Oudin Ramps Up For Fed Cup Matches

February 5, 2009 06:20 PM

Melanie Oudin’s head is in the clouds as she gets used to the altitude of Surprise, Ariz. and the high expectations of playing for the United States Fed Cup team for the first time.

The 17-year-old packed her bags and took off alone after she was named to the team by Coach Mary Joe Fernandez last week.

Oudin and three other Americans will face off against Argentina in the first-round match at the Surprise Tennis and Racquet Complex. Four singles and a doubles match are scheduled for the weekend.

“There is a draw ceremony tomorrow afternoon and that’s when the lineup will be named,” Oudin, from Marietta, Ga., said via phone.

The past two days have been a whirlwind of practices, a clinic, an autograph session and a press conference that has really worn her out. “I just get back to the hotel fall right into bed. I’m just so tired. It’s really exhausting.”

She began two-a-day practices on Wednesday, adjusting to the dry heat and thin air at 1,175 ft. “You’re dying because it’s so dry. I’ve been drinking tons and tons of water. … The ball flies because of the altitude. I had my racquet strung a little tighter” to keep the ball in the court. She said she is trying to add more topspin but, because she hits the ball relatively flat, the string adjustment is working best.

The practice regiment is concentrated on two-players-on-one drills, speed work and serving. She’s been working with teammates Jill Craybus and Julie Ditty, the Ashland, Ky. player who was added to the team when Bethanie Mattek’s hip injury acted up. Liezel Huber, the world’s co-No. 1 doubles player, will anchor the final match, which be doubles.

On the court, Oudin described Fernandez as a wonderful coach, saying, "She’s so supportive of everything. She’s being really positive.” While the Fernandez – in her first year as coach -- is not trying to change Oudin’s game, she has encouraged the teenager to move toward the ball and be more aggressive so her opponent can’t get inside the baseline. “She’s given me some tips on my serve. I really like her advice. She knows what she’s talking about.”

Oudin enjoyed working with underprivileged kids from the community in a clinic. “They hit a little bit and some were really good. I ran the rally races through the ladder. That was fun,” she said.

“I signed autographs for 45 minutes and my hand hurt,” she added.

On Saturday, the two-day competition will begin. “I’ve played for my state and my section before. It’s pretty exciting if you think about it, playing for your country. There will definitely be some pressure on me. Hopefully, I can do my best and represent the country well.”

 

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