The word everyone uses for tennis sensation Melanie Oudin is
"upstart." While sports writers have been yawning over the men's section of the
U.S. Open, where the quasi-divine Roger Federer is quietly and
predictably sweeping all comers, they've been cheering for the young
star's cheerfulness, cherubic looks and most of all, her four massive upsets against top-ranked Russians.
The story of Oudin has touched a vein of national pride, but has also revealed a certain fickleness in tennis coverage. Two months ago, commentators jumped
backflips over Roger Federer's record-setting 15th title win,
breathlessly debating whether he was, as Pete Sampras asserted, the game's best player. Now? He's too dominant, doing
his best to "extinguish any excitement" on the men's court.
While Oudin enjoys her hour in the sun, here's what commentators are saying about what she means for the sport and the country:
A Great American Fairy Tale Equating Oudin's likability as "a girl-next-door sweetheart" to a type of prozac for the nation, The Daily Beast's Danielle Friedman says, "even if she doesn’t win—at the close of a summer of polarizing battles over back-to-school speeches and health-care debates—Oudin has provided the country with a burst of sunshine."
The 'Next Face of American Tennis,' beams SportsFanLive's Dan Hurwitz, who pits the star up against her famous Russian counterparts. "We have had a tennis beauty who was awful at tennis (Anna Kourikova), a tennis beauty who was unbelievable and is trying to come back from injury (Maria Sharapova), but now we have our AMERICAN tennis beauty in Oudin." Similarly, ESPN's SportsNation asks if Melanie Oudin is the next American star. "Oudin's first big moment came ealier this summer in a Wimbledon upset against Jelena Jankovic. But it wasn't until she ran through Russian opponents like a deleted scene from "Red Dawn" in the first four rounds of the U.S. Open that we really started paying attention." And Jon Wertheim at Sports Illustrated says, "The hype machine and the eagerness (desperation?) for a next American star will be a mixed blessing to Oudin. But there sure is a lot to like here."
Sports Commentators' Daling Noting the overly supportive reaction of CBS Sports' Dick Enberg to Oudin's win, Dan Levy at The Sporting Blog says, "One just has to wonder how the match would be called if Joe Buck were sitting with John McEnroe and Mary Carillo....Is there something about the across-the-net nature of tennis that makes rooting for one side more understandable?" Referencing several broadcasters who answered, no, there's not, he asks, "So the play-by-play guys can root for players and storylines, but the analysts who's paid to give his opinion won't tell us who he thinks will win?"
- A 'One Woman Cold Warrior," shouts David Roth at the Wall Street Journal. "The 17-year-old, 5-foot-6 sparkplug has dispatched one towering, powerful Russian tennis star after another during her push to the quarterfinals, often dropping the first set for what seems like dramatic effect."
- Proof That Height Doesn't Matter, says Carl Bialik at the Wall Street Journal. "Oudin gave up at least five inches to each of her last two opponents, No. 4 Elena Dementieva and 29th-seed Maria Sharapova, but she broke them 15 times, fully half of their service games. Her blistering ground strokes and mediocre serve combine to make her almost as dangerous when she's returning serve than when she's holding it."