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.

Wickmayer Enters The Radar

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – With all the press Melanie Oudin received at this Open, Yanina Wickmayer has flown under the radar.

Yet, like her American counterpart, this Belgian has surprised everyone at Flushing Meadows and now is on the verge of the Finals.

“It has surprised me in one way,” she said. I have been feeling really well the last few weeks. I’ve been playing a couple of great matches, and I’m really playing under a lot of confidence.

“So coming here I was feeling pretty good, and physically and mentally I was feeling really strong. So the first couple of matches, yeah, of course you’re always a little bit surprised of winning great matches in a Grand Slam.

“For sure if it’s the first great Grand Slam you’ve played, because before this my best result was second round. So of course when you get to the third, fourth round, you start surprising yourself. But actually, I’ve been staying pretty calm. I’ve worked really hard for this.”

She defeated Kateryna Bondarenko today, 7-5, 6-2, to earn a date with Caroline Wozniacki. The 19 year-old is very confident, mainly because the bad bounces are now going her way.

“The last couple of weeks I lost some tight matches to the top players,” she said. I lost 6-4 in the third, 7-6 in the third. So it was always like those few key points that I lost.

“I guess now those key points I just feel more concentrated physically and mentally. I feel stronger on the court. I’m sure that those two points has helped me a lot this few weeks.”

It’s been a long road for Wickmayer, who moved to the United States to learn at the Saddlebrook Academy back in 1999. Her mother Daniella passed away from cancer and she convinced her grieving father Marc to move away from Belgium and her family.

“I lost her in ’99, and I just started playing tennis a few weeks or a few months before that just to get my mind off things,” she said. “I guess I just decided as a little girl to get away from home and put my memories and thoughts to something else, so we moved to Florida just to, yeah, my dad and me, just to get things off, just to, yeah, focus ourself on other things in life and try to move on.”

And move on she has. Although she will never forget her mother, the bond she developed with her father is unbreakable. Wickmayer now is realizing her dream. Never past the second round before – she made it past the first at Roland Garros this year – the young rising star is now on the verge of the spotlight.

How she will shine is anyone’s guess, but Wickmayer is ready for Wozniacki, a person she played back in juniors.

“I’ve not really watched her play a lot, so I’m going to watch a little bit on TV today,” she said. “But like I said before, every match I play, I just go on the court and play my own game.

“Sometimes I’ll adjust a little bit during my match, but not really a lot. I just go out there, have fun, and do everything I can.”

Oudin’s Not Going Away

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Don’t worry about Melanie Oudin. Her Open may be over, after her straight sets, 2-6, 2-6, loss to Caroline Wozniacki, but her career is just beginning.

We saw a star being born in Flushing Meadows. A determined girl, who knows she has a lot to learn in her career and her sport before she can be a champion.

“I’ve never been to the quarters of a Grand Slam,” she said. “I’ve never been this far, so for me, I have to learn how to handle the grueling two weeks in a Grand Slam. And mentally, physically, I mean, my body has had a lot of matches and a lot of time on the court. Mentally, it takes a lot to fight through those matches three sets three times in a row.

“So for me, I think I’m going to need to learn how to handle that, and I need to improve. I think I need to get quicker and even stronger and I definitely can improve a lot of things in my game.”

First she’s playing in Quebec City next week in the Bell Challenge then maybe some time off. Although Oudin says her life is the same, it’s not. Her life has changed, as she’s become a national sensation. But yet, there’s still the wholesome attitude, which wowed the New York crowd as it came out so natural.

Even today, Oudin seemed overwhelmed as was almost in tears as she was peppered with questions. With time she will overcome that and with time she will take her top spot in the rankings.

“She’s only 17 years old,” said a very gracious and happy Wozniacki. “She has been playing some great tennis. I think that, you know, she had a lot of attention here, and I think the way she handled all the attention, I think she did very well. I think she has a great team around her, and I’m sure that she’ll win many, many more matches in the future, as well.”

Wozniacki came in with a game plan. Unlike the Russians Oudin took down, the Danish princess played a defense match and forced Oudin to make mistakes. Instead of taking the 17 year-old for granted, the 19 year-old forced the Georgian to make the shots, which at times came up short.

With time, though, Oudin will learn how to face an opponent like Wozniacki. She will force an opponent to play her game her game, instead of relying upon guts and guile.

“I think it’s going to be experience and working hard,” Oudin said. “I’m going to have to go back home and just keep training like I do. I’m sure that, you know, if I keep working hard, hopefully I can do this again.”

Our gut says she will, but remember next time, Oudin will be in the spotlight. After this year’s Open only a foolish opponent will take her for granted and in her next tournaments, she will be the featured match and in the spotlight.

Yet, this girl can handle it. With a good family base behind her, Oudin will stay as normal as she possibly can be. Right now, that’s pretty regular.

“I’m basically a normal 17 year-old kid,” she said. “I still go to movies and go to the mall. Like to shop. Here we’ve saw a couple of plays. I just like going back and watching TV. I have a Wii at my house. I love playing that.

“Just different things, like board games and cards with my grandma. I mean, I just love doing all of that stuff, so basically I’m just a normal kid.”

Even though, she will find out that some things will change, Oudin seems ready for the challenge. She is out of the shadows and now the girl everyone is gunning to get. Yet, as we have seen in these last two weeks, this “normal girl” from Marietta, GA can handle anything that’s tossed at her.