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View Full Version : Melanie Oudin - A technical discussion


laurie
Nov 8th, 2009, 06:17 PM
This one is for fans of Oudin, fans in general who study players game styles etc and our American friends who may have a view on this.

I watched Oudin closely for 3 matches at this years US Open. I also watched both Oudin matches against Pannetta and Schiavone in the Fed cup final over the last two days ( I have Rai Sport satellite channel).

I really like Oudin's game a lot, I look forward to seeing more of her in future and think she has a great attitude and spirit to get to the top (that's more than half the battle to get to the top). Melanie also has very good court craft and can out think her opponents plus a technically good backhand slice, court craft is an aptitude you can't teach, some players have that within them and its a great quality to have. So I have high hopes for Oudin.

There are two areas of her game that concerns me right now (granted she is 17 and hopefully will improve over time anyway). But these are two technical areas which need fixing now before it becomes a problem she has to carry through her career. I think Melanie's serve and forehand are two technical weaknesses - these are two parts of the game that takes players to the very top. First of all I know Melanie isn't tall but she seems to have a problem of getting lift on the ball to get it over the net consistently, her double faults tend to hit the net as opposed to going long so she's not getting enough height on the ball, or enough topspin to loop it to get a high bounce on pitching. At Melanie's height, hitting flat serves is not a good option so she needs to address this.

As for Melanie's forehand - this is a shot that breaks down under pressure a lot. But what concerns me is that it breaks down even when she is not under any pressure at all, ie where the ball is in a comfortable position on the court and she still makes an error - so I think its a big technical issue. In the two matches in the Fed cup final, she made an incredible amount of forehand errors when she was under no duress and it cost her a lot of free points and ultimately lost confidence which is the reason she lost the 2nd sets in both matches so badly after losing tight 1st sets.

Melanie's forehand seems slightly old school to me, it reminds me of players like Katerina Maleeva from years gone by, she has an almost straight take back and swing, and slaps at the ball often, so I think she is not getting consistent higher clearance over the net with consistent topspin, and consequently a lot of uneccessary errors.

I was wondering if anyone else has made these observations or any other observations about her game? Do you think she has the game and attitude to go far if she can iron out these technical issues?

If we look at other young players like Chakvetadze, Vaidisova, they haven't ironed out their technical issues and now their confidence is shot, Ivanovic is falling not just due to injuries but she also has technical issues in her game which haven't been resolved - I hope Oudin can avoid that sort of fate.

What do you guys here think?

spencercarlos
Nov 8th, 2009, 06:21 PM
Her serve is a liability indeed. But i acutally liked her old school forehand for some reason, while at the Usopen. But she definetly needs to get more topspin on her forehand, its a bit too flat, that won´t work ok clay. Time will tell.

Noctis
Nov 8th, 2009, 06:24 PM
Her bh suck badly,If players serve to her bh they get a short ball or force her on it.

smarties
Nov 8th, 2009, 09:31 PM
If we look at other young players like Chakvetadze, Vaidisova, they haven't ironed out their technical issues and now their confidence is shot, Ivanovic is falling not just due to injuries but she also has technical issues in her game which haven't been resolved - I hope Oudin can avoid that sort of fate.

What do you guys here think?

As far as Chaky goes,I think her technique was always very strong. For some obscure reason, she changed her service motion to an abbreviated one (the latest craze :rolleyes:) and she started not only double faulting more but she had less pop on her serve!!! and her confidence went downhill. (I think the whole kidnapping incident has a lot to do with the drop in her level of play too).

tonybotz
Nov 8th, 2009, 09:34 PM
the problem with Oudin's serve is that she uses a forehand grip when hitting it. anyone who has hit that way knows that you can't attain the same velocity of a serve hit with a continental backhand grip. she needs to change the grip during the off-season and get more pop in that serve.

The Dawntreader
Nov 8th, 2009, 09:38 PM
Oudin's serve just looses the legs, so to speak, on the second. Major decelleration issues there, with the left shoulder dropping quickly too.

Her backhand fluctuates between a positive driving-shot and then a retractive looking shot, where her body weight is going backwards and devaluing the effectiveness of the stroke.

For all her defensive efforts too, her footwork can become stilted.

Jacob#1
Nov 8th, 2009, 09:44 PM
I felt like she wasn't prepared to play Wozinaki (or had strictly underestimated her). Wozinaki has displayed the ability to play a tactically dynamic game. Most of those dynamics focus on HP. She has the ablity to turn around anything less a winner on a better than average basis.

That being the case, Oudin seemed to recognize there were two options. And that was to Wozinaki's advantage that such tactics work more often than not. Or at least there was always something she had available that would have worked good enough.

rnwerner
Nov 8th, 2009, 09:44 PM
I think she can compensate her weakness on serve and forehand with her great defense, her brilliant footwork and her very nice counterattacks. I don't think that Wozniacki has a much better serve or/and forehand and she is one of the best players in the world at the moment. So IMO there is no problem for Oudin.

hdfb
Nov 8th, 2009, 09:48 PM
Her FH was the saving grace in the matches against Italy, hitting some nice FH DTL. She definitely needs to work on serve and strength. She should use the off-season to train and become more powerful.

iPatty
Nov 8th, 2009, 11:25 PM
Oudin's forehand is just naturally a well-timed, clean shot. It wouldn't hurt her at all if she added a bit more top spin. In fact, at her height is it very difficult to hit consistently through the ball without using spin. As you referenced, the ball finds the net more often than it should if a match is to be won.

I think her mental state is already very good and much more mature than her age would suggest. It will be a matter for Oudin of staying healthy and just working extremely hard throughout her entire career. She is not the type of player who will just be able to turn it on without playing a lot of matches or practices.

If she keeps going on the path she is now, I don't see many obstacles between her and top twenty.

drake3781
Nov 8th, 2009, 11:58 PM
Interesting discussion, guys/gals. :p

Natash.
Nov 9th, 2009, 12:52 AM
Her backhand wasn't as big as a liability in the US Open as it was this weekend.

I like her forehand a lot but I can see what you mean. Her slice is good and it can improve anymore and can be hell for some of these girls on tour.

skanky~skanketta
Nov 9th, 2009, 07:14 AM
I think she can compensate her weakness on serve and forehand with her great defense, her brilliant footwork and her very nice counterattacks. I don't think that Wozniacki has a much better serve or/and forehand and she is one of the best players in the world at the moment. So IMO there is no problem for Oudin.
While I don't want to comment on her forehand because it's probably her weakest stroke, Caroline's serve is MILES ahead of Melanie's. She can hit it hard when she wants to (and she's a relatively tall girl, so the trajectory is higher) and when she doesn't hit it hard, she places them really well. Caro's serve is terribly underrated. It's not very attackable.

laurie
Nov 9th, 2009, 12:03 PM
Interesting discussion, guys/gals. :p

Hehe - I meant the phrase in a plural sense - guys and girls, ladies and gentlemen.

laurie
Nov 9th, 2009, 12:06 PM
the problem with Oudin's serve is that she uses a forehand grip when hitting it. anyone who has hit that way knows that you can't attain the same velocity of a serve hit with a continental backhand grip. she needs to change the grip during the off-season and get more pop in that serve.

That's an interesting observation, I'll have to look at that next time I watch her play. Hitting serves with a forehand grip is very limiting.

pov
Nov 9th, 2009, 02:35 PM
First - :yeah: to a cool and interesting thread!

When I think of Oudin's serve, I think in comparison to Henin - mostly because Oudin has expressed her admiration of Henin and because they're of similar height and most people still seem to think height is a major factor in having an effective serve. My first thought on the netting was that she is probably tending to stoike the ball just a little too late. This video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hr5GHk0nTBs) bears that out. Hopefully her and/or her team will notice that and alter it.

Volcana
Nov 9th, 2009, 06:24 PM
Serve

If the oponnent is going to consistently hit a winner off your second serve, it's no different than a double fault.

If the oponnent is going to consistently be in an advantageous position off your second serve, it's better than a double fault, but not MUCH better.

I play volleyball, a sport that favors the reciever. (We play under side-out rules, not rally.) The ability to minimize the reciever's advantage is paramount to scoring. That's the reality for a player Oudin's size, unless she can develop a Henin-level serve. Oudin has to accept some double faults, as part of the cost of doing business. We've seen the alternative. Martina Hingis virtually never double-faulted. And opponents hit winners off her serve. Justine Henin double-faulted occassionally. But if she got her second serve in, she usually had a chance at winning the point.

I don't think Oudin will ever be Henin or Hingis. But she can take a lesson. Make your serve dictate. Even your second serve. At least serve so that you know where the return is going, even if it's a place you can't reach.

Melanie Oudin has as much of a chance of winning one slam as Caroline Wozniacki or Victoris Azarenka. Not multiple slams, but one. Think Sue Barker, as opposed to Gabriella Sabatini.

miffedmax
Nov 9th, 2009, 06:36 PM
I think she's going to be a very good, but not great player, along the lines of a Pennetta or a Frazier--she's always going to be dangerous on any given day, but I just don't see her being able to develop the power she needs to put together a two-week run and win a slam, let alone be a consistent winner at the majors. (I'm not saying we'll never see another smaller slam winner, I'm just saying I don't see it being Oudin).

That said, I think she'll probably win some nice titles and spend a lot of time in the Top 30, even the Top 20.

Then again, my career as a prognisticator is largely summed up by the career of a certain Russian blonde who had the most adorable bangs when she was Melanie's age.

Elegante
Nov 9th, 2009, 06:38 PM
Serve

If the oponnent is going to consistently hit a winner off your second serve, it's no different than a double fault.

If the oponnent is going to consistently be in an advantageous position off your second serve, it's better than a double fault, but not MUCH better.

I play volleyball, a sport that favors the reciever. (We play under side-out rules, not rally.) The ability to minimize the reciever's advantage is paramount to scoring. That's the reality for a player Oudin's size, unless she can develop a Henin-level serve. Oudin has to accept some double faults, as part of the cost of doing business. We've seen the alternative. Martina Hingis virtually never double-faulted. And opponents hit winners off her serve. Justine Henin double-faulted occassionally. But if she got her second serve in, she usually had a chance at winning the point.

I don't think Oudin will ever be Henin or Hingis. But she can take a lesson. Make your serve dictate. Even your second serve. At least serve so that you know where the return is going, even if it's a place you can't reach.

Melanie Oudin has as much of a chance of winning one slam as Caroline Wozniacki or Victoris Azarenka. Not multiple slams, but one. Think Sue Barker, as opposed to Gabriella Sabatini.

But Sabatini only 1 slam as well?

laurie
Nov 9th, 2009, 06:49 PM
Serve

If the oponnent is going to consistently hit a winner off your second serve, it's no different than a double fault.

If the oponnent is going to consistently be in an advantageous position off your second serve, it's better than a double fault, but not MUCH better.

I play volleyball, a sport that favors the reciever. (We play under side-out rules, not rally.) The ability to minimize the reciever's advantage is paramount to scoring. That's the reality for a player Oudin's size, unless she can develop a Henin-level serve. Oudin has to accept some double faults, as part of the cost of doing business. We've seen the alternative. Martina Hingis virtually never double-faulted. And opponents hit winners off her serve. Justine Henin double-faulted occassionally. But if she got her second serve in, she usually had a chance at winning the point.

I don't think Oudin will ever be Henin or Hingis. But she can take a lesson. Make your serve dictate. Even your second serve. At least serve so that you know where the return is going, even if it's a place you can't reach.

Melanie Oudin has as much of a chance of winning one slam as Caroline Wozniacki or Victoris Azarenka. Not multiple slams, but one. Think Sue Barker, as opposed to Gabriella Sabatini.

Another interesting point here - nice going :)

Talking about Henin, yes, Melanie could take some lessons and ideas there.

If we look at someone like Svetlana Kuznetsova who I've discussed a lot over the last 3 years, for a long time on the ad side Sveta played the safe slow mundane top spin 2nd serve which she tried to get high to the opponents' backhand, but in reality it was slow and sitting up begging to be smacked - and particularly in finals (if you recall she lost about 12 finals in a 2 year period), players were teeing off with backhand winners, and in Ana Ivanovic's case; Ana ran around the backhand to smack forehand winners incessantly in 2 finals in berlin and Indian Wells - completely shattering Sveta's confidence casuing her to look for a new coach and changing her serving strategy (something I called for 12 months throughout 2007 - 2008).

If we take Henin, she has a very interesting 2nd serve. Henin is short as we know, but her technique is very interesting.

McEnroe made a comment about both Krajicek's and Sampras' 2nd serve strategy here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMHwYfkkYVA&feature=PlayList&p=BC29EB6C6617CEFD&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=36

McEnroe said that both Pete and Richard possessed a nasty slice serve, which if you don't take the ball early and out in front, it will "clock you in the stomach!" Both guys moved the ball around the box, once the ball pitched, it moved around making clean returning difficult. I find that Henin uses a similar technique - and at Henin's height its actually a very good bet and an excellent strategic type of serving technique.

I think Melanie Oudin can look at developing more slice on her 2nd serve which would give her more control and better chance to get on the offensive off shorter returns. it would require Melanie having a faster 2nd serve swing to get the ball to move and bite off the surface more, plus like the guys I mentioned and Henin, the use of the body serve on a 2nd serve delivery becomes an excellent option.

Pov, thanks for the compliment. :wavey:

Cakeisgood
Nov 9th, 2009, 10:38 PM
She's not getting under the ball enough on her serve. For a girl of Mel's height, she really needs to explode into the ball from underneath to get clearance. Henin was great at this, but I really don't see her serve getting that much better.

I'd say the Hingis route for serving is the one she'll end up with. Changing the spin and pace in the hopes of confusing the opponent, but will get broken a lot.

And I'm not sure I'm seeing the hype with the slice. It's an excellent neutralizer, but it doesn't dig like Henin's, or even peak Ana's, who actually, prior to her meltdown had a superb slice. It's very floaty and deep, which is a good rally tool, but isn't adequate as an attacking shot. And if she chooses to slice like she does, her forehand breaks down way too much for her ground game to be truly effective. And she's gotta put a little loop in the forehand too. It's just too flat and it's always hitting the net.

And I'm not positive I see slam winner in her future. Top 10, maybe, but I see her as a Flavia type, winning some MMs here and there, and making a few good runs at GS's, but hey, who knows.

Dunlop1
Nov 10th, 2009, 12:40 AM
Not a fan of the serve and the forehand. Of all her groundstrokes it is the 2 hander I like. It is very technically sound and well produced. The slice is ok too but I've yet to see her hit a very offensive skidding slice.

The forehand is a rather flat hit. It is a sort of modern take back with a traditional swing/follow through. If she can get MUCH stronger in her core and thighs, she can complete the modern forehand stroke like Henin and Kuznetsova and pound that topspin forehand. This is a hard task for a girl her size to accomplish however.

As for the serve, technically it is fine. She is NOT hitting with a forehand grip. Her's is a continental (the right grip).
Maybe she can toss the ball in front a little more to get power, but she is a small girl with small shoulders. Can't expect too much power.
Justine is the exception, not the norm.
The girls who serve big have big solid shoulders and/or are tall for great reach.
Justine is blessed with great natural timing and she worked her butt off to be really fit and strong.
It is not for everybody.

I can't see Oudin doing too much more with her serve.

OsloErik
Nov 10th, 2009, 01:20 AM
I wouldn't pencil her in for a slam winner. I wouldn't necessarily preclude her from the top 10, but that seems a stretch. Here's my read:

Oudin has three big things going for her: her return of serve in general, her movement, and her head. Diving right in...

Neither of her groundstrokes are perfect. She uses a surprising amount of spin mixing for an American (no knock on Americans, just when was the last time ANYONE trained in the USA was known for their variety?) With her forehand, it sometimes looks like the technique is funny, but she also hits some awfully good down-the-line drives with it. Her backhand can be a controlling shot, but against a lot of players (both Italians, Sharapova, etc.) she has trouble keeping it deep if they make her scramble enough. However, she has a terrific return of serve, and she returns serve with two things in mind: getting the ball in play, and getting it deep and angled enough to open up some space. Her return is better off the forehand (if she could get better at slicing a return, she'd be nasty off either side). She has very good timing, and she does something that is underrated among most analysts: she gets ready. A lot of players just aren't in full ready position when they return serve, and Oudin does all the tiny little things that get every part of you zoned in. This is a blessing because she has a very, very attackable serve.

Movement-wise, the commentator who mentioned she moves like a jackrabbit was pretty spot-on. She has good anticipation and good instincts on the court. She's a scrambler, and that pays off with her game style. The bigger thing that her movement helps with is aspect #3: her head.

Oudin doesn't have a ton of options as a player. She isn't a huge server, she doesn't have a consistent weapon off the ground, yet she managed to make life very, very uncomfortable for a lot of players this summer. What Oudin brings to the table is a gameplan. A lot of players don't do their homework; many times it's because they think they are too good. Oudin seems remarkably sure of her limitations and her abilities, in a way some comparable players who haven't had as much recent success never seemed (Shahar Peer, for example). She's fiesty, she's fast, she can mess up the rhythm, and she's got a good return. She (and her coaching) have pieced together a very effective game style that matches those components. Ultimately, I think her serving woes are a big question mark. She just doesn't have the serve mastered. She serves like a junior. Of course, she WAS a junior until about six months ago. So it's premature to write her off as the annual counterpuncher with a serving problem (Shahar Peer, Dominika Cibulkova, etc.) who emerges and fades. Again, she could carve out a very respectable career if she develops a serve like some of the shorter doubles specialists with singles credentials (Sugiyama, Dechy, Lisa Raymond, for example) and goes for placement and disguise over pace. Dechy's serve gave many superior players fits for years, and it rarely cracked 100. Sugiyama served-and-volleyed her way to the top 10 without a top-speed serve. It's doable, and she's got a bit of time to do it, but even with that kind of adjustment, there isn't much about her game that screams Justine Henin (the shorty she's been compared to in the US, if I'm not mistaken).

As for the sheer technique of her serve, it's not wrong, it's just...she hasn't developed it. You can tell she's put effort into tactics, fitness, her groundies, but it just doesn't look that way for her serve. Her coach said that there's a range of speeds that any top 50 player can whomp (he cited 85-105, I think) and said that if she focuses on the outer edges of that range, it puts more pressure on the opponent to make the shot. I'm not sure if I buy that. I think she's just short and isn't willing to go for more at the risk of her %.

As for the effectiveness of her slice: it's not an aggressive shot. It's effective because it gives her time, it is easier to position on the court, and she can do it reliably. With the skills she has to maximize, I'd say it's a very effective shot. It's not Hingis slice, which was designed to put Hingis on the offensive, or Pam Shriver slice (god, that forehand...) which was designed to open the court. It's recovery slice, and she just happens to use it more than most players. Good on her, if you ask me.

Golovinjured.
Nov 10th, 2009, 01:21 AM
She's not getting under the ball enough on her serve. For a girl of Mel's height, she really needs to explode into the ball from underneath to get clearance. Henin was great at this, but I really don't see her serve getting that much better.

I'd say the Hingis route for serving is the one she'll end up with. Changing the spin and pace in the hopes of confusing the opponent, but will get broken a lot.

And I'm not sure I'm seeing the hype with the slice. It's an excellent neutralizer, but it doesn't dig like Henin's, or even peak Ana's, who actually, prior to her meltdown had a superb slice. It's very floaty and deep, which is a good rally tool, but isn't adequate as an attacking shot. And if she chooses to slice like she does, her forehand breaks down way too much for her ground game to be truly effective. And she's gotta put a little loop in the forehand too. It's just too flat and it's always hitting the net.

And I'm not positive I see slam winner in her future. Top 10, maybe, but I see her as a Flavia type, winning some MMs here and there, and making a few good runs at GS's, but hey, who knows.

I agree, there's no sting to her backhand slice. It's reliable, but I don't see the big fuss about it to be honest.

tennisforadults
Nov 10th, 2009, 02:34 AM
While I don't want to comment on her forehand because it's probably her weakest stroke, Caroline's serve is MILES ahead of Melanie's. She can hit it hard when she wants to (and she's a relatively tall girl, so the trajectory is higher) and when she doesn't hit it hard, she places them really well. Caro's serve is terribly underrated. It's not very attackable.

I haven't really watched Melanie play... but I would definitely agree with this. Wozniacki does have a much better serve - can ace well and is difficult to attack.

Elegante
Nov 10th, 2009, 04:02 AM
I watched her and I do not see the slice. It gets neither the bite or floating depth to be effective. It is merely getting points because girls of this era don't see slice....

Oudin falters in that her biggest weapon is also her biggest liability, her forehand. Your weapon should be more or less consistent. Of course, everything breaks down sometimes but for that to be her saving grace it should not desert her as much as it does.

laurie
Nov 10th, 2009, 12:49 PM
There was one interesting thing that happened on Saturday against Schiavone in the Fed cup final which Francesca claerly discussed with the Italian Captain before the match.

Every time Melanie hit a high floaty backhand (ok moonball!) or a floated slice, Schiavone quickly came in and took the ball out of the air with fantastic volleys deep into the court which Melanie could do nothing about. That was fanstastic play by Francesca and it really got the crowd going as well.

So yes, Melanie didn't do well with her slice over the weekend.

Dunlop1
Nov 10th, 2009, 04:59 PM
Well she also tends to hit the slice off the back foot, and doing so is very hard (for a slice) to get your body weight moving forward. Almost impossible to hit a penetrating, low slice from this position.

If the player is not moving forward, it is a good neutralizing tool and gives you time to get into position but if the player is attacking, you are toast.

You can hit a good slice with some float. Watch the variation in the Federer Slice. Some will be floaty and high AND DEEP, others will be low and short to pull the opponent in and make them hit up on the ball so he can set up the passing shot.

The slice can be an effective tool for her if she really develops it. Plus the girls are not used to slice anyways.