Despite a run in Wimbledon that included a win over Jelena Jankovic, very few people knew of 17-year-old American tennis player Melanie Oudin when the US Openstarted last Monday.
In fact, when she opened the NASDAQ that day, she didn't need security to get her around in the city and she wasn't hounded by autograph seekers.
What a difference a week makes.
Thanks to wins over No. 4 seed Elena Dementieva, No. 29 seed Maria Sharapova and No. 13 seed Nadia Petrova, Oudin is now the youngest American Grand Slam quarterfinalist since Serena Williams did it at the Open in 1999.
And, suffice it to say, that has potentially made her a very valuable commodity.
Oudin is currently sponsored by two companies. Wilson, who makes her K Blade Tour racket and Adidas, which impressively made Oudin one of two endorsers (along with Sam Querrey) to pitch their mi adidas customizable shoesbefore the US Open started.
Although Oudin's pink and yellow shoes she made, with the word "BELIEVE" on it, have gotten plenty of airtime, adidas spokesperson Lyn Famiglietti said there are currently no plans to do any type of limited release of the shoes. Famiglietti did say however that fans could customize their shoes to look exactly like Oudin's. Wilson has been mentioning Oudin on its blog, but the official Web site does not have the upstart player as one of 16 women players listed who use its rackets.
Sam Duvall, Oudin's agent, said that he has received many calls from companies looking to do a deal and within the past 48 hours, a deal has been made. Duvall said the deal with the company, which has a history in tennis, will likely be announced this week.
Oudin's rise will be appealing to companies within the sport because she's more proven then most young athletes that tennis brands have speculated on in the past. And her timing appears to be perfect.
"If this all happened in Australia or in Beijing, it wouldn't be the same," Duvall said. "The US Open is clearly the biggest stage."
Oudin's success the last two Slams will certainly lead to offers of more guaranteed money, as opposed to most contracts for young players, which have a smaller base but offer huge incentives. But Duvall said he's willing to wait for the right deals.
"Everyone said after Wimbledon that we needed to capitalize and that the window was now," Duvall said. "Her view is this isn't a fluke and she is this good and she has backed it up."
That being said, some industry insiders say that Oudin has to win a slam, like a 17-year-old Maria Sharapova did at Wimbledon, to get real money.
One company, in particular, that would seem like a natural for Oudin is a watch company. She is one of a few players, along with her next opponent Caroline Wozniacki, who actually wears a watch while playing. The watch she currently wears is a Timex, something Timex is well aware of, even though there is no official deal.
“Like all sports fans, Timex has been captivated by the success of Melanie Oudin’s epic run at this year’s US Open,” said Timex president Adam Gurian. “Timex is thrilled Melanie shares the same passion for performance and style that many of the world’s most successful athletes do, by sporting her pink Timex Ironman Sleek 50-Lap watch during her matches. Melanie demonstrates the drive for greatness synonymous with high-level performance in global events.”
Duvall said one of the reasons she wears the watch is because her role model Justine Henin wore a watch while she played.
As for Duvall, his story might be as interesting as that of his young client. At 26 years old, he's now the agent of the two hottest young American tennis players, Oudin and John Isner.
Update: Wilson now has listed Melanie Oudin under its Wilson Tour team on the front of its Web site. She was previously listed in the "On The Rise" section, reserved for players under 21 or outside the top 35.
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