FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – She looks like Reese Witherspoon, has the enthusiasm of your kid in a candy story, has the personality of the girl next door.
Yup, Melanie Oudin is a star in the making.
And after her fourth round victory, she is the shining light of the 2009 US Open.
But if you ask her, fame doesn’t matter. In fact, all these victory hasn’t changed the 17 year-old. She’s still just a normal kid.
“It’s not hard for me,” Oudin said. “I’ve always been like this. So just because all of this is happening, it’s not like I’m going to change the person. I just love to play tennis and I’m doing well and I’m winning. That’s the only thing that’s changing.”
Her smile is so refreshing. In a sport filled with self-absorbed personalities, Oudin is the breath of fresh air. Serena Williams can be prickly when her game is not up to snuff and Maria Sharapova has become more and more a narcissist. Even Venus Williams, who always has been very nice, doesn’t have the same youthful exuberance of 10 years ago.
No, that goes to Oudin, who plays each match like she just won the US Open. Some may say that she is showing up her opponent, but her cheering is natural and something that comes out because frankly she’s never done it before.
We all have dreams, and Oudin’s is to be a star tennis player. With her four victories in the past week, she’s become that and now has to look ahead when the competition will get just a little harder.
But she believes in herself and keeps the word “Believe” on her purple and yellow sneakers. It’s that motto that drives her and the reason why she is still playing in Flushing.
“Going into the tournament,” she said, “I did believe that I could compete with these girls, but it was just figuring out a way to win in these tough matches and these pressure situations actually coming through and winning.
“So now, even if I get a set down, I still, like, believe in myself and my game. I know that if I fight as hard as I can, do the best I can, hopefully I can do it.”
Oudin’s charm is matched by her skill. She is not the biggest player in the world, nor is she the hardest hitter. But she may be the most fearless. As her back gets against the wall, this young lady comes out swinging. In each of her matches this week, Oudin dropped the first set, only to fight back.
“I don’t actually mean to lose the first set,” Oudin said. “I sometimes just start off slowly, I guess. Maybe I’m a little nervous and all this stuff.
“I think it does help me because I’ve been in that situation many times of losing the first set and being able to come back and win. Because I do well with forgetting about the first one and starting over like it’s a totally new match, so I forgot about the first set, and I’m just going to start off and my mind is going to be just on what’s happening right then.”
She is so impressive that the stars are taking notice. Venus and Serena Williams both said some nice things abut her yesterday and the Swiss Master, Roger Federer gave her props today after his straight-set win over Tommy Robredo.
“She’s beaten great players on the way now,” Federer said. “I think it’s kind of nice someone is coming up that we haven’t heard of, because so many of the women are known. I think it’s very exciting and very needed on the woman’s side.
“I haven’t seen all her matches, but the quality of players she’s beat is fantastic. Today, the way she fought and stayed with [Nadia] Petrova was very nice to say.”
No one knows if Oudin will last past the Quarterfinals, but it’s conceivable that she can advance to the finals, because of all the upsets in her bracket.
Mainly though thanks to her own work, by taking out Elena Dementieva, Sharapova and Petrova, Oudin has cleared the way for her own path to the finals.
Yet even if she doesn’t, it’s safe to say Oudin has become a star already and in 2009, she’s become the shining beacon of the Open.