The U.S. Open is coming up in a few weeks and one of the players that will get a lot of attention, perhaps too much attention, is Melanie Oudin. Oudin, who reached her first U.S. Open quarterfinals last year after taking out a trio of Russians including Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova became a household name overnight in America and immediately anointed the “next great American star”. Oudin lost her quarterfinal match to another teenager at the time, Caroline Wozniacki, and afterwards Oudin, though giving full credit to the Dane’s play, said the media attention she received overwhelmed her so much she couldn’t 100% focus on preparing for the match. So when I read the other day in a blog Oudin is writing for Tennis.com that she felt her early round loss in Cincinnati last week to Elena Vesnina was due in part to her “media obligations” prior to the match, I felt an immediate pang for her. And then one look at the banner for her blog confirmed everything for me.
The media hype machine has started for Oudin at the U.S. Open. And it’s the last thing she needs right now. Continue reading
Filed under U.S. Open, WTA
With the Super Bowl dominating sports news this weekend, don’t forget about the tennis being played with some “off the radar” players coming through with big wins.
Fed Cup was the focus of the women this week. The U.S. team, led by Melanie Oudin, who won both her matches, easily won their tie against France 4-1. Considering this was played on red clay and in France, it’s quite an accomplishment and could bode well for Oudin with the clay court season just around the corner. Continue reading
Roddick out of Paris.
Andy Roddick’s knee injury is either more serious than he’s letting on or he’s just playing it safe for 2010. Either way, he’s withdrawn from the Paris Masters next week according to ESPN.com. He’s still officially playing the Barclays ATP Masters in London but I doubt he’ll be a factor.
Oudin Leads the U.S. Fed Cup Team.
Remember when Serena Williams said she would play the penultimate Federation Cup tie against Italy even if she had “to play in a wheelchair”. Well Serena backed out of that promise last week and so now it’s to American phenom Melanie Oudin to lead the charge this weekend. In an earlier post, I didn’t think it was fair to let Serena in the final due to her lack of commitment for U.S. Fed Cup all year. Despite playing on red clay, I still give the Americans a chance as they’ve been underdogs all year.
Gasquet, Wickmayer and Agassi Playing Defensive.
In what seems a tidal wave of stories about drug use and doping, this past week saw the withdrawal of rising Belgian star Yanina Wickmayer out of the WTA Bali event after she was given a one-year suspension for failing to show up for three drug tests in a row though she plans to appeal. Xavier Malisse was handed a similar ban and in his press conference he cried through tears that this could be the end of his career. Richard Gasquet is set to defend himself before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland for his alleged “cocaine kiss” incident. The ITF and WADA still seek a one or two year ban for Gasquet though an independent bureau cleared him for play in August. And of course, Andre Agassi is set to defend himself and his book “Open” on 60 Minutes this weekend. Not exactly the best way to end the year for the sport.
Verdasco on the Verge.
And yes the ATP Masters points race still has some drama left as Fernando Verdasco and Nikolay Davydenko appear to be in good shape to secure the final two remaining spots as both have reached the semifinals of the Valencia event.
Filed under ATP, Tennis, WTA
Watch my video on my take on today’s Men’s Quarters action along with a preview of the Women’s Semifinals.
Some quick thoughts on the key Day 8 matchups at the U.S. Open.
Melanie Oudin vs. Nadia Petrova
Oudin has won her last two matches over Dementieva and Sharapova by displaying tremendous heart and grit, but also due to those players helping out by not attacking the American more. Petrova is a solid player and will not let Oudin jerk her around the court. If Petrova holds her serve and keeps the crowd out of it, Petrova should win in two sets.
John Isner vs. Fernando Verdasco
Both men endured five set matches in their last round so fitness could be an issue. Verdasco is also suffering from an abdominal strain so he is spinning his serve in, so Isner should have a decent shot at returning. As long as Isner can not have a letdown after beating Roddick and can keep serving big, Isner should win in four.
Roger Federer vs. Tommy Robredo
Unless Federer displays more non-brilliant play like he did against Lleyton Hewitt for a set, Federer should win this in three easy sets.
Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Caroline Wozniacki
Both players here have a great opportunity to make it all the way to the finals as their side of the draw is wide open. Wozniacki has been hyped for some time but never quite lived it up to it all. “Sveta” can beat anyone, anywhere but her motivation has always been questioned. I think Sveta is ready to prove she can challenge for majors anywhere and will win this is three tough sets.
In another dramatic match, Melanie Oudin, the rising American teenage star, held her nerve to close out a 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 win against Maria Sharapova. Sharapova helped Oudin’s cause by double faulting 21 times (basically a set of double faults).
Oudin’s amazing run can still continue as she now faces 13th seeded Nadia Petrova in the Fourth Round. Oudin will again come into this match an underdog but you have to like her chances to make it into the quarterfinals.
Because of Oudin’s long match plus Roddick’s long five setter against John Isner, Dinara Safina’s match didn’t start until ten o’clock at night and on Louis Armstrong court. Facing off against Petra Kvitova, it was another wild, nervy error filled match from Safina. This time however, Kvitova showed real belief and attacked Safina at every opportunity. Things did get tight when Safina had three match points on Kvitova’s serve in the third set, but Kvitova held on to get things into a tiebreak where she finally prevailed 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (5) finally ending Safina’s misery this week.
Safina will remain number one no matter what but her loss does mean an unseeded player will reach the semifinals in her section of the draw.
Other winners today included Svetlana Kuznetsova and Caroline Wozniacki who will face each other in the fourth round. The winner of that match will be a heavy favorite to reach the semifinals as well.
Saturday’s action at the U.S. Open will showcase lots of intriguing matchups. Here’s some quick thoughts on all of them.
Federer vs. Hewitt
Hewitt will put up a fight as always, but unless Federer drifts off mentally, this will go quickly for Fed.
Oudin vs. Sharapova
Riding high on her recent win over Dementieva, Oudin will now face more pressure and expectation as she takes on Sharapova who will look for the quick winner and not trade baseline rallies. Unless Sharapova’s serve goes awry, I like her in three.
Roddick vs. Isner
On paper Roddick looks the heavy favorite. But Isner has been on the big stage before and is hungry for a breakthrough. If Roddick returns well, this will go fast. If it’s a serving battle ended in tiebreaks, look for Roddick to finally prevail in five.
Haas vs. Verdasco
They haven’t played each other in a year so this could either be a five-set war or a lopsided three setter. I think Haas is hungry for another deep run at a major so I’ll make him a slight favorite.
Robin Soderling vs. Sam Querrey
Querrey is also looking for a breakthrough in a major and with help of the New York crowd, I think Querrey will win in four.
James Blake vs. Tommy Robredo
Although Blake is 4-2 against Robredo, this could go five sets, but again the New York night crowd will help Blake win.
Dinara Safina vs. Petra Kvitova
Too bad they didn’t make this the second match of the night to save everyone the two and half hours it will take Safina to win in three.
Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Shahar Peer
“Sveta” has poked along into the third round. She’ll probably find a way to poke Peer enough for the win.
Novak Djokovic vs. Jesse Witten
The feel good story of the tourney for the American qualifier will come to a quick end at the hands of Djokovic.