This time it only took two hours and thirty minutes. Thank God! This time it seemed impossible until it became inevitable. Of course, it was her fourth Russian opponent, another 5’11” 150 pound monster server, who has more aces than any other player in the U.S. Open, who succumbed to the Oudin magic. This time, it seemed even more unlikely than in the previous three matches.
First year professional and high school senior, Ms. Melanie Oudin did Marietta Georgia, the United States of America and the U.S. Open proud. Yes, she did! She again hoisted the dream-come-true all-American image on her very fleet feet and ran to the finish line, well ahead of the hare who sprinted to another early lead.
In extending her 2009 three set match record to a stunning 17-4, Melanie Oudin continues to teach us about valor, determination, dedication and the power of believing. When it comes to positive energy, there is no surpassing the diminutive underdog. And, the Flushing Meadows fans know it.
Make no mistake about it, these Russian heavyweights do not like it one little bit. They keep throwing all corners of gamesmanship at the young attention magnet. But, she resists. Line protest after line protest. Feigned injury timeout after feigned injury timeout and bathroom timeout after bathroom timeout, Melanie plays on. When it comes to deliberate play, the Russians extend the 20-second continuous play rule well beyond the limit. Heaven forbid someone did that to Nadia Petrova, or Elena Dementieva or Maria Sharapova. That would be bad. Against Melanie Oudin, it seems acceptable.
After all, today’s women professional tennis players are not supposed to have to hit 17, 18 and 20 shots per point. Please, give them a break!
Nadia Petrova has enormous physical stature and tennis potential. She always has. She was once ranked the third best professional on the tour. She is now number 13, apparently an unlucky number against a Georgia Peach! Nadia Petrova has won more than $7 million on tour. She is a power player with 27 aces in this event alone.
Just the same, she is on the sidelines, or packing for the long trip home. Like the other Russian hot shots before her, Petrova is probably wondering what the heck happened.
Nadia Petrova dominated little Melanie Oudin in the first set. Oudin broke in the first game and then lost her serve three times en route to a 1-6 drubbing. Melanie Oudin appeared outclassed and overpowered. The 23,000 fans at Flushing Meadows seemed stunned, on edge and expecting the worst.
Melanie Oudin appeared headed for the locker room with Nadia serving at 4-3, 40-15 of the second set. It seemed Petrova would finally take her rightful place in the quarterfinals and a bit of order would be restored to the women’s draw. Not so fast.
Oudin ran off five straight points to pull even at 4-4. Uh oh! Here she comes.
At 6-6, Petrova’s big serve gave her a clear edge in a tiebreaker. Or, so it seemed. Not so fast. Melanie rode her fleet feet and sprinted to a 4-0 advantage in the tiebreaker. Here she comes!
The big Russian won two and lost two to arrive at 2-6. One good forehand and the set was over. Who ever thought Melanie Oudin could win that second set? Answer, Nadia Petrova. She had seen this before.
Hold it, not so fast. When the Russians are pressured, they do stuff. Time for a bathroom-pull-yourself together timeout. What is it about the Russians and their bladder, shoulder, leg cramps and slow play issues? Their men do not have these problems. Hey Nadia, while you are in there, see if you can find your pal, Dinara Safina! She will be the other six-footer using a towel to dry her eyes.
Anyway, Melanie broke and held immediately. But she stumbled on serve as Petrova followed a break back with a hold. Petrova had a stern talk with herself. She would now launch an all out offensive. But, to do that, you need legs. You need stamina and you need a very big heart. Suddenly, the legs were heavy. Two hours and thirty minutes of huffing, puffing and stretching against a little dynamo who just wants to play a doubleheader. I mean, really kid. Grow up! Or, don’t.
At 2-2, it became apparent that the longer the points were, the better Oudin’s chances. Inevitably, Petrova would get lazy, and return a ball without purpose. Boom! Point over as another piercing shot passed her lead feet by. Like Sharapova before her, Nadia stopped trying to chase down those winners. She looked flat-footed.
That is just what the counter-puncher wants. Flat feet mean fatigue, mentally and physically. Emotionally the score was 22,998 to 2, Petrova and her coach. When the chips are down, that’s a load.
Ms. Melanie Oudin lost her serve at 5-2 but then, like the lioness that she is, she bullied her way to 0-40 and the handwriting was on the wall. One good backhand drive and it was match over, baby.
Now, what was that Rocky movie where there was an unbeatable Russian boxing zombie? Petrova had that look.
Melanie, a bigger test awaits. And, for sure you will lose the first set, be behind in the second set before rallying. To be honest, I am not sure my heart can take much more. But, don’t change a thing… ever. Women’s tennis fans will thank you for years to come. Sleep tight Munchkin! You deserve it.