U.S. Open 2009: The Melanie Oudin Media Machine Slams Into a Brick Wall
Over 23,000 fans showed up at Arthur Ashe Stadium for the women's quarterfinal to see Georgian phenomenon Melanie Oudin in action, as she went for her fourth consecutive upset.
Oudin Mania was everywhere. In the newspapers, on the internet, and on radio.
Everyone wanted to talk about her.
Everyone wanted to talk to her, as she was the most sought-after player by the media over the past several days. Which takes a lot, as she was gaining more attention than Roger Federer or Serena Williams.
It was almost assumed that she would now be able to beat another seeded player without much of a problem.
Talks had even begun, comparing her with some of the greatest players to ever play, like Chris Evert and Michael Chang, both of who won Slams at a very young age in their careers. But yet, this was a girl who has played several ITF tournaments in the same year and barely had a winning record on the year.
Her opponent, 19-year-old Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, had just completed a thrilling three-set victory of her own a few nights before, when she knocked out former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in a final set tiebreaker.
But Caroline had never made it to a Slam semifinal, despite having played on tour since she was 15.
Even the Oudin camp began wearing trendy "Believe" shirts, believing that Melanie would again be the beneficiary of a mentally weak opponent handing the match over on a silver platter. Or maybe they were humming "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow". Who knows.
The match, as scheduled for 7:00pm Eastern Time was actually moved back about a half an hour, because of the Djoker's date with Fernando Verdasco. But after a clean warmup, the match was set to begin with Caroline serving.
She began the match with a comfortable hold, and then a comfortable break of serve as Oudin showed almost no emotion while dropping her first service game.
At the time, the stadium was still only half-empty, because the crowd would have to wait for a change-over before heading in to see the match. By the time they all finally streamed in, Oudin was down 0-3, and while she was trying to get herself and the crowd into the match, she was failing dismally.
Although Caroline through the first three games had not done anything completely spectacular to make the match look like a washout, Melanie had shot herself in the foot on several occasions, including a double fault on break point. Her forehand was very flat and ineffective.
She did however, manage to get a scattered applause from the crowd after breaking Caroline in the fourth game of the set, but any positive emotion she had going for her was immediately extinguished as she gave the break right back.
Now serving at 4-1, Caroline had still not budged an inch. Oudin was trying to get a "Come on!" in, but simply couldn't do it. Caroline's will and steely mental game looked impenetrable. She was pushed, but was not close to breaking and she held for a commanding set lead.
Danish mental toughness.
Two quick games later, and the Great Dane had a 1-0 lead in sets.
But wait. This is where Oudin shines. She has an incredible record in three-set matches and has won the last three by coming back from a set down. It's not a big deal if she loses the first set, right?
First Set: Wozniacki, 6-2.
Caroline began the set with a routine hold and the errors for Oudin were starting to pile up. The Danish defense was rock solid and Oudin was feeling the pressure to go for winners if she even wanted to win a point.
With the errors came frustration. Melanie was spending considerable time looking to her box in anguish. She was visibly irritated and looked like a dog attempting to open a door, but just couldn't reach it.
Oudin did manage to hold the next game however, to the delight of Alec Baldwin and the rest of the crowd.
Caroline was faced with break points in the next game. And Oudin, as throughout the entire match, kept trying to pump herself up. But Caroline saved them and held.
Another hold for Melanie.
Now tied at two all, a crucial point in the match for both players. Caroline fell behind early, facing two break points at 15-40. She obliterated both of those and forced a deuce, and Oudin was disgusted. But she would get another pair of break points.
Once again, Caroline saved them. And held serve too. The 17-year-old American, who has believed in herself all tournament, was having her first thoughts of "What am I doing?".
That was incredibly evident when she was broken easily in the very next game. If body language means anything, she was finished at that point. And as a product, Caroline coasted across the finish line into the semifinals.
Final Score: Wozniacki, 6-2, 6-2.
The clock struck midnight on Cinderella's run. But it was an incredible run at that. She ran the gauntlet of Russian tennis, eliminating several of the finest players that the Motherland has to offer. And she has a great future in front of her.
If the last several months are any indication, the 17-year-old Georgian is the real deal, and it is really incredible how far a big heart can go in tennis. And her run will not be forgotten any time soon.
She was undone by her own nerves, committing 43 unforced errors in only 16 games. That's understandable, however. How many girls her age could honestly shoulder the weight of not only the entire United States, but all of her fans worldwide? The expectations became simply unrealistic.
But the bigger story might be Caroline Wozniacki, continuing her run at the U.S. Open and winning her tenth straight match. She is also now in a prime position to advance to the finals, only needing to eliminate unseeded Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Caroline.
Two Belgians remain standing. Two seeded players remain standing.
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