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Will Americans build off optimistic week?
February, 15, 2010Feb 158:49AM ETComment Print Email Share All in all, this was the kind of week that might have helped U.S. players if it occurred a few weeks ago, when everyone was gathered in Melbourne, for the first Grand Slam event of the year.
Here you had Melanie Oudin, the darling of American tennis last September, pulling herself out of a tailspin and showing flashes of the game that carried her to a handful of big wins at Grand Slams and a quarterfinal finish at the Open last year.
Oudin's run began a little over a week ago, at the Fed Cup. And while the French team wasn't exactly made up of players that would lead most rank-and-file players on the WTA Tour to quake in their Nikes, they were at home, on indoor red clay. Plus, nobody on the U.S. squad was playing well during the practice week leading up to the event. But the American women stepped up, and the next thing you know Melanie Oudin, having won two Fed Cup matches, is battling Elena Dementieva for a place in the final of the Paris Indoors.
After that mini-run, Oudin brassily declared that she wanted to be seeded for the French Open and finish the year in the top 20. She emphatically said, "I think that's realistic."
Humility and guarded optimism are fine things, but you've got to love a player whose basic attitude is, "Hey, I can do this. What's the big deal?" The attitude alone is good for top 20, and if her game has some exploitable holes, it will still take a determined and willful opponent to make the most of them.
Oudin has a bit of the Andy Roddick in her, although she hasn't been roughed up enough yet to fully appreciate that determination, hard work and a specific, somewhat incomplete skill set can take you only so far.
But isn't it great how Andy Roddick hasn't ever lost his appetite for the game, or the faith that on any given day he can overcome his opponent? It doesn't matter if past history says he can't -- believing he can always puts him in with a shot. When Roddick wins Wimbledon (and I'm confident he will, one day), it will be a moment to rival Goran Ivansevic's triumph there.
Roddick had a good week, too. If you remember, he suffered a painful loss to John Isner in the third round of the U.S. Open last year. (Roddick lost the first- and fifth-set tiebreakers, falling victim to the kind of serving display that's customarily his stock in trade.) Well, the other day Roddick met Sam Querrey, who's Isner-ish (or is Isner Querrey-ish, or are both of them Roddick-ish?).
This time, Roddick was on the winning end of two tiebreakers. Nobody is going to confuse the SAP Open with the U.S. Open, but reaching the SAP final was a good bounce-back for Roddick. Gamely, if futilely fighting nerve pain in his serving arm at the Australian Open, Roddick was dumped by Marin Cilic, who burst forth as a new member of the top 10.
Given how American tennis fortunes have fluctuated lately, it's hardly surprising that Roddick failed to close the deal Sunday, letting a one-set lead slip away to a guy he'd beaten seven straight times, Fernando Verdasco. You couldn't call that a bad loss as much as an understandable one, give the way U.S. players have struggled of late.
But all in all, it was a good week -- a jump-start week -- for U.S. players, including Querrey. And with big hard-court tournaments coming up, Oudin, Querrey and Roddick have reasons to be optimistic.