Oudin's Wimbledon causes whirlwind

Today, she is on her way to New York, where she'll play in an exhibition tennis tournament and pocket an appearance fee.

When she returned home from her run to the fourth round at Wimbledon, arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport at close to midnight, TV cameras greeted her.

Where her pre-Wimbledon schedule included stops in Charleston, S.C., and Raleigh, her run-up to the U.S. Open likely will take her to big-money events in Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Toronto. The fall might include appearances in China and Japan.

"Just from one tournament, how all this can happen, it's just crazy," said Oudin, 17, of Marietta. "I don't even understand it sometimes."

Perhaps the most eventful summer of Oudin's life is in full throttle, kick-started by her becoming the youngest American to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon since Jennifer Capriati in 1993.

After Wimbledon, Oudin's ranking by Women's Tennis Association jumped from No. 124 to No. 70, her highest since she turned pro last year. She is the youngest player in the top 200. By four spots, she is the No. 3 American, behind Serena and Venus Williams.

The U.S. Open, where a nervous Oudin lost in the first round last summer, looms on the horizon.

"The thing is, you kind of have to work harder," Oudin said Wednesday, taking a break from training at the Racquet Club of the South in Norcross. "It's not like it's going to get easier."

Oudin anticipates the climb. While her performance at Wimbledon — beating the world's No. 26, 74 and 6 players — brought her attention and gave her ranking a boost, it also gave her a better sense of where she stands.

"I actually believe I can beat them now," Oudin said. "It's not like, Oh, my gosh, they're in the top 10 in the world, I have no chance. Now it's like, I can compete with them. I know I can."

To keep moving forward, she'll have to do so. At the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, Calif., a $700,000 tournament where she'll try to qualify into the main draw in two weeks, the field boasts 10 of the top 20 players in the world.

The fields in tournaments in Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Toronto and New Haven, Conn., where Oudin plans to play, likely will be similarly strong.

"In reality, to move the ranking up now becomes a little more difficult," said her coach, Brian de Villiers.

The strategy laid forth by de Villiers will be to keep things the same. Before Stanford, there will be five- and six-hour training days, and she'll still spend some of that time training with other junior players at the club. Wednesday, when the balls had to be picked up, Oudin piled up balls on her racket, no different than the rest.

She might have drawn a roughly $88,000 paycheck from the All England Club for her efforts, but Oudin has no intent to change. (Oudin did say she'd like to splurge — with her parents' permission — on a watch.)

"I've heard a lot of people say, 'You're supposed to be the next upcoming American,' and 'You're the next hope for American tennis,' " Oudin said. "I don't really listen to it. I just play my game, and I don't worry about anything else."

If the rest of the year plays out as hoped — de Villiers said a good outcome would be for Oudin to win a couple of rounds in the pre-U.S. Open tournaments and get past the fourth round at the U.S. Open — her ranking would go even higher, which likely would mean more craziness.

Oudin's agent Sam Duvall said he met with a watch company in London and that a couple of other companies have shown interest in sponsoring Oudin. Her endorsement deals with Adidas and Wilson will be up for re-negotiation soon, de Villiers said.

As much as she can, Oudin wants just to mind her tennis.

"The reason I play is because I love the game. Of course, it's my job. I kind of have to think about it now," she said. "But it's nice. I get to do what I love."

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.