Melanie Oudin wins opening match at French Open
by Howard Fendrich
Associated Press Sports Writer
May 28, 2013 12:48 AM | 1876 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Melanie Oudin of the U.S. returns in her second round match against Sara Errani of Italy at the French Open tennis tournament in Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Wednesday May 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Melanie Oudin of the U.S. returns in her second round match against Sara Errani of Italy at the French Open tennis tournament in Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Wednesday May 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
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PARIS — Success on the Grand Slam stage, and everything that went with it, probably came too quickly for East Cobb native Melanie Oudin, a surprise quarterfinalist at the 2009 U.S. Open at age 17.

She realizes that now. She accepts it. She’s ready to add to her resume — and excited to be part of a group of American women that appears to be on the rise together.

Oudin reached the second round at the French Open by eliminating 28th-seeded Tamira Paszek of Austria 6-4, 6-3 Monday, part of a 6-1 showing by U.S. women on Day 2 of the clay-court tournament. That means nine members of the country’s contingent have won their opening matches so far, with three more scheduled to play Tuesday.

“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, the Americans, they’re not that good on the red clay.’ A lot of us want to prove a point this year and do well here,” said Oudin, who now rents an apartment near Times Square in New York City and trains on courts where the U.S. Open is played.

A total of 15 American women entered the French Open, the most from any nation in this year’s draw and the highest number at Roland Garros since there were 18 back in 2004.

It’s also the most for the United States at any Grand Slam outside the U.S. Open since 17 entered Wimbledon in 2005.

“No one’s really, like, jealous. We all get along well,” Oudin said. “We all really want the others to do well, and I think that what’s really helping us is that pushing each other. We all get along, go to dinner and everything.”

Tuesday’s other American winners were No. 17 Sloane Stephens, No. 29 Varvara Lepchenko, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Madison Keys and Vania King. Christina McHale lost a three-setter to Slovakia’s Jana Cepelova.

“We all really motivate each other,” Keys said after beating Japan’s Misaki Doi 6-3, 6-2. “When we see someone else doing well, we want to do well also. We also cheer each other on.”

Keys is 18, the youngest of a young group that includes the 20-year-old Stephens and 21-year-old Oudin. Mallory Burdette, 22, and Shelby Rogers, 20, won their French Open debuts Monday.

They might benefit from sharing some of the attention that will come as fans search for the Next American Tennis Star to follow the Williams sisters, 15-time major champion Serena and seven-time major champion Venus.

“It’s a great group of girls coming up. They’re talented. They’re all pretty fun to be around. They got good personalities,” said Mattek-Sands, who is 28. “It’s funny, because a couple of years ago, everyone was asking me: ‘Where is women’s tennis?’ Here we are now.”

Stephens made her first move to the forefront by reaching the fourth round at the French Open last year, then took an even bigger step by stunning Serena Williams en route to the Australian Open semifinals in January.

Oudin’s initial moment in the spotlight came four years ago, when she followed up a fourth-round appearance at Wimbledon with that magical run in New York, which included a victory over Maria Sharapova.

That brought about intense media attention, new demands on her time, and completely changed the expectations for her tennis career.

“I definitely put a lot of pressure on myself after everything. It’s a totally different story now. There’s so many Americans now coming up, and so many in the top 100. It is nice to not have it all on me,” Oudin said. “I mean, it really was all on me at that time. Like, besides the Williams sisters, everyone was like, ‘Oh, who’s going to be the next upcoming American?’ And it’s like, ‘OK, it’s going to be Melanie, because you got to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open.’ It was a lot. And I was young.”

She was asked Monday whether she has any regrets about what happened in 2009.

“I obviously don’t regret it, but it did happen at a weird time and a really, like, early age for me. I never thought that would happen,” Oudin said, rubbing the knuckles of her left hand against her right palm.

“But now I feel like I’m due for another run,” she continued with a laugh. “It’s been a while since then.”

Asked to assess her year so far, Oudin replied: “I’m not really looking in the past at anything, so I’m going to say everything’s good right now, because I’m in the second round of the French.”

She has plenty of American company at the moment.
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