Young Americans Shine At US Open

NEW YORK – Upsets come in all sizes at the US Open, especially in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday. And they came wrapped in the red, white and blue of the American flag.

First, little Melanie Oudin surprised former champion Maria Sharapova in a third-round women’s match 3-6 6-4 7-5.

Melanie Oudin

Melanie Oudin

“I learned once again, proved to myself that I can compete with these top girls,” said the 17-year-old from Marietta, Georgia. “And if I believe in myself and my game, that I can beat them.”

That match was immediately followed by another huge upset as giant John Isner bounced fifth-seeded Andy Roddick in an all-American battle 7-6 (3) 6-3 3-6 5-7 7-6 (5) to advance to the fourth round..

“It’s obviously, hands down, the biggest win of my career,” said Isner, a 6-foot-9 (206 m) right-hander from Greensboro, North Carolina. “Nothing even compares. To do it at the stage I did it on is pretty spectacular. Maybe it will sink in a little bit more tomorrow.

“But I know I can really do some damage here. So I’m not satisfied just yet.”

Oudin is the youngest American woman to reach the third round at the US Open since Serena
Williams did it in 1999. That was the year Serena won her first Grand Slam tournament title. And in Sharapova, Oudin was facing the 2006 US Open winner. But Sharapova is coming off shoulder surgery and was idled for 10 months before returning to the women’s tour earlier this summer.

The teen-ager controlled the action against Sharapova, keeping the ball in play until the Russian made an error or was out of position. And every time Oudin hit a winner or earned a point, the packed stadium would erupt in cheers.

“I think that’s expected, considering she’s an American, up-and-coming, obviously having a good win and winning two rounds,” Sharapova said. “So it’s totally expected for the crowd to be with her.”

But it wasn’t the crowd that carried Oudin into the fourth round at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

“Got to hand it to her,” Sharapova said. “She really stuck to her game plan. She played solid. She made me hit a lot of balls.”

In all, Sharapova committed 63 unforced errors, 19 more than Oudin. And the Russian had 21 double faults, several coming at key moments.

“I thought she played really well,” Sharapova said of her much smaller foe – there is an 8-inch difference in their height, Sharapova at 6-foot-2 (188 m), Oudin is 5-6 (158 m). “I thought she has many weapons. You know, she certainly held her ground.”

Saturday’s victory means Oudin matches her Wimbledon success, where as a qualifier she also reached the fourth round. Ranked 70th in the world, she earned a direct entry into America’s premier tennis event.

Sharapova was her second straight win over a highly seeded Russian. In the second round, Oudin upset fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva.

Her next opponent will be yet another Russian, 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova, who beat China’s Zheng Jie 6-4 6-1.

“I haven’t watched Petrova that much,” Oudin said. “She plays similar to a lot of the girls I played so far.”

If Oudin’s victory caused the crowd to cheer, the fans went absolutely bonkers in the next match, which pitted Isner against the heavily favored Roddick.

Roddick has the fastest serve in tennis. Isner’s booming serves come from out of the sky, much like thunderbolts.

“There’s a lot that’s out of your hands with the way he plays,” Roddick said. “I said it before: You can’t really teach 6-9, especially coming down on a serve. You try to fight it off as much as you can. Sometimes you can, and sometimes it’s completely out of your hands.”

Isner finished with 38 aces, but he made 32 more unforced errors than Roddick and won seven fewer points.

Roddick lost serve just once and broke Isner twice. But it came down to the tiebreaks, and the way Isner, a four-time All-American at the University of Georgia, played. He never went for too much, took pace off the ball and made Roddick hit just one more shot.

“I never panicked,” Isner said. “If I lose that match, I have nothing to hang my head about. Played well. Maybe a little bit more the pressure’s on him. He’s expected to do so well here. Nobody expected me to win.”

But he did, and now Isner is in the fourth round where he will next face Spain’s Fernando Verdasco, a 3-6 7-5 7-6 (8) 1-6 6-4 survivor over Germany’s Tommy Haas.

Other men’s singles winners in the day session included top-seeded Roger Federer, No. 4 Novak Djokovic, No. 8 Nikolay Davydenko, No.12 Robin Soderling and No. 15 Radek Stepanek.

Advancing in the women’s singles besides Oudin and Petrova were No. 6 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 9 Carolina Wozniacki, Gisela Dulko, Kateryna Bondarenko and Yanina Wickmayer.