American Oudin limps into U.S. Open spotlight
By Matthew Cronin
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Melanie Oudin's magical run to the quarter-finals of last year's U.S. Open raised expectations for American tennis, but the teen-ager has been a shadow of her former self heading into this year's edition of the tourney.
Last year, the then 17-year-old Oudin came from nowhere to upset ranked Russians Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova, before falling to eventual runner-up Caroline Wozniacki in the quarter-finals.
But since reaching the quarter-finals at the Family Circle Cup in April, the scrappy Oudin has been locked in a slump and has failed to pass the second round in her last nine events.
Currently ranked number 44, Oudin failed in her quest to be seeded at the 2010 U.S. Open, even after earning a seed for the first time at a gland slam at Wimbledon where she fell in the second round to Australia's Jarmila Groth.
Oudin, the third highest ranked American behind Serena and Venus Williams, dismissed talk that she is in a slump and said critics have not given her enough time to build off the success from last year's U.S. Open, which has been credited partly to opponents who were still unfamiliar with her game.
"It's not a slump. Yes, the first year in the tour is the freshest, no one knows who you are and I really like playing under those circumstances," said Oudin. "I went from the total underdog to someone who is supposed to win every tournament. The expectations went from me from zero to 100."
The 5-feet, 6-inch (1.7 meter) Oudin is attempting to add more power to her largely counterpuncher style of game, but she continues to struggle with a reconstructed service motion and often plays too impatiently.
While hoping to rebound in the tournaments leading up to the August 30-September 12 U.S. Open, Oudin suffered early defeats in four events to Victoria Azarenka, Samantha Stosur, Elena Vesnina and Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Continued...