Melanie Oudin said she felt a measure of relief after her second-round exit at the U.S. Open, where she was unable to match the magic of her surprise run to the quarterfinals a year ago.
Oudin, 18, was ousted in straight sets yesterday by Ukraine’s Alona Bondarenko and lost the final 12 points of the match at the National Tennis Center in New York.
Oudin was the second-highest ranked American woman in the field behind Venus Williams and said she felt overwhelmed by the expectations from fans and reporters. A year ago, the unseeded Oudin pulled four straight upsets to become the youngest American woman to reach the quarterfinals of the season’s final Grand Slam tournament since Serena Williams in 1999.
“I guess I’m a tiny bit relieved,” a teary-eyed Oudin said during a news conference. “I can kind of start over from all the expectations from last year.”
Oudin, ranked 43rd in the WTA Tour rankings entering the U.S. Open, said she was nervous against the 29th-seeded Bondarenko in Louis Armstrong Stadium. She dropped the first set in 34 minutes, committed 18 more unforced errors than her opponent in the match and lost games on her serve seven times in her 6-2, 7-5 defeat.
“The second I got out there, I did feel really tight,” said Oudin. “The crowd was really, really loud. I guess it kind of overwhelmed me a little bit. People expected me to win again like last year.”
The teenager from Marietta, Georgia, lost in the first or second round in all four Grand Slam tournaments this year following her performance at the 2009 U.S. Open, which helped her net three sponsorship deals worth an estimated $1 million.
Oudin’s record this year is 18-21 and she hasn’t won consecutive matches since April.
“I happened to play the best at the biggest Grand Slam of the year,” Oudin said of her performance at the 2009 U.S. Open. “Coming in this year, people expected me to do that well. But it’s not like I’m going to play my best tennis guaranteed coming back. It just doesn’t always happen.”
Last year, Oudin’s run in New York included wins against seeded Russians Elena Dementieva, Nadia Petrova and 2006 champion Maria Sharapova. She was knocked out by eventual runner-up Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark.
While she said her performance this time around was a disappointment, Oudin said the U.S. Open remains her favorite tournament and that she already looks forward to returning.
“At least now coming into next year no one will really expect that much from me,” Oudin said. “So I guess that’s good.”