Sunday, February 14, 2010

Off the Radar: As Oudin Has Risen, Glatch Has Struggled

It wasn't very long ago when we were mentioning the name Alexa Glatch before the name Melanie Oudin when we started waxing inspired about the future of Women's tennis in the U.S.

Just last may, comparing Glatch to Lindsay Davenport was a more common occurrence than comparing Oudin to Justine Henin — but by the conclusion of the U.S Open in September, Glatch had become an afterthought, and Oudin the savior.

While Glatch suffered the misfortune of drawing Serena Williams in the first round of the U.S. Open, Oudin became the greatest American tennis story of the year — she had become the little engine that could and the poster child for the word "believe" in one week. In a country that goes through next big things like movie stars go through divorces, Alexa Glatch was getting perilously close to being forgotten before she had ever been noticed.

What a difference a few months can make. In the first 5 months of 2009, Glatch had scored 4 top-50 scalps (Carla Suarez Navarro at Indian Wells, Iveta Benesova and Petra Kvitova in a dominating Fed Cup performance against the Czechs, and Flavia Pennetta in a first round shocker at Roland Garros). While it wasn't exactly Sports Illustrated cover material, Glatch was clearly a player on the rise. Not only was she winning big, but she was acting like she belonged, keeping her emotions in check and calmly marching her way up the rankings.

After Melanie's coming out party at the U.S. Open, the fact of the matter is that nobody seems to be paying attention to Glatch anymore — even after she beat Oudin in a Beijing qualifiying match, nobody seemed to notice.

As Oudin's celebrity has risen exponentially, Glatch's celebrity, and the enthusiam that many had about her potential to be an American tennis star, has evaporated.

As the two young Americans prepare for their 2nd head-to-head clash in Memphis on Tuesday night, the two players appear to be headed in opposite directions.

As of Monday morning, Oudin is at a career-high No. 42 in the Sony Ericsson WTA rankings, while Glatch — who didn't manage to crack the top-100 even during her hot spell last year — is treading water at No. 149.

While Oudin's impressive to pull herself up by her own bootstraps has been impressive (two exciting Fed Cup wins in France followed by a semifinal run that ended in a very close match with Elena Dementieva), Glatch's malaise has continued.

If there ever was a time for the tall, cool California girl to prove that she deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Melanie Oudin, Tuesday in Memphis might be that time.

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