The Melanie Oudin bandwagon was getting awfully crowded. We called her an instant star…a week ago. The CBS Evening News did a profile titled, “The Future of American Tennis?” Good Morning America did a profile on her. As did NBC. It was inevitable, at some point, that this would come crashing down.
So, Melanie Oudin lost tonight 6-2, 6-2, in a match that wasn’t actually as lopsided as the score would suggest. Well, the first set was a blowout, but the second set took 51 minutes to play. It was tight. There were lots of deuces. When Oudin failed to break the Dane Caroline Wozniacki in the fifth game of the second set, it basically all came undone.
It didn’t help that the crowd was barely a factor in this match. Because the Djokovic-Verdasco match went late, it took a long time to bring 23,000 into Ashe. When tonight’s match started, there were probably no more than 5,000 people inside the stadium. By time everyone did sit down, Oudin was getting blown away in the first set, and that seemed to suck the air out of the place. After Wozniacki held at 3-2 in the second set, it almost felt like a match on Court 7 during the first week. The loudest noise were the planes overhead.
Unlike Dementieva, Sharapova and Petrova, Wozniacki came pretty close to playing mistake-free tennis. She also ripped a page out of the Brad Gilbert playbook: She played ugly, and it worked. We had forgotten the moonball existed! But she went back to it time and again, and it kept Oudin off her game.
Nevertheless, what a run for Oudin. It was the first time since Venus Williams ripped through this tournament to make it to the finals in 1997 that we’ve seen a player absolutely dominate all the attention at the U.S. Open. She almost made you forget that Roger Federer would be playing after her.
Unless we have some unbelievable, instant-classic final on the men’s or women’s side–or Clijsters somehow knocks off Serena and wins this thing–this will be remembered as Oudin’s U.S. Open.