McHale and Falcone Will Fare Better Than Oudin

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – The Cinderella stories are over for the two young American girls who made so much noise two days ago.

Both Christina McHale and Irina Falconi lost their matches today – McHale to Maria Kirilenko, 2-6 3-6 and Falconi to Sabine Lisicki 0-6 1-6 – but there first few matches give hope for the future of American tennis.

“I had two really good wins my first two matches,” said McHale after her match today.  “This one, it’s disappointing.  But, yeah, I think I just kind of have to take the positives from it and keep working hard and, yeah, keep going.”

Added Falconi: “I am just going to take this week and the next week as a huge stage on my career, hopefully what can translate into a follow-up fall season. Next week I go to Quebec City for a tour event and hopefully do some damage there as well. There is nothing but positives to take out of this week.”

Both girls showed their inexperience today. Neither of them was attacking the ball like they did on Wednesday and even admitted to playing tentative.

“I was too passive today,” McHale said.  “I think the other day I took my chances when I had them.  But [Kirilenko] was playing well, too, so it made it difficult today.”

And then there were the bright lights of Ashe, where she admitted she was a little nervous playing under the lights in front of the sold out crowd.

“I think it didn’t really help me, my nerves, tonight,” McHale added.  “I never really felt as comfortable as I wanted to feel on the court.”

Yet, it will be interesting to see how both girls handle their first success of the Open.  Melanie Oudin melted under the pressure after her run two years ago and hasn’t made any noise since.

But Oudin could be considered a special situation. Both McHale and Falconi didn’t get the celebrity treatment like Ouidin did and the press didn’t start look into their personal lives.

Plus Oudin seemed to enjoy the celebrity spotlight, whereas both of these girls seems to care more about winning than stardom.

So it will be interesting to see how both do in the fall and then at the Australian Open come 2012. But it also important to remember they are both very young with McHale only 19 while Falconi can get a drink in bar…well barely. And it will take time for both players, so don’t get excited if one or both makes a quarterfinals and expect to see the second coming on Chris Everett.

Rather this is more like the baseball minor leagues where the two girls are honing their skills. Some success here will help them, but until they learn to be winning at a consistent level in high profile tournaments, they will remain prospects.

But all prospects have upside and this past week we may have just seen the future.

McHale’s Navy Attacks In Full Force

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Two years ago, people started to “Believe” in Melanie Oudin and her Cinderella run.

This year the New York crowd may be ready to board McHale’s Navy.

Nineteen year-old Christina McHale, stormed to the third round with a straight set win over No. 8 seed 7-6 (2) 6-2 to become the darling of this year’s open.

“I knew that like I had to try,” the New Jersey resident said.  “I couldn’t play like any sloppy games.  I had to try and compete really hard in the second set because I knew she was going to try even harder, too, to get the second set because she lost the first.

“When I went from 3‑Love to 3‑2, I was like, C’mon, Christina, don’t let it get back to 3‑All.  That game was a big game to get it to 4‑2.”

McHale isn’t any stranger to upsets. She slayed World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in Cincinnati last month in the first round and then proceeded to beat Aleksandra Wozniak in the first round.

This win may have topped it off for the young American.

“I think they’re different wins.  I had never really, at the Grand Slams, made it past the second round,” she said.  “Yeah, that was a good win for me, too, but I think to have it happen here at the Grand Slam is exciting for me.”

Two years ago, during Oudin-mania McHale quietly win her first round match against Polona Hercog but lost to Maria Sharapova. Now, though, she seems poised to take on the bigger names in the sport on her rise to the top.

Yet, she is trying to not to get too tied up in the hype and become a long term disappointment like Oudin.

“I try not to think about that too much,” she said.  “I mean, when I go out there every time on the court, I’m going to try my best, try to compete really hard.”

Being from New Jersey means this is her hometown match. For years as a teenager she came to Flushing as a fan to watch the greats competed for the title.

Now she is getting the same treatment she gave to her heroes.

“Someone asked me this the other day,” she said.  “I don’t remember a particular match.  I just remember we’d all get here when the gates opened and we’d literally spend the whole day here, all of our friends, running from court to court, trying to get an autograph, a picture.

“It was so much fun for us.”

Almost as fun as winning the second round of the Open and if she beats the 25th seed Maria Kirilenko in the third round, then McHale’s Navy may be in full force.

All Aboard!

Capra Exits The Stage Gracefully

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – And now Cinderella has turned into a pumpkin.

The hopeful and engaging run of Beatrice Capra ended today after the 18 year-old was shutout by Maria Sharapova , 6-0 6-0. Yet, this probably isn’t the last we have heard from the young Maryland native, as she learned so much from this past week.

“It’s been a really great experience,” she said.   “I mean, it’s nothing but positives for me.  I mean, I beat a top 20 player in the world.  I had a really good first round.

“I mean, playing against Maria in Arthur Ashe, yeah, I’d like to do better, but, you know, that was amazing.”

You really have to hope Capra becomes a mainstay on the open. Even at a young age, she shows a tremendous poise beyond her years and somewhat of a sarcastic sense of humor, not taking herself too seriously.

But decisions have to be made in the Capra household. This young lady deferred her attendance to Duke for one year and may go the college route, instead of devoting herself to the pros.

“I’d like to improve my professional ranking a little bit,” she said.  “And so by the time I go into college, you know, they said that they’re going to allow me to play some pro tournaments while I’m at college.

“Even if I just go to a semester of college and leave, I’m always able to go back.  So I think that’s definitely a plus.”

Of course Capra has a strong support system in her family who were all on hand today. “My entire family is behind me,” she said. “I have a lot of ‑‑ my two best friends actually, it’s their first year from college ‑‑ or to college, and they flew over to come watch me play today, which was really nice.

“You know, they all helped me get through everything, you know, the rough times and the good times.  I definitely think having, you know, my whole family together really helps me stay grounded.”

And then there’s Chris Everett, who is always there, as Capra is a member of her academy.

“Well, before the match she said to enjoy the moment, but that was kind of tough today,” Capra said drawing laughter from the media. “Um, you know, just control my emotions, don’t ever give up.  I know she was really good with that.  And, you know, move my feet when I get nervous.  And she always has the right things to say for me when I’m feeling nervous.  She’s always helped out a lot.”

Unfortunately all of that help and support didn’t do anything for the young player today, as the high winds combined with Sharapova took over.

“Yeah, that was the worst [wind],” she said. “It was really tough for me, not only because it was swirling when you’re playing, but also, like, just focusing with that, like all the lets that we had and you know.  Yeah, it was really rough today.”

It’s a Wonderful Life for Beatrice Capra

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Now that Melanie Oudin is out of the US Open, we reporter types always need a new Cinderella story to report.

Enter Beatrice Capra.

If you haven’t heard of her, don’t sweat it as she’s ranked 317 in the world. But with her first Top 20 win against the 18th seed Aravane Rezai, 7-5 2-6 6-3, has put the 18 year-old right in Oudin territory.

And that suits the Maryland native just alright.

“I really look up to Melanie,” said Capra, who is playing in her first US Open.  “I watched all of her matches last year, and I was just so happy for her.  You know, it was really inspiring to me because I played her a year before, and then she was getting to the quarters of a Grand Slam.  It was just unbelievable, and I was so happy for her.

“You know, I think she’s pushed all of the Americans to do better.  I mean, for sure I talk to Melanie a lot, and I will for sure ask anything about Maria Sharapova.”

Although she may be seeking Sharapova’s advice, that may have to wait, because Capra may play the 14th seed Russian pending the results against Iveta Benesova laster tonight.

And that’s alright because right now, Capra is the talk on the Open. She was born to an Italian family and her father emigrated to America. “He’s from Monza,” Capra said, “and he came over to start his business, which it’s called the Tenax Corporation.  It’s an Italian company, so he started it in America.  While he was there in Maryland, my mom taught tennis lessons.  He wanted to take tennis lessons, so they met up and here I am.”

Her last answer got a round of laughs from the press conference and much like Oudin this young lady is very engaging as she moves up the ranks.

She trains at Chris Everett’s Tennis Academy and earned a wildcard into this tournament. As such, she has a tremendous confidence in the last 12 months.

“A year ago today I was actually playing the juniors here,”   I’ve been playing mostly juniors tournaments the entire year and concentrating on that.  I’ve played a couple of pro circuit events and done okay, but it’s been mostly juniors.”

“I played a couple of WTA events this year, and lost first round in the quallies in all of them.  So, I mean, this is definitely the best I’ve done so far.”

She played a very strong defensive game today, but feels she needs to be more aggressive if she’s going to move forward.

Of course all of this may end on Saturday when she faces Sharapova or Benesova, but right now she’s enjoying it.

“Well, yeah.  I mean, I always wanted to play in one of the Grand Slams,” she said.  “You know, I would be watching the Tennis Channel leading up.  It’s just like, you know, I always wanted that.

“Whenever I want something, you know, I do my best to get it.  You know, every day I would be like, I want this, I want this, and I just can’t, you know, believe that it’s happening.”

Turely, this Capra is living a Wonderful Life.

Ooo Ooo Oudin Moves On

(August 30, 2010) The purple streak across the blue court created a color scheme that screamed bruising for the opening match on Arthur Ashe Stadium today. Melanie Oudin, who has taken her share of shots since she emerged as America’s tennis darling with her inspired run to the 2009 US Open quarterfinals, returned to the Open today and produced a purple patch in powering past Olga Savchuk, 6-3, 6-0, in 56 minutes.

Oudin has gone to great lengths in trying to distance herself from last year, patiently pointing out in several press conferences that Cinderella stories only occur once in a career. Instead of a glass slipper, she wore multi-colored adidas with the word “believe” inscribed on them.

“Everyone has one Cinderella story, and mine was last year.  Now it’s like everyone just expects me to do that because I did it last year,” Oudin said. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to happen. I mean, I’m going to have to play well.  It’s not just going to happen for me.  I’m gonna have to play well and fight hard like I did last year, and, um, hopefully it will be good for me and I’ll be the better player out there.”

Clad in a purple adidas dress, Oudin’s footwear drew the attention of fans and the long lens of photographers. She has replaced the word “believe” that adorned the side of her sneakers with “courage” and played with fast feet in making quick work of Savchuk.

Oudin says she came up with “courage” to remind herself to play with the fearlessness she displayed last year, but she insists she’s still a believer in the believe brand that inspired a legion of Oudin fans across the country to emulate the slogan on their shoes.

“I mean, I just really thought of the word because I thought it goes well with believe.  I wasn’t trying to just go completely away from the whole believe thing,”  Oudin said. “I was just adding something else that I think that you have to do in order to believe is have courage when you play.I mean, for me, like, when I’m going for my shots and I’m swinging out and I have courage and I believe in myself that I know I can win, that’s when I’m playing my best.  I think they go together.”

The golden girl of a summer ago nearly delivered a golden set as Oudin did not drop a point until the fourth game of the second set and completed a near shutout set with 24 points compared to two for Savchuk.

The petite blond with the mega-watt smile made the nation swoon in reaching the final eight last year, but her results have sagged since her surge to the Open quarterfinals. Oudin entered today’s opener with an 18-24 record since the ’09 Open, including a 17-20 record this season.

Spinning her wheels in winning just four of her last 17 matches, Oudin was determined to burst out of the blocks quickly today and benefited from playing a 22-year-old opponent who has never won a US Open main draw match. Overcoming some early match jitters, Oudin won nine consecutive games to close a commanding victory.

“After I won the first set I started moving my feet a lot more and I felt a lot better,” Oudin said. “It means a lot (to play on Arthur Ashe Stadium).  can’t believe they actually put me first on starting the US Open so I really appreciate that.”

Showing a willingness to move forward, Oudin tried to take the ball early and pressure the 143rd-ranked Ukranian.

Holding a 4-3 lead at 30-all, Oudin pumped up the pace on her forehand and broke for a 5-3 lead. The match was pretty much one-way traffic after that.

Opening the court with the crackling cross court forehand she wielded like a whip in dispatching Russians Maria Sharapova, fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva and 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova en route to the quarterfinals, Oudin ripped a forehand winner down the line to close the first set.

Savchuk offered little resistance in the second set as an empowered Oudin won 12 of the 14 points played on Savchuk’s serve.

Now, the challenge really begins as Oudin takes on another Ukranian, the recently-wed Alona Bondarenko, in the second round. Bondarenko beat Vera Dushevina, 6-0, 5-7, 6-4. The winner of that match could face French Open champion Francesca Schiavone in the third round. The sixth-seeded Italian stomped Ayumi Morita, 6-1, 6-0.

The perpetually-positive Oudin, who seems to wake up with a smile plastered across her face, admits she has endured some melancholy moments during a season of struggle  — when her doctor informed the 5-foot-6 Oudin her height has peaked.

“The doctor told me that she didn’t think I was going to grow much more.  It was a pretty sad day,” Oudin said smiling. “t’s all right.  It’s all right.”

Is there room for growth in her game? Absolutely, but because Oudin lacks the height, reach and strength of larger opponents, she will need to try to add some muscle to her serve and continue to use her speed as an offensive weapon in moving to the front court. She will always be vulnerable to the high topspin as Caroline Wozniacki showed when she carved up Oudin in the quarters last year, but Oudin believes she has what it takes to take down the bigger players.

“I feel like I’m not going to backwards, that’s for sure,” Oudin said. “I feel like I’m still young, I’m still improving, and I think I have a lot more work to do, though, for sure.”

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.