Melanie Oudin interview after beating Maria Sharapova at US Open

Melanie Oudin
Saturday, September 5, 2009 — US Open

Q. Five weeks ago you were playing against a kid from Boston College. Now you just beat a former US Open winner on center court. How do you make the transition?
MELANIE OUDIN: It’s not that hard for me ’cause I love playing tennis no matter who I’m playing. Getting to play Maria today was an unbelievable experience for me. She’s such a great competitor, a great player. I just had a blast playing there today.

Q. What did you learn?
MELANIE OUDIN: I learned, once again, proved to myself that I can compete with these top girls. And if I believe in myself and my game, then I can beat them.

Q. When someone double faults or has as much trouble on her serve as that, is it actually almost distracting?
MELANIE OUDIN: I knew she was struggling with her serve. She gave me some double faults, crucial, crucial points. But, I mean, a lot of things go into it. It was really tight in the match. I mean, it was like 5 All in the third. Nerves were kicking in and everything.
No, I thought I stayed focused pretty well. I didn’t think it really affected me with the double faults.

Q. How has your life changed at all from the time you got to this tournament till now?
MELANIE OUDIN: I don’t think it’s changed at all. The only thing that’s different is more people know who I am. That’s it. Everything else is exactly the same. I’m still the same person. I want to keep doing the same thing.

Q. Do people recognize you in places around and about?
MELANIE OUDIN: A little bit. Yesterday they did some. Probably now they’re going to a little bit more (smiling).

Q. Can you talk about your competitive spirit?
MELANIE OUDIN: I’ve always been so competitive, doesn’t matter what I’m doing. Whether I’m playing tennis, playing cards, playing some kind of like board game, I always want to win more than anything. I’m not going to give up, you know, no matter what the score is. I’m down 6 0, 5 0, you know, I’m not going to give up. I’m going to keep fighting.

Q. What was your approach tactically?
MELANIE OUDIN: Going into the match today I knew that Maria was going to be really powerful and I knew that she was going to be hitting the corners. I knew she has a really good serve. So I was going to just try to move as well as I could and play good defense, try to get her moving before I was the one moving and try to control the points.

Q. You seemed to be on the Russian express train here. Another Russian next up, Petrova. Thoughts on that match?
MELANIE OUDIN: I haven’t really watched Petrova that much. She plays similar to a lot of the girls I played so far. I’m going to go into it like any other match and hopefully play well.

Q. Were you nervous when you had breakpoints and stuff like that?
MELANIE OUDIN: I was. I think I was really nervous in the beginning of the match. I started to calm down towards the second. And on breakpoints, I wanted the point so badly that sometimes I overplayed.
But I won the crucial ones, which is good.

Q. What has surprised you the most about what you’ve done so far?
MELANIE OUDIN: I guess it’s kind of surprising, but it’s like I’ve worked so hard for this. Finally everything is just coming together. I’m playing how I’ve been wanting to play, how I knew I could play. I just haven’t been able to do it continually for an entire match.
These past matches here, I’ve been able to keep it up the entire time, not just a couple points here or there, a set here and there, but like an entire match.

Q. What do you see ahead?
MELANIE OUDIN: Well, if I keep playing like this, hopefully I can do well.
But I still think I can improve even from today. So hopefully I can just get better.

Q. Tennis players tell themselves a lot of things during a match. What did you tell yourself most often during that match?
MELANIE OUDIN: I was telling myself just to keep it up, keep making her play as many balls as I possibly could, you know, because we were out there a really long time. I knew that I was tight in the beginning, but I started relaxing. I thought I had the momentum going in the third. So, yeah, I mean…

Q. At Wimbledon you told us most of your friends were still in the juniors. You didn’t know too many of the pros. Have you found a niche for yourself, better situated or comfortable on the tour?
MELANIE OUDIN: Yes, definitely, definitely. I’m feeling way more comfortable. I think the whole thing is just getting the experience in playing in these tournaments, the Grand Slams, playing well. Getting to play these top girls, I’m learning a lot.

Q. What has been the key to not being intimidated by the situation and by the opponent?
MELANIE OUDIN: It’s tough. But I try to pretend that it’s not like Arthur Ashe Stadium playing Maria Sharapova. I try to just pretend it’s any other match, even just practicing. Sometimes I tell myself I’m just practicing at my academy at home and I’m just playing one of my friends. So it’s not a big deal. So I don’t think about the whole occasion (smiling).

Q. When you had over 20,000 New Yorkers screaming for you, what thoughts went through your mind?
MELANIE OUDIN: Every kind of emotion possible. I mean, I was crying. I was so happy and excited. I think I’m pretty sure I screamed after I hit that last shot. Just unbelievable feeling.

Q. Were there any moments during that match where you say to yourself that you can’t believe it’s happening?
MELANIE OUDIN: During the match, not really. After is when all that hits me. But during the match, I mean, I knew I was right with her. Again, I just had to believe that I could beat her. In the third, I was so close. I was like, All right, one more game, a couple points here and there, and I would have it.
So the main thing was just believing that I could do it.

Q. You don’t remember screaming? You don’t remember your feelings? You did scream.
MELANIE OUDIN: Yes, I’m trying to remember them. That moment, it’s so crazy. I don’t even know how to explain it. Just a million things going through your mind. You know, the crowd was like roaring. Just everything imaginable.

Q. Your entire family here?
MELANIE OUDIN: No, just my mother.

Q. Are the rest of them maybe coming?
MELANIE OUDIN: Now that I won today, they could be coming back. I’m not sure yet, though.

Q. Years from now if you had to explain to a friend this day, what word would you use?
MELANIE OUDIN: Someone asked me this question at Wimbledon, how I would describe the whole experience. There’s not really one word. Everything about it is just unbelievable. But basically I love to play tennis, and that’s why I’m here. I’m loving it.

Q. What do you think you’ve shown about the weapons that you have in your game? This is something at Wimbledon, when you beat Jelena Jankovic, she said you didn’t have weapons. What do you think you’ve shown here?
MELANIE OUDIN: I think the biggest weapon can be mental toughness. It doesn’t have to be a stroke or a shot or anything like that. If you’re mentally tough out there, then you can beat anyone. I think that’s what I really did well today and I’ve done in my past matches. I’m so focused and I fight super hard. So it’s not going to be easy to beat me or I’m not going to back down at all.

Q. Is that something you learned, or you were born with that?
MELANIE OUDIN: I don’t think I was born with it. But I’ve learned to do that. I mean, that’s how I’ve been for a long time. You know, all the years of training, my coach pushing me so hard, just getting through years of ups and downs and everything. I’ve learned to fight super hard.

Q. Do you think you’ve seen a lot of other women choking in this Open?
MELANIE OUDIN: Choking?

Q. Yes.
MELANIE OUDIN: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think anyone’s been choking so far. But I’m hoping I won’t be one to choke (laughter).

Q. Is there a downside to your being so competitive in life?
MELANIE OUDIN: I don’t think so. I think being competitive is really good.

Q. How will you celebrate this?
MELANIE OUDIN: Well, actually I couldn’t believe it was already like 6:30. I was like, Isn’t this still the middle of the day? But apparently it’s not. I guess we’ll go eat dinner somewhere and celebrate that way.

Q. You have a French name. Do you know the history?
MELANIE OUDIN: My greatgrandfather is French, yes. But I don’t speak any and my parents aren’t French at all.

Q. Never been there?
MELANIE OUDIN: (Shaking head negatively.)

Q. Has anyone called you a giant killer yet?
MELANIE OUDIN: Yes, actually a couple people have. I mean, I don’t know. We’ll see how I do in the next round. Hopefully I can keep it up, yeah.

Q. Do you think Justine Henin has paid attention at all?
MELANIE OUDIN: I don’t know if she has. That would be unbelievable. That would be really cool if she has. But I don’t know.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about your relationship with Brian. Somewhat unusual to have someone go through their whole development with one coach, what that’s meant to you.
MELANIE OUDIN: Yes, Brian is like another dad to me. I’ve been with him since I was nine, so basically since I started playing tournaments. I mean, our relationship has just so many things I’ve learned from him. We’ve been through a lot together. Just to be in this position now, I mean, getting to the fourth round of the US Open, just a huge, huge deal. Getting through all of this is amazing. I’m really glad, like, we’ve done it together.

(Source: usopen.org)

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