[Web Special] Melanie Oudin's Got Next

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Melani Oudin: you know the name by now (unless all you've been paying attention to is getting your kids back to school or the fracas over Van Jones' resignation from the White House). Something tells me you know her story already, but still, let us run it back and review what she has done this week, now that this girl from Marietta, Georgia has become a household name. (...continue reading)

She has reached the quarterfinals of the Grand Slam tennis event: the U.S. Open in Flushing, Queens. Melanie has so far won three straight 3-set matches, beating No. 4 Elena Dementieva (formerly a favorite to win), No. 29 Maria Sharapova, and yesterday's epic win over 13th-seed Nadia Petrova: 1-6, 7-6, (2), 6-3. Melani Oudin has arrived.

Ranked 70th in the world, she is defying odds and making the U.S. Open a contest filled with grit and heart, with upset after upset. "She's got next," as they say in sports, and at 17 she has a whole decade in front of her to stake a deeper claim into tennis lore. I think so many are pulling for her that it may be a collective wave she is riding, along with her own skill, to this height.

Forget Cinderella – this is the Melanie Oudin story.

You don't have to be a tennis fan. The wins, the emotional excitement, her transformation from the country girl with the wide eyes to the razor-sharp tennis shark with the steely resolve proves that sports is where the amazing happens.

She makes us all pay attention in a moment when we would rather be serious about other things. Sometimes sports directs our attention to the impossible, to the improbable, and most importantly to the power of adversity. From her low seed and position as a seemingly untested player, Oudin has met every challenge head on.

This is a story of the power of youth summoning a greater force and refusing to fall to doubt and distractions. Most importantly, Melanie believes in herself. She believes in her ability without taking it for granted. For this one summer stint, she is proving, on the grandest tennis stage in all of the land, that fear and doubt are but an illusion. That the only reality is the one we step into with full submission. Melanie appears to be destined for greatness, and in looking greatness in the face she cannot be afraid to be herself. She is becoming who she was meant to be. She is a hero and she makes us all recognize the small bit inside ourselves that has not given up on some dream, has not strayed completely from a vision we have yet to fulfill. We all want to seize the day.

Melanie Oudin is not powerful, she is not rich; she can probably walk across the street and you would not think anything special about her ... well, perhaps not anymore. Today she has reached the quarterfinals on the big stage in the one city that the whole world can call home. She has ascended from being an American star to being an international one.

The rest of the field is nothing compared to what she has already faced. Still, what remains may not be so much about her opponents as herself. Tennis is about the individual fighting against their own lower selves, fighting back any inhibitions they may have, fighting to stay creative when it matters, to cross court, charge the net, smash the serve ... all when it matters. Tennis is about timing.

Time is on her side. At 17, we might see this Melanie Oudin story continue all the way to where "sheroes" become legends. Of course, the last 17-year-old to win the U.S. Open was a young girl named Serena Williams, and she is now the undisputed champion of the womens' game. Serena looms like the Titanic over still waters, but Oudin just may be the iceberg that changes the course of history.