American Teen Upsets at Wimbledon

By HOWARD FENDRICH
|  Sunday, Jun 28, 2009  |  Updated 4:44 AM EDT
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Wimbledon in Photos

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Melanie Oudin, who was unseeded, defeated Jankovic, the world's No. 6 seed.

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WIMBLEDON, England — As a child, Melanie Oudin would watch Venus and Serena Williams on TV and tell anyone who would listen that she was going to play at Wimbledon, too, one day.

Who knew she'd be right? And do so well, so quickly?

Making her Wimbledon debut at age 17 after getting through qualifying, the 124th-ranked Oudin joined the Williams sisters in the fourth round at the All England Club by beating former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic 6-7 (8), 7-5, 6-2 Saturday in the most startling result of the tournament's opening week.

"Was just thinking that she was any other player, and this was any other match, and I was at any other tournament — you know, not, like, on the biggest stage, at Wimbledon, playing my first top-10 player," Oudin said. "I mean, I go into every match the exact same, you know, like, no matter who I play. It's not, like, 'Oh, my gosh, I'm playing the No. 1 player in the world.'"

The only time Oudin really lost her way was when her match ended and it was time to leave Court 3, a patch of grass known as "The Graveyard of Champions," because of the long list of stars upset there. The American wasn't quite sure where to go and asked someone to direct her toward the exit.

Not all that surprising, when you consider that a year ago, Oudin entered the junior event at Wimbledon — seeded No. 1 among the girls — and failed to make it out of the second round, losing 6-1, 6-3 to eventual champion Laura Robson of Britain.

Yet there Oudin was Saturday, outlasting 2008 U.S. Open runner-up Jankovic over nearly 3 hours, then calling Mom and Dad back home to share in the revelry.

"My emotions are all over the place," Oudin's father, John, said in a telephone interview. "When I think about watching Bjorn Borg and Boris Becker in their starched whites at Wimbledon, I just can't believe Melanie is there. It's hardly any words other than, 'Wow!' We've been saying a lot of that. Just, 'Wow!'"

Shortly after his daughter's victory, he and Oudin's mother, Leslie, began scouring the Internet for flights. Even Grandma — who encouraged Melanie and twin sister Katherine to take up tennis — might make the overseas trip to see Oudin face No. 11 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland on Monday with a quarterfinal berth at stake, heady stuff for someone who was 0-2 at Grand Slam tournaments until this week.

Then again, Oudin — it's pronounced "oo-DAN," on account of her father's French ancestry — long has shown ambition.

"My goal has always been, since I was little, to become No. 1 in the world one day," she said.

The only time Oudin showed signs of nerves during the most important match of her nascent career came in the opening set. She held four set points, and blew them all with unforced errors.

"Rushed them. Played undisciplined tennis," said Oudin's coach, Brian de Villiers. "She played the occasion, rather than the point. But, hey, it's understandable."

When that 66-minute set ended, Jankovic had the lead, but she clearly was in trouble on a sunny day with the temperature in the 80s F (high 20s C). A trainer and doctor came out to measure her pulse and blood pressure, and she began to cry. They put bags of ice on Jankovic's legs and abdomen, then the back of her neck, and gave her an energy drink to sip.

"I felt really dizzy, and I thought that I was just going to end up in the hospital. I started to shake," said Jankovic, who blamed her difficulty partly on what she called "woman problems."

"I was feeling quite weak. No power," Jankovic said. "I wasn't the same player."
 

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