Melanie Oudin upset No. 28 Tamira Paszek 6-4, 6-3 in the first round of the French Open on Monday. The 21-year-old American, who picked up her second career victory at Roland Garros, will face Zheng Jie in the second round.
Oudin, ranked 78th, hasn’t advanced past the second round of a Grand Slam tournament since her memorable run to the 2009 U.S. Open quarterfinals. Oudin discussed that life-altering tournament — along with her sweet tooth, dream vacation destination and pop-culture favorites — during an interview with SI.com at the Italian Open earlier this month.
SI.com: When did you realize you were good at tennis?
Oudin: [Laughs] Probably when I got to the quarterfinals at the 2009 U.S. Open and everyone made such a big deal about it. I was one of the top-10 searches on Yahoo!.
SI.com: What was the craziest thing to come out of that, recognition-wise?
Oudin: I think it was the fact that famous people who had heard the story or had watched said they were fans of me. The biggest thing was when I was on Ellen DeGeneres’ show, Queen Latifah knew who I was. I never thought someone like her would know who I was. So that was a big shock and it was really, really cool. I was walking down the hallway and she was like, “Oudin! Girl, you did so good at the U.S. Open!” I was like, “Oh, my gosh!”
SI.com: If you could go back and replay a match, which one would it be?
Oudin: I don’t have one. I definitely have a few I would want back, some matches that hurt. The toughest would be the ones that I lost 7-6 in the third. I mean, a couple of points — those are the ones that kill you. Not the one you lose [6-]1 and [6-]1. It’s the ones where you give everything you’ve got and you lose by a slim margin.
SI.com: What’s your favorite childhood memory?
Oudin: Probably playing tennis with my twin sister and my grandma on the courts with us when she started us playing. We started when we were 7, but I remember more when we were 9 or 10. She would take us out and we’d go to our neighborhood courts and we’d hit together and then we’d play Australian doubles, one of us with Grandma against the other one. Yeah, that was really cool.
SI.com: Describe your last meal on earth.
Oudin: Brownies, ice cream, chocolate, pizza. Pretty much everything that I don’t eat right now.
SI.com: Name a guilty pleasure.
Oudin: Chocolate-covered strawberries
SI.com: Have you ever been mistaken for another player or celebrity?
Oudin: A couple people thought I looked like Reese Witherspoon, actually. That’s the only one.
SI.com: If you were the commissioner of tennis for a day, what’s the first thing you would do?
Oudin: I don’t really speak up a lot because I need to do more research on the WTA and stuff like that, but I think it would be to do more for players ranked outside of the top 50 instead of focusing only on the players inside the top 20. I understand, but there are so many players who make up the tour, not just the top 20. So I would just make the earlier rounds have more money at tournaments and just to do more for the players ranked outside the top 20.
SI.com: What’s on your bucket list?
Oudin: I want to go to Hawaii. That’s one place I really want to go to on vacation.
SI.com: What’s the biggest perk of being a tennis player?
Oudin: You get to do what you love as your job. That’s pretty cool. We’re really lucky that we get to play tennis instead of sitting in an office all day long. We get to travel the world, meet tons of people. There are so many upsides to being a tennis player.
SI.com: Who do you call to go for dinner when you’re at a tournament?
Oudin: Depends on the tournament. One of my best friend on the tour is Alison Riske, so I would probably call her if she’s there. If it’s a tournament like [the Italian Open], probably Madison Keys. Madison and I have become really good friends.
SI.com: Who’s the best dresser on tour?
SI.com: What’s your favorite TV show right now?
Oudin: I love Scandal, Modern Family and The Following.
SI.com: Who are some of your favorite TV characters?
Oudin: I like really, really, really like Phil Dunphy in Modern Family. And Dr. Christina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy.
SI.com: What’s your favorite candy bar?
Oudin: In England, the Aero chocolate bar? Amazing. They don’t have it in the States ever. When I’m in Europe, I try to stock up and bring them home with me.