Down but not out, Melanie Oudin rallies again at U.S. Open

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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NEW YORK - Forget about forehands and backhands. Melanie Oudin's biggest weapon is her heart.
The 17-year-old sparkplug from Georgia proved it again Monday at the U.S. Open, extending her remarkable run to the quarter-finals with another come-from-behind victory, 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3 over 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova.
Oudin staved off two points that would have put her behind 5-3 in the second set, then rolled through the third, hitting corners with those underrated groundstrokes and taking advantage of 22 unforced errors by her more-seasoned, higher-ranked opponent.
Rankings, like her age, however, are only numbers.
The 70th-ranked player already had comeback wins over No. 4 Elena Dementieva and No. 29 Maria Sharapova at Flushing Meadows, along with one over former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic this summer at Wimbledon. Now, she's knocked off No. 13.
Too young to know any better? Maybe. Regardless, she has become the youngest American to move into the quarter-finals at America's Grand Slam since Serena Williams in 1999.
"I think this is going to do a lot," Oudin said. "I think it's good for American tennis."
Not the same story on the men's side.
John Isner of Tampa, Fla., lost to No. 10 Fernando Verdasco, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, in Armstrong Stadium, assuring the men's quarter-finals will be without an American for the first time in history.
Next door in Ashe Stadium, No. 1 Roger Federer extended his U.S. Open winning streak to 38 with a straight-sets victory over No. 14 Tommy Robredo. Next up in the quarter-finals for Federer is a match against No. 12 Robin Soderling, who Federer beat in the final of the French Open earlier this year to complete his career Grand Slam.
Soderling advanced when No. 8 Nikolay Davydenko retired with a leg injury at the start of the fourth set.
"It seems like he's on a good run again," Federer said of his upcoming opponent. "I think of him, I think obviously of the French Open final, which was a great one for me."
The U.S. Open is turning into a great one for Oudin.
After hitting a forehand to the corner for her 19th and final winner on match point, Oudin threw her racket in the air. This time, however, she didn't cry any tears of disbelief. Instead, it was twin sister Katherine sobbing in the stands.
"It's kind of hard to explain how I've done it," Melanie said. "Today, there were no tears because I believed I can do it. Now I know I do belong here. This is what I want to do. I can compete with these girls no matter who I'm playing. I have a chance against anyone."
Oudin improved to 6-1 at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open this year when she's lost the first set. She is 17-4 overall this year in three-set matches.
"I don't actually mean to lose the first set," she insisted. "Sometimes, I just start off slowly. Maybe I'm a little nervous. Today, my timing was off a little. But I just totally forgot about it, started off the second set like it was a new match, and I started playing better."
Oudin won this match without serving a single ace, another indication she is not blowing anybody away with sheer power. Instead, it's footwork, technique, precision. Mostly, though, she is thriving in pressure situations that make so many others in the sport shrink away.
"You don't know if she's winning or losing," said her father, John. "She doesn't seem nervous out there - and I don't know where that came from."

Organizations: U.S. Open, French Open

Geographic location: NEW YORK, Wimbledon, Georgia America Tampa, Fla. Armstrong Stadium Ashe Stadium

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