Once more done in by poor service play, Maria Sharapova lost her third-round U.S. Open match today to 17-year-old American phenom Melanie Oudin, 6-3, 4-6, 5-7.
After keeping her tendency to double-fault at a minimum in the first two rounds of play—4 and 7, respectively—tennis goddess Sharapova sabotaged her early advantage with an astonishing match total of 21 double faults. Sharapova also received third-set trainer assistance when she appeared to strain her right forearm after a particularly intense serve. Sharapova regained her composure, and while her forehand and backhand looked as strong as ever, her continued problems with her service were her undoing. She had no problem breaking Oudin's service, but her inability to hold her own constantly provided Oudin with openings, which she exploited with crisp forehands and strategically placed shots that the lithe and lanky Sharapova could not reach.
The Russian-born Sharapova had easily won her first two tourney matchups, teasing her many fans to think that she had conquered the difficulties she has experienced since her rotator cuff surgery of late 2008. But the service problems are a big-time albatross around Maria's lovely neck.
Meanwhile, Oudin (left), herself nursing a strained upper left thigh, tenaciously wore down her opponent in much the same fashion as she vanquished fourth-ranked Elena Dementieva in a second-round matchup. Oudin is a freckle-faced cutie from Georgia with a great deal of spunky determination, and she definitely exhibits a strong knack for the big critical cross-court winner. In a field strongly represented by Eastern Europeans, Oudin has emerged as a fan favorite, not only because of her youth and poise but also because, aside from the Williams sisters, she represents the first breath of fresh American air on the ladies tennis scene in a good long while.
Oudin will face off against another Russian, 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova, for a place in the quarterfinals.