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Chris Chase

The clock strikes midnight: Melanie Oudin out at U.S. Open

Busted Racquet

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Midnight came a few hours early tonight in Queens.

Melanie Oudin, the 17-year old Cinderella story of this year's U.S. Open, was a straight set loser this evening in her quarterfinal match against No. 9 seed Caroline Wozniacki.

Oudin was listless from the start, going down 0-3 in the first set and never recovering. A late-arriving crowd was unable to get behind her and Oudin's frustrations seemed to grow with every passing game.

Wozniacki figured to present a problem for Oudin because their games were so similar. Both players rely on a steady brand of tennis, returning everything and waiting for other players to make mistakes. But, on this night, Oudin was a bit off and Wozniacki seemed content to wait for the American to make mistakes. Wozniacki won with just five winners but forced Oudin into 43 unforced errors, a huge amount for a 16-game match.

The writing was on the wall early. Oudin never seemed right in the first set. This led to her coach, Brian de Villers, telling ESPN before the second set, "with everything going on she doesn't have the mindset to have the patience to battle it out." (With everything going on? What, like changing hotels because somebody was too cheap to pay a higher rate?)

One point summed up the match for Oudin. With Wozniacki serving at 1-1 in the second set, she hit a looping, 73 mph second serve that Oudin turned around on in order to hit a big forehand. But the return sailed almost 10 feet wide. There were a number of similar shots throughout the match.

Was Oudin undone by the intense pressure that accompanied the last whirlwind 48 hours? It's impossible to say. Maybe she played tightly because of the media demands and autograph requests and pressure of playing at Arthur Ashe Stadium in primetime. Or maybe she was just a 70th ranked 17-year old who played a poor match. Isn't that to be expected?

Melanie Oudin may have lost tonight, but she leaves the U.S. Open a winner. Nobody remembers who won the 1991 men's tournament, all they remember is that Jimmy Connors went to the semis. In five years, whoever hoists the trophy on Saturday night will be forgotten. But anyone who watched the 2009 U.S. Open will still remember the magical run of Melanie Oudin.

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