No Escape This Time For Melanie Oudin
Melanie Oudin's US Open magic show finally ran out of tricks.
Her act of conceding the first set before storming back to defeat her much more accomplished opponents had been dramatic and entertaining, but it was always fraught with danger. On Wednesday night, the curtain came down on Oudin as she was eliminated 6-2, 6-2 by Denmark's number nine seed, Caroline Wozniacki.
One way a magician can distract an audience is to feature a stunning sidekick. And on appearance, with her long, blonde hair and model looks, Wozniacki met those requirements easily. However, rather than play bystander, she delved into her own bag of tricks to upstage Oudin and end the young American's Grand Slam run.
An expectant crowd trickled into Arthur Ashe stadium shortly after the match began, but many were greeted by an 0-3 scoreline before they had even taken their seats.
If they were hoping to see another miraculous turnaround, Wozniacki soon showed she was not about to be just another rabbit pulled from Oudin's hat. Trailing 5-1, Oudin broke Wozniacki to win her second game of the set, but she was unable to hold her own serve and the Dane took the first set comfortably, 6-2.
Despite being only two years her senior, Wozniacki is in her fifth year on the pro tour and her experience was evident as she never lost control of the match, or herself. Oudin meanwhile, cursed and cussed her way through the contest, constantly looking to her coach seeking salvation but finding none, as she realised her dream was coming to an end.
In the second set, Oudin kept pace, but after it was tied at two games apiece, Wozniacki took over, constantly going to her powerful backhand, while Oudin just tried to keep the ball in play. The harder she tried, the more she failed and Wozniacki took the set and the match to advance to the semi finals of a Grand Slam for the first time in her career.
As impressive as Oudin has been throughout the tournament, there has been something suspicious about her success.
If a magician's greatest challenge is to leave the crowd wondering how they were tricked, perhaps the answer to some of Oudin's success lies with her opponents.
Against Maria Sharapova in the third round, the Russian committed a staggering 63 unforced errors, in addition to 21 double faults. By making that many mistakes, it made it hard for Oudin not to win that match.
In the next round, Oudin faced her third seeded opponent and fourth Russian, Nadia Petrova, who gifted her 59 unforced errors.
If Oudin can continue to induce that many errors from her opponents, she will win many more matches, though it's unlikely she'll be able to build her career based on such a strategy.
Oudin's game hasn't been error free itself. She had 44 unforced errors against Sharapova and another 32 versus Petrova, however, it says something about her match up with Wozniacki, who only made 20 unforced errors that Oudin was barely in the contest from the beginning.
It is not to try take anything away from Oudin's achievements. She has played well and the way that she fights is an admirable quality that should carry her far in her coming years, but it can't be overlooked that part of her success was down to her opponents inability to keep the ball in play.
For now, Oudin can bask in the glory of her first major quarter final appearance, but for an encore, she will need to rely more on her own strengths than her opponents weaknesses in order to succeed.
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