New York, Aug 30: Melanie Oudin of the United States was ousted from the U.S. Open in the first round Monday, a 6-0, 7-6 (7) loser to Romina Oprandi of Italy.
Oudin, whose run to the quarterfinals captivated New York and the tennis world in 2009, has won just nine of 38 matches this season and is currently ranked 113th.
“I was pretty tight, having trouble loosening up,” Oudin said, when asked about a first set that was over almost before either player broke a sweat.
“Lately, that's what's been happening. Especially here. I try not to be nervous or let anything get to me. But it's hard being back here sometimes and not putting a lot of pressure on myself.”
It was two years ago that Oudin was the unseeded 17-year-old who beat Maria Sharapova and two other seeds on her way to the quarterfinals. On the side of her shoes, the word “Believe” was printed, and during a weeklong spell of Mel-Mania, much of the tennis world did. She was a hit at the tennis center and off—the kid from Georgia with a dream, hounded by autograph seekers and shuttled to Times Square for photo shoots.
On the heels of that success, Oudin climbed as high as 31st in the rankings early last year, but since then, her game has gone south. Last year at the U.S. Open, she lost in the second round.
By her estimation, it's not the physical skills that do her in, but rather, the mental jitters that hit whenever she starts playing for real. And it's never worse than when she arrives on the scene of her biggest triumph.
“I have so many memories here from a couple years ago,” she said. “The hard thing is, people still haven't forgotten it. It's just moving on from that and trying to play like I did that year and not putting any pressure on myself.”
Oudin had a chance to serve out the second set against the 132nd-ranked Oprandi, but tightened up again, much the way she did when the match began. She lost serve and the match went to a tiebreaker, where she went ahead 5-3 on a 20-shot rally during which both players had to block out the loud, opening-night fireworks show going on inside the stadium court a few hundred feet away.
From there, Oudin double-faulted, then missed a volley at the net. Tied at 5, she staved off two match points before losing the tiebreaker 9-7.
In need of more matches, Oudin said she plans to play in more challenger events for the rest of the year instead of traveling to Asia on the main tour. She said she also might seek help from a sports psychologist.
She knows she needs to figure out how to deal with her New York memories—the ones that make her happy when she's down, but also haunt her when she returns.
“Every time you play, you want to be in your own world,” she said. “But of course, I'm not going to forget about what happened. I'm going to have those memories for a long time—every time I come back to New York.” AP