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 one day.
Who knew she’d 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 Saturday in the most startling result of the tournament’s opening week.
“I 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 of Britain.
Yet there Oudin was this year, outlasting 2008 U.S. Open runner-up Jankovic over nearly 3 hours, then calling Mom and Dad back home to share in the revelry.
“My emotions are all over the place,” Oudin’s father, John, said in a telephone interview. “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!’ ”
The only time Oudin showed signs of nerves during the most important match of her nascent career came in the opening set. She held four set points, and blew them all with unforced errors.
When that 66-minute set ended, Jankovic had the lead, but she clearly was in trouble on a sunny day with the temperature in the 80s.
A trainer and doctor came out to measure her pulse and blood pressure, and she began to cry. They put bags of ice on Jankovic’s legs and abdomen, then the back of her neck, and gave her an energy drink to sip.
“I was feeling quite weak. No power,” Jankovic said. “I wasn’t the same player.”
While Oudin was working on her big win, five-time Wimbledon champion 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 of Spain. 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 Serena 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 in 1991-93 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.
Oudin wasn’t the only teen who turned in a significant win: 19-year-old Sabine Lisicki of Germany beat two-time major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 7-5.
The 41st-ranked Lisicki now meets yet another teen, No. 9-seeded Caroline Wozniacki. No. 1 Dinara Safina, after dispatching Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, will play 2006 Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo.
In men’s matches, No. 6 Roddick entered the day 8-0 against No. 26 Jurgen Melzer and now is 9-0 after a 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-3 victory. But No. 20 Tomas Berdych improved from 0-8 to 1-8 against No. 12 Nikolay Davydenko by winning 6-2, 6-3, 6-2.
Elsewhere, No. 3 Andy Murray’s bid to end Britain’s 73-year wait for a male champion continued with a straight-sets win against No. 30 Viktor Troicki; No. 24 Tommy Haas and No. 29 Igor Andreev wrapped up victories in matches suspended Friday because of darkness; and 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt, No. 8 Gilles Simon, No. 23 Radek Stepanek and 2003 French Open Juan Carlos Ferrero also advanced. Ferrero, a former No. 1 now ranked 70th, needed a wild-card invitation to get into the field, but he beat No. 10 Fernando Gonzalez 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 on Court 1 as a light rain fell.