Melanie Oudin is of French descent but if ever there was an all-American girl, it is the 17-year-old from Atlanta. With her long blond hair, engaging smile and bubbly personality, she might have just walked off the set of any number of American TV soaps.
Oudin could also be the player to rescue American tennis, which has been wondering where its next champion will come from once Andy Roddick and the Williams sisters retire. Hopes were raised when Oudin reached the fourth round at Wimbledon by knocking out Jelena Jankovic and interest in her soared here yesterday when she beat Elena Dementieva, the No 4 seed, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.
Despite a heavily strapped left thigh, Oudin took the game to the Olympic champion. Dementieva is one of the hardest ball-strikers but found herself regularly out-hit by the bundle of energy on the other side of the net. Pumping her fist and crying "C'mon!", Oudin quickly whipped the crowd inside Arthur Ashe Stadium into a frenzy. The teenager, who lost to Laura Robson in last year's Wimbledon junior tournament, now plays the winner of last night's match between another promising American, Christina McHale, and Maria Sharapova.
At No 70 in the world, Oudin is already the third-ranked American behind the Williams sisters. "It's pretty crazy," she said. "I've idolised them since I was little and I still do."
Arthur Ashe Stadium witnessed another upset later in the day when Jankovic followed Dementieva out of the tournament. The world No 5, who was the ninth women's seed to lose, had two match points in the deciding tie-break before going down 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 to Yaroslava Shvedova, of Kazakhstan, after two hours and 40 minutes.
For a while the No 1 seed also appeared to be on the way out as Dinara Safina laboured for the second round in succession before beating Germany's Kristina Barrois 6-7, 6-2, 6-3. The match followed an identical pattern to her victory over Olivia Rogowska. Again she lost the first set tie-break on a double fault – one of 15 she served in the match – but recovered to earn a meeting with the Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova.