NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Melanie Oudin was hoping to get in a few more matches before heading back to the U.S. Open, where she was a fan favorite last year during a surprising run to the quarterfinals.
No such luck.
The 18-year-old Oudin disappointed the sparse crowd at the Pilot Pen on Monday, losing in the opening round of the tuneup tournament, 6-2, 5-7, 6-4, to lucky loser Dominka Cibulkova.
"Last year, I had no expectations ... no one had any for me, and there was no pressure, nothing," she said. "No one knew who I was, and this year, it's like, I'm the one to see at all the U.S. tournaments."
But Oudin pointed out she's still the youngest player ranked in the top 100, and said she's happy with how she's been progressing this season, and isn't getting impatient with herself.
"Everyone only has one Cinderella story," she said. "Yeah, I feel like I belong there, but I kind of took a huge leap, way quicker than people normally do."
Also Monday, Russian Dinara Safina upset French Open champion Francesca Schiavone 1-6, 6-3, 6-1, and Nadia Petrova rallied after being down one set and 5-2 in the second to beat American Varvara Lepchenko 1-6, 7-5, 6-1.
Safina's win came less than a week after she lost in straight sets to Schiavone in Montreal. She has been hampered all year by a back injury
"When you lose a match and you say, 'God, I wish I could replay this match to play one more time to do the things different,'" she said. "And I got this chance to play (Schiavone) here."
Petrova was a late addition to the field after an ankle injury forced Ana Ivanovic to withdraw.
"It's been actually, an amazing opportunity, because I feel like I need a few matches before the U.S. Open," the Russian said.
Elena Dementieva almost missed the start of her early first-round match and had to be tracked down on the practice courts. She then went out and beat Spaniard Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-1, 6-2 under threatening skies.
"Yesterday, we were waiting more than 10 hours, practicing indoors, expecting to be playing today indoors," she said. "I feel lucky to be second on and finish the match."
In the men's draw, two-time Pilot Pen champion James Blake, who grew up in nearby Fairfield, beat Pere Riba of Spain 6-0, 6-1 in just 35 minutes. It was the fastest completed match on the ATP Tour this season.
"I tend to always play fast," Blake said. "The wins end up being a lot quicker; the losses end up being quicker too."
Fellow American Donald Young also had an easy first round, beating Stephane Robert of France 6-1, 6-2, and Taylor Dent beat Eduardo Schwank of Argentina 7-6, 4-6, 6-0.
Cibulkova moves on to face two-time defending champion Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark in the second round. Wozniacki was still in Montreal on Monday, where she played two matches, winning the rain-delayed Rogers Cup 6-3, 6-2 over Vera Zvonareva.
Oudin, meanwhile, moves on to New York, where she plans a new look.
She is donating her long braid to the Locks of Love charity on Saturday, and said she also plans to retire the word "believe" from her colorful shoes this year, replacing it with a word she says is more appropriate for this season.
"I haven't told anybody yet," she said. "You'll see it on my shoes, I guess. I'll wear it for practice."