- The Washington Times - Friday, September 4, 2009

NEW YORK | It’s right there on her shoes: “Believe.” Melanie Oudin always has, though even she had to admit this latest accomplishment felt a bit overwhelming.

Maybe that helped explain why her leg was cramping, why the tears were falling, why the match points were slipping away toward the end of her U.S. Open upset of fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva on Thursday.

“First time playing on Arthur Ashe, I was beating No. 4 in the world, about to beat her,” Oudin said. “Just a little bit of everything. A lot of things were going through my mind.”

The 17-year-old from Marietta, Ga., ranked 70th in the world, won 5-7, 6-4, 6-3. She is now, by almost every account, the next great American hope in women’s tennis.

She places this upset next to the one over No. 6 Jelena Jankovic at Wimbledon that catapulted her into the top 100. Or maybe a little above it.

That one was on Court 3 in front of hundreds an ocean away. This one was in Arthur Ashe Stadium in front of thousands in her home country.

“I think it means more to me, though, since this is the U.S. Open,” Oudin said. “You know, I had the whole crowd cheering for me, so much support.”

She played much of the third set with a heavy wrap on her left thigh, a lingering injury she said shouldn’t prevent her from returning for her third-round match against No. 29 Maria Sharapova, a 6-2, 6-1 winner over Christina McHale, another 17-year-old American.

The United States has long sought depth in a talent pool that has consisted of Serena and Venus Williams dominating at the top, with not too much beyond them.

“They’ve been, like, my idols,” Oudin said. “I’m really proud of that, to be the third-best American.”

She started moving up the list at Wimbledon, where she became the youngest American to reach the fourth round since Jennifer Capriati in 1993. Between then and now, she still had to go through qualifying to get into main draws in tournaments in the United States. Somewhere in the midst of all that, her boyfriend prodded her into sticking the word “Believe” on her shoes.

“It seems to fit me well,” she said.

Dementieva agreed. She committed 37 unforced errors but insisted she did not hand the victory to Oudin. The Russian hit winners to stave off Oudin’s first two match points.

“So I needed to go for a big serve, and it went in,” Oudin said.

For a winner.

“She was in the court, not afraid to play, playing very aggressively, really enjoying this atmosphere and the crowd support,” Dementieva said. “It looks like she has a good future.”

Later on the show court, No. 5 Jelena Jankovic lost 6-3, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (6) to Yaroslava Shevedova. That further opened up the weaker half of the draw - both Williams sisters are on the opposite side - maybe for No. 1 Dinara Safina, who stayed alive in the quest for her first major, but in ugly fashion. She defeated Germany’s Kristina Barrois 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3 despite 38 unforced errors and 15 double-faults in her second straight uncomfortably close match.

No. 20 Tommy Haas of Germany defeated American Robert Kendrick; 10th-seeded Fernando Verdasco also advanced, along with Americans Jesse Witten and No. 22 Sam Querrey.

On the women’s side, No. 13 Nadia Petrova, No. 21 Zheng Jie and No. 24 Sorana Cirstea advanced. No. 30 Alona Bondarenko and No. 23 Sabine Lisicki lost.

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