Commentary

Oudin's rise sends Jankovic packing

Originally Published: June 27, 2009
By Greg Garber | ESPN.com

WIMBLEDON, England -- On Saturday, deep into a Grand Slam event, two American women won their matches.

Only one of them was named Williams.

For although Venus Williams predictably was a 6-0, 6-4 winner over Carla Suarez-Navarro, 17-year-old Melanie Oudin stunned Jelena Jankovic 6-7 (8), 7-5, 6-2 to join Williams in the fourth round.

"Super good news," Williams said. "I like it."

Oudin, from Marietta, Ga., is the youngest American to reach the round of 16 at Wimbledon since 17-year-old Jennifer Capriati made the quarterfinals in 1993. Additionally, Oudin is the youngest American to reach the fourth round at any Grand Slam event since 17-year-old Serena Williams won the 1999 U.S. Open.

That is phenomenal company.

"I mean," Oudin said, "I don't think about, 'Oh my gosh, Melanie, you're the next upcoming American. Everyone is looking at you. All the pressure's on you.'

"I don't think about that. I don't ever let that bother me."

ESPN analyst Pam Shriver called it the biggest breakthrough victory for an American woman since Serena's U.S. Open triumph a decade ago. Oudin, who won three matches to qualify, entered the tournament with zero Grand Slam match victories. Now, she has three and will play Agnieszka Radwanska on Monday.

Jankovic, however, was less than impressed.

"She cannot hurt you with anything," Jankovic said. "She doesn't have any weapons, from what I've seen. If I felt a little bit more fresh at the end of that second set, I could have won in two sets."

"She doesn't make so many mistakes. But she doesn't do anything, either, so it's like she's depending kind of on you."

Jankovic attributed her loss to "woman problems."

"It's not easy being a woman, sometimes," Jankovic said. "All these things happen. What can I do?

"After the first set, I felt really dizzy, and I thought that I was just going to end up in the hospital. I started to shake. I was losing my -- how you say -- consciousness. I was really going to lose it, you know, to fall down and just, you know, probably go -- call the ambulance and leave the court."

The only person on the grounds who felt worse than Jankovic was probably Svetlana Kuznetsova. The reigning French Open champion was taken down by another teenager, a 19-year-old German named Sabine Lisicki 6-2, 7-5.

"It's the first time I'm in the second week," Lisicki said. "I just kept telling myself, 'You have nothing to lose -- just go for your shots.' That's what I did in the end. It turned out to be good."

Oudin's first two victims were Sybille Bammer and Yaroslava Shvedova, but Jankovic was a huge step up. Jankovic was briefly the world's No. 1-ranked player and was the No. 6 seed here, and she was the first top-10 opponent Oudin had ever faced.

But Jankovic came out oddly listless; she seemed affected by the simmering heat of the day. She was off-footed, too, by some line calls and seemed to spend more time arguing with the chair umpire than focusing on her young opponent.

Oudin actually could have won in straight sets. She held four set points in the first set but fell in a tight tiebreaker. For some teenagers, that might have been enough, but Oudin fought on. She hung on to win the second set, then breezed through the third.

For the match, Oudin hit 38 winners to Jankovic's 13. Although her serve still needs more pace to compete with those of the top players, her groundstrokes were heavy and well placed. Jankovic goes home with another disappointing Grand Slam effort -- after reaching the fourth round in Melburne and Paris, she was forced to settle for the third round here.

"I went out there and actually did really well," Oudin said, sounding a little surprised. "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.

"Yeah, I think I handled it really well today."

[+] EnlargeJelena Jankovic
Carl De Souza/AFP/Getty ImagesDespite losing, Jelena Jankovic says Melanie Oudin has no weapons in her game.

For years, the Williams sisters, along with Lindsay Davenport and Capriati, were the nucleus of America's great stable of players. But Capriati and Davenport are gone, and the sisters Williams constitute the still-effective but aging core. As such, they often are asked where their successors are coming from.

"Yeah, everyone's been talking about it," Venus said, "but there's not much I can say about it, really. Unfortunately, not much I can do either."

Going forward, there are some things you need to know about Oudin:

1. The last name is French, and it's pronounced OU-DANH.

2. She is small by today's standards, but at 5-foot-6, 130 pounds, she plays in a style resembling that of her idol, Justine Henin.

3. She's ranked No. 124 in the world right now, but these wins should carry her all the way to No. 70 -- by far a career high.

When you're 17, things can change quickly. A year ago, Oudin played in the junior tournament and lost to eventual champion Laura Robson. This year, Robson lost her first match in the main draw and Oudin inexplicably finds herself into the second week.

"Yes," Oudin said, "it's a long way from the juniors. But the thing is, I've been working so hard. I mean, it was disappointing last year, but I've always come back from it.

"And just being here … I mean, playing in the pros this year is unbelievable. And the fourth round of Wimbledon, I definitely did not see that coming at all."

Neither did anyone else.

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Greg Garber

Writer, Reporter
Greg Garber joined ESPN in 1991 and provides reports for NFL Countdown and SportsCenter. He is also a regular contributor to Outside the Lines and a senior writer for ESPN.com.