By HOWARD FENDRICH, Associated Press
PARIS (AP) — Melanie Oudin and other young Americans are finding the going much tougher in the second round of the French Open.
The U.S. women went 1-6 at Roland Garros on Wednesday, including losses by Oudin and Venus Williams — and the only victory, by 19-year-old Sloane Stephens of Coral Springs, Fla., came against another player from the United States.
The Americans played more experienced and highly seeded opponents, including 2009 U.S. Open quarterfinalist Oudin, a 20-year-old from Marietta, Ga., who was eliminated by No. 21 Sara Errani of Italy 6-2, 6-3.
"She's definitely one of the best grinders on the clay, for sure. So it's not a great matchup for me. But I think after being down 5-0 in the first set, I started playing much better," Oudin said. "I'm still trying to get back, and definitely it was good to see how I matched up against her."
Four others from the United States also faced seeded players from other countries — and also exited in straight sets.
Williams lost to No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-2, 6-3; qualifier Alexa Glatch was beaten 6-3, 6-1 by No. 18 Flavia Pennetta of Italy, Vania King was beaten by No. 15 Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 6-0, 6-2, and Irina Falconi lost 6-1, 6-4 to No. 6 Sam Stosur, the reigning U.S. Open champion.
Stephens did manage to make it to the third round at the French Open for the first time, beating Bethanie Mattek-Sands of Phoenix 6-1, 6-1.
U.S. women got off to a 10-0 start at Roland Garros on Sunday and Monday, before the other two entrants lost in the first round Tuesday. Still, the 10 into the second round were the most at the French Open since 11 in 2003.
"People have definitely underestimated Americans playing on red clay. And, yeah, I think a lot of us are still pretty young, have a lot of work to do on it still, with the movement and getting the footing right," Oudin said. "Playing Errani, you can tell she's played on it her whole life, because of the way she moves and she seems so, like, graceful on the court," Oudin continued. "And I feel like I'm just totally off-balance a lot of the time."
Simply playing at the French Open and winning a match was "a step forward," Oudin said. She had lost her previous five Grand Slam matches and dropped too low in the rankings to even try to qualify for Roland Garros before earning a wild card from the U.S. Tennis Association.
Oudin was only 17 when she made her memorable run to the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows, including a victory over Maria Sharapova.
A lot of losses followed, but now that she's working with USTA coaches in New York, Oudin says she's regained some much-needed confidence.
"I'm really just looking forward to playing good tennis again," Oudin said.
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