Greetings Tennis Afflicted,
In every champion tennis player there is a failure, or rather, a long list of potential failures that have somehow been avoided. The odds are surely not stacked in favor of anyone becoming the best in the world at their craft, or even one of the best in the world. For many, a birth in a Grand-Slam draw would be a minor miracle that one could hang her hat on for a long time, maybe even a lifetime.
If that were the case for Melanie Oudin - if making a slam, or even blasting her way into the quarters of a Slam, were enough - America would forgive her. In a sense, recently turned 18-year-old Melanie Oudin, recent Fed Cup drubbing notwithstanding, has already lived the type of charmed tennis life that most toiling juniors would give their service toss arm for.
But forgiveness may not be necessary when it comes to the spunky type-A kid from Marietta Georgia. Perhaps the best has yet to come? If she learns to channel that intensity a little better. If she can learn to play as well with a lead as she does when she's trailing, we just might have something here, America.
It is the big IF that is captivating about Oudin: If she really does have that special something that we all seem to see in her; If she is not satiated by her dramatic rise to relevance during 2009; If she has the patience and the wherewithal to know that whatever she did to get to where she is - however many drops of blood, sweat, and tears she left on the court - she'll have to do more of it, and with a greater sense of purpose, to remain where she is.
But there is something about Oudin that makes Americans believe in her ascension, that maybe the IF cloud will indeed give way to golden rays of tennis achievements. Her feistiness makes us remember where we came from. There was a time when we had to fight for our own freedom, not just our notion of everybody else's, and Oudin has this pre-super-power aura about her - she plays tennis more like a woman who is fleeing religious persecution than a woman whose daddy bought her too many stuffed animals for her birthday.
If she can keep it up, she just might be the one.
Venus and Serena will be 30 and 29 next year, respectively. Like the psychology of a woman who approaches her late 30's childless, American Woman's tennis is starting to feel the void of having no safety net behind the Williamses.
If Oudin can do more of what she already has been doing for a year now, American tennis may stay on the map. If not, Dark days are sure to follow.
It's a tall order for a relatively short girl, but Oudin's dogged determination and fierce persona make her larger than life in all our eyes.
If she can turn her most humbling losses into logs and throw them into the fire in her belly, then the future looks bright for Oudin.