WIMBLEDON, England - As a tyke growing up in Marietta, Ga.,Melanie Oudin would watch Venus and Serena Williams on TV and tellanyone who would listen that she was going to play at Wimbledon,too, one day.
Who knew she'd be right? And do so well, so quickly?
Making her Wimbledon debut at age 17 after getting throughqualifying, the 124th-ranked Oudin joined the Williams sisters inthe fourth round at the All England Club by beating former No. 1Jelena Jankovic 6-7 (8), 7-5, 6-2 Saturday in the most startlingresult of the tournament's opening week.
"Was just thinking that she was any other player, and this wasany other match, and I was at any other tournament -- you know, not,like, on the biggest stage, at Wimbledon, playing my first top-10player," Oudin said. "I mean, I go into every match the exactsame, you know, like, no matter who I play. It's not, like, 'Oh, mygosh, I'm playing the No. 1 player in the world."'
Another U.S. qualifier, 133rd-ranked Jesse Levine of Boca Raton,Fla., couldn't extend his run in the men's tournament, losing toNo. 19 Stanislas Wawrinka 5-7, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3. That leaves No. 6 Andy Roddick as the last American man in the tournament.
The only time Oudin really lost her way was when her match endedand it was time to leave Court 3, a patch of grass known as "TheGraveyard of Champions," because of the long list of stars upsetthere. She wasn't quite sure where to go and asked someone todirect her toward the exit.
Not all that surprising, when you consider that a year ago,Oudin entered the junior event at Wimbledon -- seeded No. 1 amongthe girls -- and failed to make it out of the second round, losing6-1, 6-3 to eventual champion Laura Robson of Britain.
Yet there Oudin was Saturday, outlasting 2008 U.S. Openrunner-up Jankovic over nearly 3 hours, then calling Mom and Dadback home to share in the revelry.
"My emotions are all over the place," Oudin's father, John,said in a telephone interview. "When I think about watching BjornBorg and Boris Becker in their starched whites at Wimbledon, I justcan't believe Melanie is there. It's hardly any words other than,'Wow!' We've been saying a lot of that. Just, 'Wow!"'
Shortly after his daughter's victory, he and Oudin's mother,Leslie, began scouring the Internet for flights. Even Grandma -- whoencouraged Melanie and twin sister Katherine to take up tennis --might make the overseas trip to see Oudin face No. 11 AgnieszaRadwanska of Poland on Monday with a quarterfinal berth at stake,heady stuff for someone who was 0-2 at Grand Slam tournaments untilthis week.
Then again, Oudin -- it's pronounced "oo-DAN," on account ofher father's French ancestry -- long has shown ambition.
"My goal has always been, since I was little, to become No. 1in the world one day," she said.
The only time Oudin showed signs of nerves during the mostimportant match of her nascent career came in the opening set. Sheheld four set points, and blew them all with unforced errors.
"Rushed them. Played undisciplined tennis," said Oudin'scoach, Brian de Villiers. "She played the occasion, rather thanthe point. But, hey, it's understandable."
When that 66-minute set ended, Jankovic had the lead, but sheclearly was in trouble on a sunny day with the temperature in the80s. A trainer and doctor came out to measure her pulse and bloodpressure, and she began to cry. They put bags of ice on Jankovic'slegs and abdomen, then the back of her neck, and gave her an energydrink to sip.
"I felt really dizzy, and I thought that I was just going toend up in the hospital. I started to shake," said Jankovic, whoblamed her difficulty partly on what she called "woman problems."
"I was feeling quite weak. No power," Jankovic said. "Iwasn't the same player."
While Oudin was working on her big win, five-time Wimbledon Venus Williams was enjoying a matter-of-fact contest on CentreCourt, winning the first eight games en route to a 6-0, 6-4 victoryover 34th-ranked Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain. The only other timethey played, on a hard court at the Australian Open in January,Suarez Navarro knocked off Williams in the second round.
"Completely different circumstances," noted the third-seededWilliams, whose younger sister Serena advanced Friday.