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USTA Southern's Melanie Oudin Taking Charge on ITF Junior Circuit

December 10, 2007 02:22 PM
All good streaks must come to an end.

Orange Bowl girls' 18s runner-up Melanie Oudin (l) and winner Michelle Larcher de Brito
After winning 27 straight matches on the ITF Junior Circuit, American Melanie Oudin (Marietta, Ga.) fell, 7-5, 6-3, to Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal Sunday in the Orange Bowl girls' 18s singles final.

Moments earlier, Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis ended Uladzimir Ignatik's six-month reign atop the junior tennis rankings by defeating Grigor Dimitrov, 6-3, 6-2, in the boys' 18s singles final.

Larcher de Brito and Berankis are the first Orange Bowl singles champions from their countries in the event's 61-year history.

"I haven't won a tournament the whole year, so finally winning one is really great," said Larcher de Brito.

She started slowly, as Oudin, 16, raced from side to side behind the baseline and mixed backhand slices and topspin forehands to jump to a 3-0 lead. Oudin had four break points to make it 4-love but couldn't convert, opening the door for the Portuguese player to make a comeback.

Larcher de Brito didn't hold back on her heavy groundstrokes, punishing down-the-line forehands and backhands, then finishing points at the net, even when she wasn't confident doing so.

"There was one point where I went to the net and I panicked a little bit and nearly pee-ed in my pants because I was at the net, and I don't like it," said Larcher de Brito. "I was losing in the first set, down 4-2, and it was an important point, too. But I actually won the point, so it went OK."

Larcher de Brito broke Oudin three times in the first set before clinching it when the American framed a cross-court forehand wide.

She continued dictating play in the second set, breaking Oudin to start, then holding serve when she followed a down-the-line forehand to net again and put away a short cross-court forehand for a winner.

Aiming for her fifth straight ITF junior title, Oudin continued to fight, hitting three winners to break Larcher de Brito when she served for the match. But serving at 3-5, 40-30, Oudin double-faulted, and Larcher de Brito cashed in her first match point when Oudin hit a forehand approach into the net.

"She's improved a lot, and we just played one great match," said Larcher de Brito, who will play professional tennis in 2008. "I had to go for everything and push myself to the limit to actually win it."

It didn't take long for Oudin to return to the winner's circle as she and Mallory Cecil (Spartanburg, S.C.) clinched the girls' 18s doubles title, defeating Coco Vandeweghe (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.) and Allie Will (Boca Raton, Fla.), 6-2, 6-4.

"I definitely wanted to win a final today," joked Oudin, "so I'm very happy."




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