Melanie Oudin entered the qualification for the AEGON Classic thinking she could get a couple of grass-court matches in before Wimbledon Qualification began. The 20 year-old American travelled to Birmingham, England as the No. 208 player in the world, needing any tour-level wins she could get. It did not look like she would be able to get any at the AEGON Classic, where her first-round opponent was Sorana Cirstea, the No. 10 seed. After a three-set upset of Cirstea, Oudin started to find herself comfortable on the Birmingham grass. Straight-set wins against Michelle Larcher de Brito and Elena Vesnina followed, and Melanie found herself in the quarterfinals of a Wimbledon warm-up with a fairly reasonable draw. Her quarterfinal opponent, fellow young American Irinia Falconi, had also scored some impressive wins early in the tournament. Their qaurterfinal match, which occurred over a span of three days due to some torrential rain in the area, came to a conclusion this morning, with Oudin prevailing, 7-5 in the third and decisive set. Only a couple of hours later, Oudin found herself back on court, this time against No. 8 seed Ekaterina Makarova in the AEGON Classic semifinals.
Melanie came out firing and raced out to an early lead in the first set, which she took by the score of 6-4. Makarova, unwilling to go away and a lot fresher than the American, rebounded in the second set and forced a deciding set. Much to the surprise of the Russian, Oudin came out with just as much confidence as she had in the beginning of the match. An early break for the American got her off to a great start, and she was just getting into her groove. Makarova was broken again, and Melanie Oudin booked a spot in the AEGON Classic Final by taking the final set 6-2. Oudin's opponent in the final is No. 5 seed Jelena Jankovic, who is also trying to rebuild her career after dropping in the rankings. While Oudin will be the obvious underdog against the Serbian veteran, there is definitely reason to believe that she can hold her own in the Final, which will take place tomorrow.
Entering the French Open last month, Melanie Oudin found her ranking in the 270s. A first round victory at Roland Garros helped push her all the way up to No. 208. Her brilliant play so far in Birmingham will also help her jump up the rankings. For someone who was struggling to win a tour-level match earlier this year, it is hard to believe that she is now in a tour-level Final. By just looking at Oudin's game, there has to be hope of her returning to the top 100 and possibly breaking the top-50 or so. She possesses big grounstrokes and has the movement to play with the best women in the world. This was all on display at the 2009 US Open, where she captured the hearts of the entire nation en route to the quarterfinals. What she lacked during her dramatic drop down the rankings was confidence. The way she has played so far in Birmingham should eb able to restore a lot of her missing confidence.
Within the past hour or so, Fox News has reported that Melanie Oudin has received one of the final two wildcards for this year's Wimbledon! With the way she has played in Birmingham, who knows what the 20 year-old American can do at the All-England Club. Be sure to follow along tomorrow morning as Melanie Oudin plays Jelena Jankovic for the AEGON Classic Title.