I’m still only 20,” Oudin reminded reporters. That little comment felt like more of a bombshell than anything else. She is only 20 years old. “I’ve done all that stuff already so I have plenty of time to slow down, find out the right coach for me, the right training for me, start my training fresh and slowly get my ranking back up again.”
True statement, and I think, a healthy way of looking at it. It's not like she's trying to have her first big break at a major, or beat her first top ten player. Been there done that. She knows that she can compete. Now it's time to regroup and find her best game. It sounds like she's in a good place now, and time is on her side. Go Mel!
Their focus is on fitness and confidence, more than any particular stroke.
“She’s already been there and done that. She was up to 30th in the world. She was playing at a high level for a year or two. Tennis is not the issue. It’s mental and physical,” Gooding said. “She’s already proven that she could do it, and as long as she got her head back in a good place, she knew she could start winning again.”
Whatever progress is being made now, the real goal is to start off 2013 fresh as Oudin moves into what Gooding referred to as “her second career.”
“What we want to learn from is what she did after the U.S. Open that year. She could have managed her schedule a bit better. She played too much. Got a little burned out. Did a little too many media commitments, maybe,” he said. “It’s not like she’s the first to ever go through that. It happens a lot, where people skyrocket up and then the next year is the difficult one. Having that experience, maybe she can do things a little bit different.”
Instead of looking at what happened in 2009 as a burden, Oudin is trying to find inspiration from it.
“It’s something I’ll always be able to look back on and feel like: I did this, and I can do it again. It’s something I can work toward. And I’m really looking forward to having another great run like that again. I just don’t know when it will come. Just like I didn’t know that was going to come out of nowhere,” she said.
“I just have to keep working hard,” Oudin added, “and remember that I can compete with the best in the world.”
The return began in Charlottesville, where she won her first title in three years. There is hard work and grinding and luck and circumstance, but eventually the currency in which athletes traffic is winning, and Oudin has won nearly as many matches this year (six) as she won in all of 2011 (eight). Her ranking is 266th, which means until victory again becomes commonplace she will live in the shadow of the floodlights and center court. Nevertheless, for anyone who cares about true competition -- against oneself, against a devastating year of losing and against the challenges of a forthcoming second act that has begun before her 21st birthday -- Oudin is one to watch.
Oudin, whose ranking had plunged to No. 370 in April, had matched the 69th-rated player in the world for nearly two hours, losing only five fewer points. Her downfall Monday was self-inflicted. On serve but trailing by 4-3 in the third set, Oudin committed four errors. Babos capitalized on the break and served out the match.
Upon returning to the States, Oudin said she will go home for a few days before resuming practice in New York with an eye toward competing in two July tournaments in California that, she hopes, will prepare her for another run at the United States Open.
“I’m going to be the underdog in a lot of matches,” Oudin said, “but I’m playing free again. There’s no pressure. I’m not worrying about anything, and it feels good.”
Nice to see that Mel's not putting pressure on herself and has developed a healthier outlook.