By Ann Liguori
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American tennis fans are looking for that next Cinderella Story.
Remember Melanie Oudin’s exciting run to the quarterfinals in 2009? The then 17-year-old, thrilled the crowd with come-from-behind wins against 4th seed Elena Dementieva, 29th seed Maria Sharapova and 13th seed Nadia Petrova. The teenager from Marietta, Georgia made you “believe,” as it was written on her shoe, that she could be America’s next tennis darling and rise to the top of the rankings eventually.
But Oudin’s results after the 2009 US Open have been disappointing. (She lost last year at the US Open in the second round and did not get past the first round this year). She is 9 and 29 this season and came into the Open ranked 113.
Patient fans continue to hope that the next great American talent is just around the corner.
On Tuesday afternoon, we were treated to someone who just may fill that role. 19-year-old Christina McHale of Englewood Cliffs, NJ, stole the show when she ousted 8th seed Marion Bartoli of France. What makes the story even more appealing is that the teenager trains at the site of the US Open, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, and her coaches are USTA coaches Jorge Todero and Jay Gooding.
McHale has enjoyed a breakthrough summer, ousting several higher-ranked players along the way including Alisa Kleybanova, Daniela Hantuchova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, and even top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki. She is currently ranked 55 in the world, the fourth highest-ranked American female in tennis! She will next play 25th seed Maria Kirilenko of Russia in the third round.
And how about Irina Falconi’s come-from-behind win against 14th seed Dominika Cibulkova? After winning 2-6, 6-3, 7-6, the 79th ranked Falconi grabbed the American flag and wrapped it around her shoulders during her post-match interview.
Falconi lived in New York City from the age of 3-14 and moved to Jupiter, Florida with her family to pursue her dream.
And earlier in the day, 16-year-old Madison Keys, the youngest and the lowest ranked player in the draw at 455, almost pulled off an upset against the 27th seed, but Lucie Safarova prevailed in three sets.
With two-time US Open champ Venus Williams withdrawing from the tournament due to the diagnosis of Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that “affects my energy level and causes fatigue and joint pain,” stated Venus, Serena Williams is carrying the hopes (and the pressure) of going all the way for the USA.
But will there be a Cinderella Story this year? Let’s hope McHale and Falconi can provide more thrills.
Be sure to catch Ann’s tennis reports on WFAN 660 am. For more information on Ann, visit www.annliguori.com.
Do either McHale or Falconi have what it takes to make an Oudin-like Cinderella run in 2011? Make your case in the comments below…