russian lessons

Oudin Mastering Russian at US Open

NEW YORK – Yes, it’s the US Open, but Melanie Oudin has used her exciting run to the quarterfinals to master Russian.

The 17-year-old from Marietta, Georgia, played – and beat – four Russians to become the youngest American to reach the women’s singles quarterfinals at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center since Serena Williams in 1999. Williams went on to win her first of three US Open titles that year.

Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki cut off Oudin’s Russian lessons by reaching her first quarterfinal Monday night when she eliminated sixth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 2-6 7-6 (5) 7-6 (3).

Oudin completed her Russian sweep with a 1-6 7-6 (2) 6-3 upset of 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova. She had advanced to the fourth round with victories over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva and Maria Sharapova, the 2006 US Open champion who was seeded 29th this year.

At number nine, Wozniacki is the lone seeded player left in the top half of the draw.

Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium will take on Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine in the other top-half quarterfinal, Wickmayer advanced by whitewashing Argentina’s Gisela Dulko 6-0 6-0 and Wickmayer outlasting Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 4-6 6-4 7-5.

“I don’t think they had weaknesses,” Oudin said of her Russian opponents. “I believe all the matches I’ve played have been really close, and it’s just been – I’ve just been able to pull them out.

“Every single match has been so competitive and so close, and I’ve been able to pull it out in the end.”

Using her quickness to run down the ball and her powerful ground strokes to hit winners or force her opponents into mistakes, Oudin once again dropped the opening set before rallying for victory. So far this year Oudin is 17-4 in matches where she has lost the first set.

“Going into the tournament 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,” she said. “So now, even if I get a set down, I 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.”

The women’s quarterfinals will begin Tuesday when Williams, seeded second this year, takes on No. 10 Flavia Pennetta of Italy and Belgium’s Kim Clijsters, the 2005 champion, continues her comeback when she faces No. 18 Li Na of China.

Oudin made her US Open debut a year ago, losing to Australia’s Jessica Moore – in three sets, naturally. She suffered a first-round loss at the Australian Open in January, then made Wimbledon her coming-out party, shocking Jelena Jankovic on her way to the fourth round on the grass on SW 19.

Prior to her Wimbledon run, Oudin won consecutive USD $50,000 tournaments on the USTA Pro Circuit. She entered the US Open ranked number 70 in the world, making her the third highest ranked American behind sisters Serena and Venus Williams.

Her run on the hard courts in Flushing Meadows has boosted her already high confidence.

“I know that I can compete with the best in the world now, and I will know that forever,” she said.

“I think it’s just mentally I’m staying in there with them the whole time, and I’m not giving up at all. So if they’re going to beat me, they’re going to beat me, because I’m not going to go anywhere.”

For the first time in the Open Era no American will reach the men’s singles quarterfinals. The last American standing, John Isner, was eliminated by 10th-seeded Fernando Verdasco of Spain 4-6 6-4 6-4 6-4.

“I’m a little bit disappointed,” Isner said. “You know, I wanted to go further. But I played pretty well. Maybe I could have played a little bit better, but I just got outplayed today.”

The big-serving Isner eliminated America’s top player, fifth-seeded Andy Roddick, in the third round.

“We got a lot of people to the round of 32,” Isner said of the American contingent. “Then obviously I played Andy, so that assured one of them was going to move on and one was going to stay back. … It’s just unfortunate we couldn’t get that many past that.”
Besides Verdasco, other fourth-round winners in the men’s singles during the day were top-seeded Roger Federer and No. 12 Robin Soderling.