Melanie Oudin, a 17-year-old five-foot-six-inch player who rarely cracks 100 m.p.h. on her first serve, looked awfully small standing at the baseline in the biggest tennis stadium in the world this afternoon.
Her opponent was Elena Dementieva, a tall and lanky Russian who is the fourth-ranked player in the world, who hits some of the best ground strokes in tennis and was considered by many tennis-watchers to be the non-Serena favorite to win the Open.
In the biggest win of her career, Oudin blitzed, out-smarted and outplayed Dementieva, winning 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 in a 2-hour, 45-minute match that was by far the most significant in the first four days of tennis here.
Nick Bollettieri told us the road to victory for Oudin today would be to gamble, to go big on her returns, to attack on her second serves. Oudin gambled big-time, and the plan worked perfectly. She completely dictated the match. She had 30 winners compared to Dementieva’s 22. She broke Dementieva’s serve seven times. Oudin had an answer for every one of her opponent’s perfect forehands and backhands. She hit the angles, she played smart.
(And we can safely dispatch those comparisons to Amy Frazier!)
“I don’t even know what to say right now,” she said after the match, with a high-pitched 17-year-old voice in an on-court interview. “I’m so excited, you have no idea!”
Suddenly, with the reemergence of Kim Clijsters and the rise of Melanie Oudin, there’s a ray of sunshine for women’s tennis. And remember how Kim Clijsters was bemoaning the lack of artists in women’s tennis?
Here’s an answer, maybe.