If you learned that a 17-year-old American ranked well outside the world’s top 65 players went deep, deep into the draw at the year’s final grand slam event, the U.S. Open in New York, it probably wouldn’t surprise you a bit, would it, to learn that each and every one of her matches prior to the quarter finals came against Russian opponents, whom she cut down as if they were feeble shoots of wheat beneath her sharpened deadly scythe, regardless of their ranking?
The Russian women’s team was soundly thrashed by upstart Italy in the semi-finals of the Fed Cup international tournament this past April, so while we will see the American team in the finals, we won’t be seeing the “dominant” Russian women there, unless they are in the stands with tickets. Ouch. But that brutal humiliation was as nothing compared to what happened to the Russians at this year’s U.S. Open.
The Americans won the right to face the Italians for the world championship of nations, the right to hoist the Fed Cup, with the help of 17-year-old Melanie Oudin of Atlanta Georgia, ranked #70 in the world, who whipped Gisela Dulko of Argentina, ranked #40, in the quarters and vaulted the American team into the semis when they were on the ropes.
At the U.S. Open last week, Oudin showed more protegy-like prowess. She dismantled and destroyed Yelena Dementieva, ranked #4 in the world, preventing the Russian player who, according to the seedings, should have reached the semi-finals from getting past the second round.
She moved on to face Maria Sharapova in the third round, where the world gaped in horror as Sharapova served an astonishing 14 double faults (and and even more shocking 45 unforced errors, while striking only four more winners than Oudin) over the course of just the first two sets, which were split between the players. Shamapova leads the entire world in double fault percentage, averaging eight per match and Oudin broke her serve four times in the first two sets alone.
Sharapova seemed to be playing with actual contempt not just for the fans but for the sport of tennis itself. Her “strategy” seemed to be to swing her racket with crazed force each time the ball came her way and hope her shot landed in as a winner, otherwise to concede the point. Despite frenzied serving in this manner, resulting in those horrifying 14 double faults, Sharapova managed to collect just one ace over the course of two sets. Shamapova’s winners-errors ratio revealed the same repugnant and utter failure to carry out a repulsive and malignant strategy.
To put it mildly, nobody but nobody wants to pay money to watch tennis played this way, and as if her “strategy” was not bad enough there was also Sharapova’s barbaric shrieking after each frenzied swing the ball. One had the impression of being in the colloseum watching a gladiator (Oudin) facing a wild beast. Tennis made its reputation on being civlized, as best personified by the elegant and thrilling Roger Federer. Sharapova’s play and behavior debases the sport and hastens its demise.
In the third set, Oudin marched right out and broke Shamapova’s serve a fifth time in the opening game, then held her own serve to consolidate the break. In a shameless act of gamesmanship, the “Russian” who lives in America — and who had shown no signs of any injury — called for the trainer after barely holding serve in the fifth game (where she tossed in her seventeenth double fault), attempting to ice the greenhorn Oudin into tossing the match on nerves. To say the least, it did not work. Oudin took the final set 7-5, breaking Sharapova’s serve a total of eight times and watching the hapless Russian strike a ghastly 63 unforced errors, nearly twice Oudin’s total, and a truly mortifying 21 double faults.
Oudin had also met and destroyed a much higher-ranked Russian in her first round match, namely world #36 Anastasia Pavluchenkova. This woeful, but much higher-ranked Russian, managed to take only three games from the mighty Oudin out of 15 played. So by the time she crushed Sharapova, her lethal racket was already dripping with Russian blood.
After thrashing Sharapova, yes, you guessed it, Oudin faced yet a fourth Russian, world #13 Nadia Petrova. Should she have defeated her, she was on course to face still a fifth Russian, world #6 Svetlana Kuznetesova. By time time Oudin walked on court to face Petrova on Labor Day, every single other Russian in the female draw had been eliminated. Only Petrova and Kuzntesova remained.
Most especially, Russia’s top-ranked player, so-called “world #1” Dinara Safina, once again humiliated herself and her country. Even though dumb luck saw all four of the seeded players in Safina’s quarter of the draw lose before she could meet them, leaving Safina to play second-rate pretenders all the way to the quarter finals, Safina could not even make it to the fourth round. She surrendered in the third to an unseeded Czech opponent not ranked in the world’s top 70 players, giving yet more proof to the hypothesis that she is the most unworthy #1 in the history of the sport (though Sharapova, who never won a title while she held the top spot and defended it only for a couple of months, surely gives her a run for her counterfeit money in that regard).
In Oudin’s fourth-round match against Petrova, she faced a massive opponent who weighed 143 lbs to Oudin’s mere 130 lbs and stood a towering 5’10” tall to Oudin’s diminutive 5’6″. With 13 pounds and 4 inches over the American, Petrova served a dominating 10 aces to none for Oudin, yet Oudin still broke Petrova’s serve a startling three times in the decisive third set after winning only one game in the first. The highly-ranked Russian fell apart like cheap suit in the pressure cooker of the final set while the American came into her own, and by the end of the match Petrova had tossed in an atrocious, godawful fifty-nine unforced errors, nearly twice the American’s total. Now, despite having four of the top ten seeds in the tournament (and one-fourth of all the available seeds), only one Russian was left in the draw with a chance to get as far as the quarter finals, namely Kuznetsova.
But Maid Melanie would get no chance to slay that final Russian dragon. Instead, Kuznetsova was booted out of the tournament in the fourth round by a lower-seeded Danish player. With eight of the tournament’s 32 seeds, Russia did not get one single player into the quarter finals.
In other words, yet again the so-called “dominant” Russian women faced a new low in the annals of brutal humiliation on the tennis court before the gaping eyes of a slack-jawed world.
If there was any consolation to be found for Russia’s pathetic women, it may have been that Russia’s men were even more wretched. Russia placed seven male players into the U.S. Open draw and only two of them made it past the first round. That’s right, five out of seven were eliminated in their very first match. Only Mikhail Youzhny, who was eliminated in his second match, and Nikolai Davydenko, who quit in the middle of his fourth-round match, got past the first round.