Tennis phenom Oudin booted out of NYC hotel
Melanie Oudin’s newfound fame hasn’t completely kicked in after all.
Oudin — the 17-year-old American tennis sensation who is currently tearing her way through the U.S. Open — was kicked out of her New York hotel over the weekend because her reservation had run out.
Oudin at the Open
The 70th-ranked Oudin was only booked at the Marriott Times Square through the first week of the tournament and no one had extended her stay, the Sports Business Journal reported.
Her agent, John Tobias, quickly found her another hotel.
“Obviously, we will not be sending any of our players back to that hotel,” Tobias said, according to the report.
A spokesperson for the Marriott could not confirm that Oudin had stayed there, the report said, adding that it was possible she had stayed under a different name.
Oudin — a native of Marietta, Ga. — has captured America’s attention this week, mowing through an impressive string of highly ranked players to reach the quarterfinals at the year’s final Grand Slam event.
In the second round, Oudin defeated fourth-ranked Elena Dementieva. Then came No. 29 seed Maria Sharapova, a former U.S. Open champion, in the third round. No. 13 Nadia Petrova was the victim in the fourth round. All three wins were in three sets after Oudin had lost the first set.
She is slated to play Wednesday night in the quarterfinals against No. 9 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark.
Maybe the change of hotels wasn’t such a bad thing for Oudin. She had been sharing a king-sized bed with her mother at the first hotel. They were waking up together when the alarm went off, then going their separate ways: Melanie hopped in a courtesy car provided for players; Mom waited in line for a shuttle bus to the tournament site in Queens.
Oudin began playing tennis at 7, hitting balls out of a bucket with Grandma Mimi. She is the youngest U.S. Open quarterfinalist since
As her mother, Leslie, put it: “All of this has come so quickly.”
Sure has. A year ago, Oudin was ranked 221st and lost in the first round in New York. She never had won a Grand Slam match until Wimbledon in June. Nowadays, she high-fives security guards on her way into the locker room.
Everything is “awesome” and “cool,” and she’s “freaked out.” Her stunning win over Sharapova? “I just had a blast.”
Still, this wild ride isn’t getting to the kid’s head.
She vows to keep doing some landscaping work around the grounds at the tennis club where she still practices with the same coach she’s had since she was 9.
“Just because all of this is happening, it’s not like I’m going to change (as a) person,” Oudin said. “I just love to play tennis, and I’m doing well. And I’m winning. That’s the only thing that’s changing.”
Well, that and all of the attention she’s getting. Unaccustomed to being recognized by strangers, Oudin now needs security guards to navigate hordes of autograph-seekers on her way to the practice courts. Crowds gather in the lobby of her hotel. A photo op in Times Square the other day got unruly. The evening news shows at ABC, CBS and NBC all sent crews to interview Oudin after her latest win.
“It’s going to take a while to get used to it,” said her coach, Brian de Villiers. “She’s used to going where she wants, when she wants. It’s strange for this little kid.”
Oudin’s age and newcomer status are only a couple of the many reasons she has become the focus of the year’s last major tennis championship.
For one thing, she’s an American at the American Grand Slam tournament, providing hope for the future of the sport in a country that boasts the Williams sisters at Nos. 2 and 3 in the rankings — but then no one else until Oudin at No. 70. This also happens to be the first U.S. Open in history with zero U.S. men in the quarterfinals.
Oudin’s story is also compelling because of the players she has beaten — and how she beat them.
“It’s just the beginning,” Dementieva cautioned, “but it looks like she has a good future.”
Oudin can’t necessarily outhit anyone. Or outserve them, rarely approaching 100 mph and accumulating a paltry total of four aces through four matches.
What Oudin does is outhustle other players, scurrying this way and that, her pink-and-yellow sneakers — which feature, at her 15-year-old boyfriend’s suggestion, the word “BELIEVE” stamped near the heels — squeaking with every tiny step.
“Mentally, I’m staying in there with them the whole time, and I’m not giving up at all,” Oudin said. “If they’re going to beat me, they’re going to have to beat me, because I’m not going to go anywhere.”
She decided at 12 she wanted to be home-schooled so she could focus squarely on tennis. Her twin sister, Katherine, meanwhile, has designs on being a doctor and attends private school, playing on the tennis team there and entering national junior tournaments.
After Melanie’s first-round match last week, Katherine and their younger sister flew home to Georgia because school was starting. But Melanie kept on winning, so Katherine and their father came back in time for Monday’s victory.
“Right now, I think she’ll play Serena in the finals,” Katherine said, “and we’re not going anywhere until that happens.”
Nice. A little trash-talking from the twin.
Clearly, this is all so new to the whole family.
And clearly, Oudin herself is so new to all of this. So much so that Wozniacki — who is all of 19 — joked about not being quite sure how to say Oudin’s name.
For the record: It’s “oo-DAN,” on account of her father’s French ancestry. Wozniacki is hardly the only one having trouble, though. Chair umpires and plenty of others bungle the pronunciation, too.
“Sometimes they get it wrong,” Oudin said, “but I don’t try to tell them anymore.”
Not to worry. Keep this up, and it will be a household name soon enough.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.