Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Melanie Oudin: Cinderella at the U.S. Open [J. Mark English]

Katie Leslie with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution profiles the sudden rise of the young Melanie Oudin at the U.S. Open:

Surprise tennis phenom Melanie Oudin may not be ranked in the top 10, 20 or even 40, but she is the new darling of tennis.

The Marietta-based teen was ranked 70th when she hit the courts of the U.S. Open last week, but after beating No. 13 seed Nadia Petrova Monday, she secured a spot in the quarterfinals and in the spotlight.

She was featured Tuesday on “Good Morning America.” The New York Times did a spread on her underdog story and famed sportswriter Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News profiled her rise to tennis fame, noting the 17-year-old ran “through Russian opponents like this is some old James Bond movie.”

“Sometimes it can still happen like this in sports, something this pure and new, a kid like this making you watch out of nowhere,” Lupica marveled. “She is going to be the star of her sport after this whether she makes it to the semis or finals or not.”

Said CBS sportscaster Dick Enberg after her last victory: “A star is born. Don’t underestimate what this woman can do.”

Oudin told “Good Morning America” that she’s still getting used to her fresh fame.

“It’s pretty crazy. It takes some getting used to, everyone knowing who you are now and people wanting to get to know me,” she said. “My sister [twin Katherine] has been so supportive of me and they’re so happy that I’m doing well...”

And despite the attention, she still finds time to be a teen, she said. She enjoys shopping, watching movies and playing cards with her grandmother. Oudin also spends time with her boyfriend, 15-year-old tennis player Austin Smith, who adorned Oudin with the motto “Believe” now featured on her Adidas sneakers.

With untold numbers of new fans watching, the teen takes the court again Wednesday to battle 9th seed Caroline Wozniacki. Fans at her home club in Norcross, the Racquet Club of the South, will convene once again to cheer for their local star.

“Anything can happen,” Oudin told GMA. “There’s no stopping me now I think and I’m just going to keep playing the way I play, and fighting hard, and I think that’s the best you can do.”

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