A week ago I had already picked my young player of the tourney. So far, she has not let me down. I firmly believe that if she continues to improve at the rate that she has over the last six months she will be a top five player in women’s tennis before the US Open.
I am speaking of the talented Danish player, Caroline Wozniacki. She has an incredible backhand and wonderful attitude towards the game and life in general. If you watch closely you will see that she has unusually good stroke timing, I would dare say in some parts of her game approaching Federer. What is really shocking to me is that this article is not about Caroline Wozniacki, my original pick.
The player I am speaking of is small in statue. She zips around the court like a roadrunner and has impeccable footwork. She generates power that seems to be impossible for such a tiny person. She has a champion's spirit and has the grit and determination of Nadal. Today she was wearing a white and red Adidas outfit that we have seen at many grand slam tournaments over the last decade. She was even wearing the signature white Adidas visor.
After hearing that, those who are close to the sport would think that I am talking about Justine Henin. While I was watching the teen phenom dismantle the former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic, I couldn’t help but think that I was hallucinating.
Save using two hands on her backhand most of the time, she has a remarkably familiar playing style. When she takes her left hand off of the racquet to hit her slice backhand, she appears to be Justine's doppleganger.
It would have been easy to flip by that match while channel surfing and think “that must be an encore match because Justine has called it quits."
Unless Marietta Georgia has been relocated to Belgium, this is simply not possible.
After scrapping her way through qualifying to make it into the main draw, and performing well in Federation Cup Play, 17 year old Melanie Oudin is proving that American tennis is not dead.
You may wonder why I have waited so long to mention her name. Maybe it was just to peak your interest?
The truth is I believe that if she continues developing as she has this year, this will be the last time that her name is not at the beginning of an article.
Her play is exactly the opposite of what you would expect from a small tennis player. Instead of simply running down her opponent’s shots waiting for an error, she takes a different approach.
Years ago, Justine Henin was faced with a similar choice. Stay behind the baseline and be a top 20 player, or step in take the ball early and hit some higher risk shots. The more aggressive approach can put you inside the top ten if you are able to pull it off. If not, you will be lucky to be in the top 50.
Oudin appears to have the mind and the game to take this aggressive approach to the upper echelon of the game. Hats off to Oudin and her coaching staff for her development so far, I believe that Grant Stafford of RCS Academy has some credit for her success.
Melanie’s next opponent will be 11th seed Agnieszka Radwanska. While Radwanska is a steady player overall, she appears to be having serving trouble as of late. In today’s match against Li Na, she hit many second serves in the 60 mph range and one clocked at 57 mph. If she serves this way against Melanie, I expect that Melanie's forehand winner count will be off the charts.
Assuming Oudin outlasts Radwanska, she could be potentially be facing Venus Williams in the Quarters. Sounds like American tennis fans have something to cheer about.