, once again, Oudin's reversal saw fortune in the second set. Down a break, Petrova looked aggressively across the net at her opponent as if to say you are done. But the roars of the crowd fueled Oudin's engines, as she darted around the court and forced the tall Russian to earn her way to victory. Oudin converted two of her three break point chances, enough to dig out of a deficit and force a tiebreak.
Petrova has one of the best serves on the women's side. The motion is smooth and powerful. Powerful servers have the advantage in tiebreaks, usually. With a tiebreak record of 7-3 for the year, Petrova should have won it and the match. But she did not. She double faulted. Returned poorly. She seemed to feed Oudin nicely placed low drives that Oudin ate up like popcorn at a movie.
Petrova could have done more. She could have hit slice groundstrokes, approached the net more, created severe angles, or hit high-bouncing loopy forehands deep in the court. These would have pushed the crowd-favorite back toward the barrier and minimized her shot selection. In the meantime Petrova could have come to net, ready to pick off a volley.
But she did nothing to throw Oudin off rhythm. And Oudin did everything to keep the Russian on the move, off balance, and frustrated.
Petrova wracked up a three-set high of 25 unforced errors in the second set, then another 22 in the third. But what did her in was her mind. She had bounced her racquet on the court a couple times in the second. She didn't put a cap on that volatility. She dragged it into the third set, proving once again that tennis is 90% mental at that level.
Final score for the victorious Oudin: 16 76(2) 63.
She will meet Caroline Wozniacki (#9) in the quarterfinals. Wozniacki is the only seeded player remaining in the top-side of the draw.
Oudin has never played Wozniacki, which makes sense. They will meet on Wednesday in Arthur Ashe Stadium, the only court Oudin knows here and the court where her record reads an impressive 3 out of 3 match wins - 100% successful. Wozniacki has plenty of firepower, experience, variety, and mental strength to defeat Oudin. However, the mysterious outlining tidbits of sport that fling themselves in chaotic directions at opportune times, or inopportune times depending on the perspective, will make the match outcome unpredictable and absolutely exhilarating. With the crowds in back of the American, the challenge will be more intense. But, just as Jimmy Connors has said, "That's what they came for. That's what they want."
The 17-year-old, who is ranked #70 in the world, doesn't seem to entertain any preconceived notions that, well, she could actually lose. She is convinced, and rightfully so, that she can compete "with these girls," as Oudin puts it herself. At the rate she's going Oudin could duplicate Venus Williams' run to the finals of her first U. S. Open in 1997, which she lost to Martina Hingis 60 64. Williams was also 17 years old at the time.
All The American Men Gone
For the first time in the Open Era of tennis, no American male player will take a spot in the U. S. Open quarterfinals. That hope died early this evening as Fernando Verdasco, seeded 10th, defeated American hopeful John Isner in four sets: 46 64 64 64. The crowds were behind Isner and he had his chances. However, Verdasco's fitness level has skyrocketed and his out-wide lefty serve in the deuce court caused Isner problem after problem. He'd dive for the serve, return it, and Verdasco would put away the ball in the open court.
Rounding out the quarterfinal berths on the top half of the men's singles draw are Roger Federer, Robin Soderling, Fernando Verdasco, and Novak Djokovic. Soderling made his way when Nikolay Davydenko retired in their match at the beginning of the fourth set with a muscle strain in this left thigh, as described by the Russian. Federer and Soderling will meet for the first time since the round of sixteen at Wimbledon, where Federer went up 11-0 in their head-to-head match record.
Lots of questions remain about the bottom half of the men's singles draw. All eight players that vie for a spot in the quarterfinals are seeded, the highest being Andy Murray (#2). He has not dropped a set in the tournament. Next is Rafael Nadal (#3). He will play the agile Frenchman Gael Monfils (#13).