It took only 3 days for the Oudin Clan to get bounced from SW-19 this year, after a very lengthy stay on the grounds last year, that began with the qualifying round, as Oudin qualified for the tournament by winning three consecutive matches, and then won three matches in the main draw, defeating Sybille Bammer, a good grass court player, Yaroslava Shvedova (below), of many recent successes, most notably propably her Roland Garros quarter-final last month, and in upset fashion, highly seeded Jelena Jankovic (handshake above).

Oudin followed it up with some improbable wins at the US Open, lucking into a very injured Sharapova, but taking out Elena Dementieva, Nadia Petrova, and the rising Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in fine fashion.  All in all it was four good wins, the best for any young Americans since Serena Williams came on the scene, even if Sharapova did throw in 21 double faults and basically gifted that match to Oudin.

But Oudin is no Serena Williams.  Let’s take her size, for a better comparison.  She’s 5’4.  Only Justine Henin of late in the women’s game, and also Francesca Schiavone, have been able to win majors at that size since Martina Hingis did it, a little before the Williams sisters came along and blew Hingis off the scene.  Oudin can not serve like Henin or Schiavone, and frankly, Schiavone’s French Open win was a bit of a miracle, as it has never happened that a 30 year old player outside the top 10 rides in and wins a major.  Henin, the model small player, has weapons at every turn.  Her serve is a weapon.  Her forehand and backhand especially, will make you pay.  And she knows how to come forward and finish at the net.  She’s probably the most beautiful shot maker to watch in the women’s game that there has been in some time.  Oudin has no weapons.  And she’s not about to develop any.

Oudin lost to rising Australian Jarmila Groth (above), world # 90, because Groth’s first serve is a weapon, and Groth has other parts of her game, including a big forehand, that she can rely on.  Groth made 30 of 36 first serves for 82 %, whereas Oudin’s first serve percentage was about fifty percent, wholly unacceptable.  Groth converted on 4 of 7 break opportunites, and saved one of two against, and came away with the easy victory, 6-3, 6-4 in 1 hour and 16 minutes.  Oudin, the only American of real note besides the Williams sisters, who has risen to 33rd in the world, may not have a much higher ceiling than that, because she is a defense first player, and she needs to set up a point with many rally strokes before she can go for a winner.  That type of player is always going to lose to a talented, steady player.

I am going to totally indict 2 of Oudin’s biggest wins.  First, Jankovic at Wimbledon.  Jankovic was very banged up, they kept having to put her leg back together with trainers, and she can be a very, very poor server.  That’s the kind of player Oudin has a chance against.  One who is not too dangerous.  Against Sharapova at the Open, Oudin was able to scramble around to enough of Sharapova’s shots and force enough errors, as well as accepting the gift of 21 doubles.  Even against Dementieva, you have a player whose serve can be shaky, meaning you are going to get chances to break, which you will need, because you will surrender break chances, and still have a chance to come out on top.

Jarmila Groth is a not a player who is going to give you many looks at a break.  I see this as a flaw in Oudin’s game that is almost impossible to make go away.  And as an American tennis fan, I think the recent emergence of Alison Riske, who is Oudin’s age, and who recently came out of nowhere in Oudin fashion, but who can serve, giving her game a different dimension, has a higher potential ceiling than Oudin, who is not going to hold serve throwing in first balls at 95 MPH and second balls around 80 MPH.

As with any American, I root for Oudin, despite her shortcomings.  And she’s a good story.  She’s got the twin sister plotline and the believe shoes.  Against Groth, she managed only 9 winners in 76 minutes.

As a tennis fan, I can’t believe in a player who hits a winner every 9.5 minutes.  I believe you have to make shots to win at tennis.

–Crack (