Sock Has A Bright Future

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – It was the past against the future. American tennis’s past darling in Andy Roddick against future star Jack Sock.

And when it was the master took on the apprentice today, Roddick showed experience wins out in a straight set win over his fellow Nebraskan, 6-3 6-3 6-4.

“I didn’t think I’d ever play another guy from Nebraska in my career,” Roddick said.  “You know, it was just cool.  I could draw so many parallels to what he was going through.  You know, but also I could draw on my experience a little bit.”

Sock’s inexperience showed when he missed a few break points in the first, which could have changed the complexion of the match. It is something that will come in time for the 18 year-old, because this was such a learning experience for him.

“After watching him I knew that he kind of plays a lot from the baseline, maybe a little bit behind the baseline, makes a lot of balls, is steady,” he said.  “I felt like I could go out there and try to dictate points and try to hit a lot of forehands, try to move the ball around as much as possible, and then attack when I could.

“I felt like I did a decent job of that.  I mean, like I said, it comes down to him getting back in the court and retrieve and be able to hit passing shots how he wants, like standing still or not on the run. I felt overall like I played a pretty good match.”

But it still wasn’t enough for Roddick who came in knowing his opponent would be a little nervous playing in the big bowl for the first time in his career. According to the 21st seeded player he has participated in 27 night matches at Ashes, so tonight was just old hat.

Yet, Roddick knows this won’t be the last he sees of Sock. In fact the 2003 champ feels Sock will be one of the “legit prospects” along with fellow American Ryan Harrison. And after the match Roddick invited him to his compound in Texas to practice with him, the same way Andre Agassi did back in the early 2000s with the current American star.

“I certainly feel the need to pay it forward,” Roddick said. “This game has been great to me.  It’s pretty much an impossibility for me to do it. But as far as leaving it better than when you came, when I came it was the best generation that has ever existed in a country.

“But I enjoy having the young guys at home.  I think I can help them.  It’s inspiring for me.  You can kind of feed off of their hunger a little bit.”

And that’s how American tennis will come back. It will be a cumulative effort. Although Roddick shown Same Querrey and Harrison the same hospitality, Sock, coming from the same background in Nebraska, may have some real success working with Roddick.

Plus he has the skills. With a 135 m.p.h serve, the talent is there, so all he now has to do is hone it in and learn about the intricacies of the game that only come with experience. When that happens, Sock will move up the ranks and become a star in this game, muck like Roddick did about 10 years ago.

So this is only the beginning and soon you may see the student teaching his teacher a thing or two.

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!

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