Melanie Oudin is 18 with sparkling green eyes, a long, blond ponytail and the youthful enthusiasm that goes with a quarterfinal performance at September's U.S. Open. Her mixed doubles partner Wednesday night at Pam Shriver's 24th annual Baltimore Community Foundation Tennis Challenge was a gray-haired, 50-year-old, curmudgeonly veteran Tennis Hall of Famer named John McEnroe.
"She's younger than four of my six kids," McEnroe said. "But she plays with a lot of energy, and I think that's why she did so well at the Open.
"She brings a spark, and I like that. The two of us might get something going out there."
McEnroe, of course, has gotten things going for decades. On Wednesday night, even before the match started at 1st Mariner Arena, he was stirring the pot.
"It's always exciting for a New Yorker to come to Baltimore," he said, tongue firmly in cheek. "We don't normally get treated too well down here."
"Are you an Orioles fan?" asked announcer Wayne Bryan.
"What?" said McEnroe.
"Are you an Orioles fan?"
"Someone once said it best," McEnroe said and then roared, "You can't be serious!" conjuring up memories of his most famous on-court explosion.
Oudin has no such reservations about Baltimore. She's on a two-week exhibition tour of six cities and finding the whole experience simply "fun,"as she settles into the role of America's newest women's tennis hope.
She and John Isner anchored Team Black (McEnroe, Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie and Ravens long snapper Matt Katula) to a 21-16 victory over Team Orange (Mike and Bob Bryan, Lindsay Davenport, Olga Poutchkova, Orioles pitcher Brad Bergesen and Ravens linebacker Paul Kruger). The two sides played the World TeamTennis format, featuring one set each of women's and men's singles, men's and mixed doubles, and the Orioles Challenge. The outcome of each game counted in the team scoring.
Oudin opened with a winning baseline battle against Poutchkova, 5-3, then teamed with McEnroe for a come-from-behind, 5-4 mixed-doubles win in overtime against Davenport and Mike Bryan. She followed that with a 3-1 win in the Orioles Challenge with Guthrie.
The highlight of the mixed match came during the extended play, when early in a cross-court rally with Oudin, Mike Bryan yelled, "I know I can beat a girl."
It set off the loudest reaction of the night among the sparse crowd and garnered a huge cheer when, after an extended rally, Oudin won the point.
Things continued in an entertaining spirit when the Bryans, the world No. 1 doubles team, took on McEnroe and Isner. Bryan chest bumps, McEnroe mimicking mooning people and other antics came into play before McEnroe and Isner won, 5-4 (5-3). Is- ner wrapped up the win, despite losing to Bob Bryan, 4-3, in the men's singles match that closed out the night.