Thanks to Savannah for alerting me to this exchange between Tom Perrotta and Melanie Oudin's coach.
Melanie was overlooked as a junior, but here she is having more success than anyone in her age group. Why is that?
Brian de Villiers: You don't want to go there with me. The problem with American tennis, number one, is they don't dream big enough, they're not sold the dream, and then they don't believe in themselves. You have dream big, and you have to aim to be the best. I think people are afraid to put themselves on the line and say, “Hey, I want to be number one.” Dream big, and then try and make your dreams come true. And that's exactly what this child is doing. She dreams big and she believes. There are a lot of talented girls out there, tons of them. But I'll leave it at that.
What are her parents like?
They're just a normal family. I've been very lucky. From day one when they dropped the kids off [Oudin's sister, Katherine, is a college-bound player], they've left me alone and never fussed with me about results, what we're working on—I've done the schedule, I do all that. Most parents, I have a lot now who still bother me at the club, come sit on the court and tell me what to do. They've never, ever done that. And she's believed in me. I sold her the dream, told her how we were going to do it, and we came up here [to the U.S. Open] when she was 12 years old and got a feel for the place and she said, “Yeah, I'm gonna be here one day. This is what I want to do.”
Did you believe there was a limit to her potential because of her small size?
No, because she's playing smarter. I'm trying to teach her to play smarter than everybody else out there. A lot of players are just bang, bang, bang. Just walk around and watch the juniors now, some of the stuff out there—not much variety.
How far is she from her peak?
She turns 18 this month. Tennis is an ongoing thing. You don't ever get to a point and say, “Now I know how to play.” It's continuous, now matter how old you are. A lot of people think, 'Boom, now I'm a player, that's it.' It doesn't work like that. Better players come along, you get pushed, different surfaces, different circumstances come up.
Has she ever had a fear of losing?
She's never had a fear of losing. Look, I've been very, very tough on that kid. I've let her have it many, many a time when she's made bad decisions out there, because that's something she can control. If she misses a shot, that's fine, but to make a bad decision through neglect and sloppiness and lack of concentration, that's the stuff that drives me nuts. I think it's helped in the long run because she adjusts out there very quickly and she figures things out.
Why does she have to lose the first set?
Just to continue to annoy me and stress me out. The girls she's playing now, this is the hardest ball she's faced. It takes a little time to adjust and get the hang of it. When you're playing at the Challengers, you don't see balls that are coming at a hundred-and-something miles an hour, you don't see serves whizzing by at 120 miles an hour. So it takes time just to adjust to the pace, to get a read on the players, and then formulate a plan in her head and get to work.
What current American tour professional not named Williams actually believes in him/herself when it matters most?
And the USTA head of player development is Patrick McEnroe?
Insular and unimaginative.