The Next … Justine Henin?

Is it a cosmic coincidence that world No. 1 Justine Henin retired just three months after Melanie Oudin turned pro? Like the player she most admires, Oudin is a 5'5" blonde who outwits bigger foes with solid groundstrokes, unquestioned fitness, superb footwork and unparalleled competitive fire.

"One of the strengths of my game is my footwork and I'm quick," Oudin says. "Those were Henin's biggest strengths against stronger girls, along with having a lot of variety and being strong at the net. Using all kinds of shots. I really like that part of her game. That's what I'm trying to work on."

Oudin suffered some early losses in the junior draws at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year. But then the 16-year-old from Georgia reeled off four straight tournament victories, including the prestigious Eddie Herr International in December. She dropped just three sets during the run.

"I went through a rough patch in the middle of last summer and a bit of the fall, but then everything started to come together," she says. "I think the reason why I struggled is I was trying to find my game. I'd play some really good sets but I didn't put them together."

Due to her age, Oudin is limited by the amount of WTA tournaments she is able to enter, but she will be participating in the upcoming junior French Open draw. She has already played at the Pacific Life Open (reaching the second round) and stretched solid pro Tathiana Garbin to three sets in the first round at the Sony Ericsson Open. Oudin has also logged a lot of time on the USTA Pro Circuit (the minor league component in the U.S.), where she has notched one runner-up finish, a semifinal and three quarterfinal showings to lift her ranking to 255th in the world.

In Her Words …

"I should be NEXT because I work extremely hard every day. I give 150 percent every time I go on the tennis court to practice or play a tennis match. It wasn't paying off a while ago, and I wasn't doing that well. Then all of a sudden, I started winning everything. If you work as hard as you possible can, you can make things happen. I'm hoping I'll be a great tennis player one day. Get to the top of the rankings. I hope if I keep working so hard that I'll make that."— MELANIE OUDIN

Just So You Know …

  • Oudin is pronounced "oo-DAN", not "wee-DIN"

  • She's a twin! Katherine is her fraternal twin (they have a younger sis too). "We don't even look like sisters. I've got blond hair and bluish green eyes and she's got brown hair and brown eyes. She wants to be a doctor. She's extremely academic. I think I'm a little more laid back than her."

  • Oudin has been home-schooled since seventh grade.

  • She played soccer but picked tennis when she was forced to chose between the two sports.

  • Melanie's favorites:

    • TV show: Grey's Anatomy

    • Singer: Chris Brown

    • Color: Yellow (but she loves to wear sky blue)