Oudin usurps Sharapova as US Open darling

Melanie Ouden

Seventeen-year-old from Georgia knocks out the Russian in a shock victory at Flushing Meadows

BY Sophie Taylor LAST UPDATED AT 08:08 ON Mon 7 Sep 2009

America has a new tennis darling and her name is Melanie Oudin, a 17-year-old from Georgia - as in the southern state of Georgia, not the country. Which is an important distinction because Oudin now looks like one of the best hopes for the future if the US is to counter the current onslaught of women tennis players from former Soviet bloc countries.

Fellow American Andy Roddick, asked what he thought of Oudin after watching her knock out Elena Dementieva in the previous round, answered simply: "A sweetheart".

Oudin was helped in her victory by the Flushing Meadows crowd changing its allegiance to her from Maria Sharapova, a US Open favourite since she won the tournament in 2006. As the Russian said before the match, her young opponent had "a tremendous amount of potential" and it would be "strange" if the crowd weren't rooting for Oudin.

In the event, they cheered the young American to a famous 3-6 6-4 7-5 victory.

At the start, it hardly seemed possible that Oudin could do Sharapova any damage. She's ranked 70th in the world - 40 spots behind the Russian - and at 5ft 6in is eight inches shorter than the strapping Sharapova.

Her mother, Leslie Oudin, said later: "You know, I sat out there thinking, 'Oh, my gosh, compared to Sharapova, she looks so tiny'."

But a combination of Oudin's booming ground strokes and too many unforced errors from Sharapova - including an astonishing 21 double-faults - gave the youngster victory. And perhaps having the word 'Believe' stamped on her tennis shoes - her boyfriend's idea - helped too.

By the end, Oudin could hardly believe what she had achieved, burying her face in her towel and sobbing on the sideline. "I just had a blast," she said. She now meets yet another Russian, Nadia Petrova, in the fifth round. Bring 'em on! · 

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