Melanie Oudin : Can the American Win a WTA Tournament ?

Gregory LanzenbergCorrespondent IFebruary 25, 2011

TOKYO - SEPTEMBER 26:  Melanie Oudin of the USA plays a forehand in her match against Kaia Kanepi of Estonia on day one of the Toray Pan Pacific Open tennis tournament at Ariake Colosseum on September 26, 2010 in Tokyo, Japan.  (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)
Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

US Open fans remember when Melanie Oudin reached the quarterfinals of the last Grand Slam of the season in 2009. Since then, the Georgia native has not been the same.

Some use the power of the moment to boost themselves, while other collapse.

You would have to go back to last September in Quebec City to see the American win two successive matches.

What does Oudin need to do to go back to winning ways?

First of all, I want to be perfectly clear. I have a lot of respect for what the 19-year-old did at Flushing Meadows a year and a half ago.

A player must have special skills to be able to beat Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova successively. That just doesn't happen by accident.

However, in 2010, Oudin reached the quarterfinals of a WTA event only four times—which means winning two consecutive matches—and did not go further than second round at the Grand Slams.

On a more positive note, the Georgia resident also reached her first semifinal at a Premier WTA event in Paris at the GDF Suez tournament.

So far, in 2011, Oudin has a record of 2-6.

It is very difficult for any tennis champion to confirm a performance.

Most of the tennis players, unless your name is Federer, Nadal, Sampras, Agassi, Williams, Graf, Navratilova, or Seles, have a hard time confirming their performances each week.

How often do we see female tennis players lose in the first round the week after they won a tournament?

How many times have we seen them fail in the early rounds the year after their first big triumph?

Not many, but Oudin is not alone in this category.

In 2009, Oudin jumped to No. 31 in the WTA singles rankings, but this year, her multiple losses have seen her fall to No. 81.

Some might remember when Oudin lost 6-2, 7-5 to Alona Bondarenko of Ukraine in the second round of last year's US Open.

"Almost every person in the United States expects me to win every single match I play, so, I mean, that's kind of a little bit of pressure." said the 19-year-old.

In Oudin's mind, it's a big reason why she has lost more matches than she has won. She tried to stay perky and positive before the Grand Slams, but her coach, Brian de Villiers, knew his player still felt as if the World was on her back before she ever missed a backhand.

"It's all about nerves," de Villiers said, "Warming up, she is hitting the ball clean, but I can tell straightaway by the look on her face that it is just nerves. When you're nervous, you can't breathe. When you can't breathe, you can't move. It's just very hard to play."

Oudin is also under pressure due to the fact that she could be a potential top ten player when the Williams sisters retire.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Coco Vandeweghe are also among the few Americans who lead the Fed Cup flag. While it's hard to imagine any of those three champions having the career of Venus or Serena, it will become an issue when they decide to step down.

I know for a fact that Oudin is working hard to get better.

Her backhand and even her serve have improved. The forehand is still her trademark, but her lack of confidence is preventing her from going further in the draws.

As a matter of fact, most of Melanie's opponents know the way to beat her—return long and deep while playing on the backhand side until she makes an error.

Along with her coach, Melanie must find some ways to find different game plans when she's in trouble.
So far she only relies on her forehand, which isn't enough anymore.

It's one thing to train hard, it's another to compete and win.

To gain confidence, Oudin must win as many matches as possible. One way to do that would be to play the ITF Women's tournaments (which are ranked under the prestigious WTA ones) for a limited amount of time.

That's what Andre Agassi did when he went under the No.100 spot in the standings after a wrist surgery back in 1998.

I want to believe Melanie is going to have more breakthroughs in her career. She's only 19, which will allow her to have time to understand and enjoy the game more.

Remember in 2009 when she would wear the "Believe" shoes.

It's time to wear them again!