- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 28, 2009

WIMBLEDON, England | As a tyke growing up in Marietta, Ga., 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 would 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 on 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.’ ”

Another U.S. qualifier, 133rd-ranked Jesse Levine of Boca Raton, Fla., couldn’t extend his run in the men’s tournament, losing to No. 19 Stanislas Wawrinka 5-7, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3. That leaves No. 6 Andy Roddick as the last American man in the tournament.

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. She 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.

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

“My emotions are all over the place,” said Oudin’s father, John. “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 his grandmother - who encouraged Melanie and twin sister Katherine to take up tennis - might make the trip to see Oudin face No. 11 Agniesza Radwanska on Monday with a quarterfinal berth at stake, heady stuff for someone who was 0-2 at Grand Slam tournaments until this week.

While Oudin was working on her big win, five-time Wimbledon Venus Williams was enjoying a matter-of-fact contest on Centre Court, winning the first eight games en route to a 6-0, 6-4 victory over 34th-ranked Carla Suarez Navarro. The only other time they played, on a hard court at the Australian Open in January, Suarez Navarro knocked off Williams in the second round.

“Completely different circumstances,” noted the third-seeded Williams, whose younger sister advanced Friday.

At Wimbledon, the elder Williams has won 17 consecutive matches and 29 straight sets and is trying to become the first woman since Steffi Graf from 1991 to 1993 to win three consecutive titles. Next up: 2008 French Open champion and former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, who is seeded 13th and eliminated No. 18 Samantha Stosur 7-5, 6-2.

Williams was pleased to have an American not named Williams stick around for Week 2.

“Super good news,” said Williams, who called Oudin “so enthusiastic about tennis and about life, enjoying herself, very well-adjusted.”

Oudin wasn’t the only teen who turned in a significant win: 19-year-old Sabine Lisicki beat two-time major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 7-5. When the match ended, Lisicki sat in her chair, her body shaking as she sobbed.

The 41st-ranked Lisicki now meets another teen, No. 9 seed Caroline Wozniacki.

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