Martin Rogers

U.S. Open Slice, Day 4: U.S. teen sparks optimism

Busted Racquet

FIRST SERVE

So much for the grim future of U.S. women's tennis.

The dearth of talent behind Venus and Serena Williams has been long lamented by the American tennis community, with little cause for optimism shining through in recent years.

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But a glimpse of better times to come emerged Thursday in the form of plucky 17-year-old Melanie Oudin, who dispatched fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva in three sets on Arthur Ashe.

Oudin, from Marietta, Ga., stands just 5-foot-6 yet has the heart of a lion and a dazzling array of blistering ground strokes.

Dementieva, one of the finest stroke-makers on the circuit, simply had no answer as Oudin backed up her upset win over Jelena Jankovic at Wimbledon with an even bigger one here.

It is not just Oudin's ability that suggests she can reach the top, but her attitude – the refusal to say die that smacks of championship caliber.

"The whole thing was amazing," said Oudin. "I can't believe I won."

She shouldn't be so surprised. This wasn't one of those freak upsets, brought about by a favored player having a dismal day.

Oudin just outclassed Dementieva, answering every question posed by the Olympic gold medalist and coming back with more of her own.

Toward the end there was an aura of inevitability that the result would go to the younger, less experienced and far less credentialed Oudin.

Oudin stepped on to court with "Believe" written on her shoes and believe she did, even after surrendering the first set and receiving treatment on a thigh injury.

With Oudin's peak surely still some way off, U.S. women's tennis can perhaps step forward without such shackles of trepidation.

DROP SHOT

For the second straight round Dinara Safina looked nothing like a world No. 1 as she staved off elimination against 67th ranked Kristina Barrois. Safina trailed 2-0 in the third set and served 15 double faults before coming through 6-3 in the decider, but the pressure continues to mount with every unconvincing performance. Serena Williams will be licking her lips.

CLEAN WINNERS

Big-serving Americans Sam Querrey and John Isner both signaled their intentions with powerful performances to reach the third round. Querrey, 6-9, saw off a spirited challenge from Kevin Kim while Isner, an inch taller, took care of Marcel Ilhan in straight sets.

Things get more difficult for both next though, with Querrey set to face French Open finalist Robin Soderling and Isner up against either Andy Roddick or Marc Gicquel.

UPSET ALERT

Keep an eye on Court 13, where talented young Frenchman Josselin Ouanna takes on 11th seed Fernando Gonzalez. Ouanna gave Gonzalez some tricky moments when they met at the French Open and an upset could be in the cards.

MATCH OF THE DAY

Jelena Jankovic's miserable year continued with a shocking defeat to Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan on Arthur Ashe Court. Jankovic went down in a tense third set tiebreak and looked a mere shadow of the player who reached world No. 1 last year. Shvedova however, produced some exceptional and fearless play to secure the upset 6-3, 6-7, 7-6.

Photo courtesy Getty Images

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