When the Williams Sisters blasted onto the scene in the 90s, many started saying they were the future of women’s tennis. Today, Venus and Serena are the two highest ranked American female, tennis players. Coming in third is Melanie Oudin. Only 18 years old, she’s been defining herself as a winner, especially after last year’s surprise run to the US Open’s semifinals.
People’s expectations for Oudin went through the roof after last year’s performance. But this year, a repeat Cinderella run was cut short in the Open’s second round. Still, Melanie is being compared to the Williams sisters. Many fans look to her to be the next shining star of American, womens tennis.
In our current sports culture, results are all important. Patience for practice, progression and long term perfecting of ability is nil. Fans want to see an up and coming teen win events across the United States now, not later. Oudin readily admits she has a lot of room for improvement.
Perhaps, in a few years, Melanie Oudin will be hoisting a trophy after winning a major. For now, however, she still faces the inevitable struggles, early tournament exits and learning experiences with which the road to greatness is covered.
Listen to the Melanie Oudin Interview:
Chris Yandek: When I thought about what I would ask you first, I got to the conclusion that you had this amazing run last year at the US Open and through that the expectations went through the roof. Is that the downside to being a young athlete, overachieving and then everyone just thinks you’re going to be better from there or is there something else other than that?
Melanie Oudin: “It definitely adds some pressure because of how I did last year. Everyone expects this year for me to do as well or even better. So there’s a lot more expectation than there were last year, but I’m just going into it like I did last year and hopefully I can do even better.”
CY: So from there, how do you think at the time – being 17 years old – you accomplished what you did last year, at the US Open, upsetting numerous higher ranked players?
MO: “Yeah. It was pretty crazy. I mean, it was really unbelievable for me. It was a pretty good shock to me as it was everybody else ‘cause I didn’t expect it to happen like all of a sudden like that, but I played some really good tennis. I fought really hard and I was able to come out with wins in those tough matches.”
CY: We have this I want it now, you can be famous by being on a reality show society, my team needs to win now, not next year culture. So then everyone is like it’s nothing but up from here for you. Do you think people would have reacted differently if you were in tennis maybe a few decades ago where perhaps people would have just waited and seen what you did after the US Open instead of putting all this extra hype on you?
MO: “Maybe. I can see how people want me to do well and they expect more from me because there aren’t really a lot of Americans that are coming up. I’m the third highest behind the Williams Sisters and I’m only ranked like 42 in the world. So I’m trying to close that gap a little bit by doing better, but it’s really nice to have the crowd support and a lot of new fans, but then yes it is a lot of pressure added that people expect me to do well all the time now.”
CY: But at 18 years old I would imagine as you’re still progressing in your athletic goals, what really are your expectations for yourself and really what would you like people’s expectations to be for you?
MO: “Well, for myself I always expect myself to give 100 percent every time I go out on the court. I expect myself to believe myself and play with confidence and do the best I can and that’s all you can do really. I mean you can’t expect more from yourself than that, but I think sometimes people expect too much when last year I had a really, really good run at the US Open, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen all the time just because I had one really good tournament. I’m still learning. I’m still young and I know I can improve a lot in my game still.”
CY: So then how does it make you feel being grouped in with the Williams Sisters and people saying perhaps you’re gonna be the next American female tennis star to carry on that legacy? I’m guessing that’s not great?
MO: “That is, I’m extremely honored to be considered right next to the Williams Sisters, but yes I have a long ways to go I think until that point and I know I have a lot more work to do. And yes, it’s a little bit tough, the fact that there aren’t that many Americans that are close by me in the rankings, but I think a lot of them are going to start coming up now and hopefully they’ll be a lot more Americans in the top 100 soon.”
CY: When I refer to that’s not great, that just added extra pressure obviously.
CY: So who has been the most helpful through this last year as you’ve battled some obstacles?
MO: “Really my coach has been extremely helpful. I’ve been with him since I was nine. So he knows. We’ve been through a lot together. So he knows really everything about my game and how I did last year and then how handling everything has been like all ex-citations and all the pressure from everyone. So I think he’s been the most helpful.”
CY: You know I wonder when you look at players like Martina Hingis and Tracy Austin for example, do you find any inspiration in them?
MO: “Yes I do. I didn’t get to watch them a lot because I was really young when they were playing. When I started playing I was actually watching the Williams Sisters. They were the first ones I really started admiring when I was little.”
CY: Why don’t you tell me about the http://www.nextcontenders.com and what people can learn from you about that, about the things they don’t know about these upcoming tennis players?
MO: “Well, www.nextcontenders.com is a new site created by American Express that gives fans a good chance to see behind the scenes at tennis pros like me, Jon Isner, Sam Querrey and Caroline Wozniacki and get to see us prepare for the US Open and different things. There’s little clips and interviews and off court stuff about all of us. So people can learn stuff.”
CY: Well, then what should we know about you that we don’t is really the follow up question here? Maybe not on that website, maybe something in general?
MO: “Things about me, I mean, I’m pretty much just like a normal teenager. People don’t understand that, that right before the US Open last year I was still a completely normal teenager and I’m still one too. I mean I think I’ve matured a lot as a player and as a person through all of this and I’ve had to grow up pretty quickly, but I still like to do all the same things that normal teenagers do.”
CY: But I know that your sport takes a lot of time and discipline, so you’re saying to me that you have time to do normal teenager things? Maybe that even includes dating for example?
MO: “Yes. I do. Actually, I’m gonna have a boyfriend. So I do go on dates and stuff. And I go out with my friends to movies and shopping and all that stuff when I’m home, which isn’t that often.”
You can learn more about Melanie Oudin at http://www.nextcontenders.com
Melanie Oudin’s official website is at http://www.melanieoudin.com