And so it’s no longer Venus and Serena and nobody for the U.S.
Well, she was Little Miss Nobody prior to the 6th day of Wimbledon when Melanie Oudin knocked off ex-No. 1 (current No. 6) Jelena Jankovic as the grass sizzled on another hot day – and so did she.
A year ago Melanie lost in the second round of the juniors. This year she dodged 2 match points in the opening round of the qualifying tournament, slipping through with her No. 124 ranking and into the main draw. There she stopped No. 26 Sybille Bammer, No. 74 Yaroslava Shvedova, then Jankovic, 6-7 (8-10), 7-5, 6-2.
Melanie, who comes from Marietta, Georgia, is in the sweet 16 where the sweetest number is 17 – her age. She is the youngest American girl to go so far since 14-year-old Jennifer Capriati in 1990. Next up, the peppy Pole, Aggie Radwanska, No. 11.
“It was my goal to qualify,” says Oudin in her Georgia accent. “That was huge. But I wasn’t planning to do this. I’m so thrilled.” Her excitement overflowed like her blonde tresses, reaching below her shoulders when she doesn’t have it bundled up, at play, beneath a visor.
But her composure was phenomenal, though she blew 4 set points to lose the tie-breaker, and was 2 points from defeat in the second set. She wasn’t jarred. ”I went out there, and was just thinking that she [Jelena] was any other player and this was any other match – not like on the biggest stage at Wimbledon, playing my first Top Ten player. I think I handled it well today.”
Better than well.
It was the kind of day she’s dreamed of since she was 12 and visited the U.S. Open with her parents. ”I knew then that I wanted to be a pro. When I was 7 and my grandmother started me playing tennis I first saw the game on TV, first saw the Williams sisters. I learned a lot from watching them. They were so competitive.”
But her heroine is Justine Henin. ”I’m short – 5-6 – and so is she. She made me believe that you didn’t have to be a muscular 6-footer to be a champion.
Melanie is a twin. Her sister attends public high school while Melanie has been home-schooled since the 7th grade so that she could spend more time following her dream. Jankovic, finalist to Sister Serena at the 2008 U.S. Open, wasn’t feeling well. She said of Oudin, “She made me run and hit a lot of balls every point, and I couldn’t do it. I was exhausted in the 3rd set. She was running balls down, but she doesn’t have any weapons.”
Nevertheless, the miniscule maiden of Marietta was a winner, author of a monumental upset. Furthermore she had the demons on her side. Her victory was achieved on the infamous, intimate Graveyard Court where such luminaries as Sampras, Serena, Kafelnikov, Agassi have been ambushed by lesser characters.
It was her day when Melanie was a sweet melody.