America's latest sweetheart gunning for Sharapova

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A year after her surprise exit from the U.S. Open, Maria Sharapova will have another showdown with a little-known American teenager who will be battling for her own share of the Flushing Meadows spotlight.

Beatrice Capra of the U.S. celebrates her win over Aravane Rezai of France at the US Open tennis tournament in New York, September 2, 2010. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Last year a then 17-year-old Melanie Oudin eliminated the Russian in the third round and won the hearts of the partisan crowd before falling in the second round earlier this week.

This year, American 18-year-old Beatrice Capra will look to send the New York crowd into a frenzy when she faces Sharapova in their third-round matchup.

Capra, whose parents are Italian, earned the matchup with Sharapova after a 7-5 2-6 6-3 upset of 18th seed Aravane Rezai of France earlier on Thursday.

Having won through the USTA’s playoff competition to get a wildcard into the main draw, world number 371 Capra has been making waves and said she cannot wait to have a crack at a player she looked up to when she was a young girl.

“I think it will be an amazing experience ... I know she’s just such a tough competitor,” Capra told reporters.

“When I was younger I used to always look up to her so I think it will be a really good match for me to see where I am compared to that kind of level.”

Oudin was nicknamed “Little Miss Upset” by the American media for her run to the quarter-finals last year and Capra said she plans to bug her compatriot for tips on how to play Sharapova.

Capra said seeing what Oudin had achieved in 2009 had been a massive boost to her and the other rising American players.

“It was really inspiring to me because I played her a year before and then she was getting to the quarters of a grand slam,” she said. “It was just unbelievable. I think she’s pushed all of the Americans to do better.”

Editing by Frank Pingue