BELIEVE was the motto that Melanie Oudin built her stunning run to the US Open quarter-finals in 2009 on; quickly becoming the toast of American tennis at the tender age of 17. Six months later, she quickly rose to no. 31 in the rankings and was tagged the next bright American hope in the women’s game.
That same belief is hard to come by for the 19 year old these days. Coming into this week’s Estoril Open, Oudin had won only 6 of 21 matches, comparing to a 25-24 record in 2010 and 39-17 record in 2009. Currently ranked 88th in the world, Oudin has often spoken about the immense pressure she felt after bursting into the spotlight during her breakthrough US Open performance.
And the experts report card on her has changed from talented counter-puncher to someone who is going to be unable to keep pace with the bigger hitters of the game on a consistent enough basis to do some serious damage in the women’s game.
Oudin’s confidence took another serious blow on Tuesday as she was beaten in the first round of the WTA clay court event in Estoril. Her conqueror was 17 year old compatriot Sloane Stephens, who is herself beginning to make rapid strides up the world rankings, but is yet to have a major breakthrough like Oudin did –something that might hold Stephens in good stead in the long term.
The scoreline on Tuesday was also alarming – 6-2, 6-1 for Stephens in just 65 minutes Stephens is currently ranked at a career-best no. 170 in the world and had to go through the qualifying draw in Estoril. The win over Oudin was her 11th win in 19 matches (27-16 in 2010).
The 5 ft 7” Stephens has a checkered junior career – winning junior doubles titles at 3 of the 4 Grand Slams in 2009. The 17 year old next plays Monica Niculescu, of Romania, for a spot in the quarter-finals. ESTORIL OPEN - Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - Singles - First Round (2) Jarmila Gajdosova (AUS) d.
Renata Voracova (CZE) 64 60
(3) Klara Zakopalova (CZE) d. (Q) Beatriz García Vidagany (ESP) 64 76(3)
Urszula Radwanska (POL) d. (4) Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) 57 76(5) 61
(8) Greta Arn (HUN) d. (WC) Maria Joao Koehler (POR) 62 36 63
Kristina Barrois (GER) d.
Sofia Arvidsson (SWE) 63 61
(Q) Sloane Stephens (USA) d. Melanie Oudin (USA) 62 61 Anastasiya Yakimova (BLR) d. Tamira Paszek 5-7 4-0 (retd.) Anabel Medina Garigues (ESP) d Simona Halep (ROU) 7-6 7-6