LONDON – When Melanie Oudin's mother Leslie sat down with her daughter to watch Wimbledon on television, she could never have dreamed she was setting in motion a journey that would lead to glory at the All England Club.
Oudin, who faces 11th seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the fourth round of Wimbledon, was only seven when she first fell in love with tennis after being captivated by the images of Venus and Serena Williams dominating the grass court Grand Slam.
The American, the world 124, might have been indulging in nothing more than a passing fantasy when she turned to her mother and told her she would emulate Venus and Serena by becoming the world number one.
But the prospect of that dream becoming reality looks more likely after Oudin, 17, claimed the first big win of her professional career by beating former world number one and sixth seed Jelena Jankovic 6-7 (8/10), 7-5, 6-2 in the third round of Wimbledon on Saturday.
Oudin, who once won 27 consecutive matches on the ITF junior circuit, arrived in south-west London for the Wimbledon qualifying event earlier this month knowing she would be ecstatic just to reach the main draw.
Just a few weeks later, she is one of just 16 women left in the Wimbledon singles, with a first ever Grand Slam fourth round match looming against Poland's Radwanska.
"This is my first year in the pros in Wimbledon and I'm actually in the fourth round. It's unbelievable," she said.
"When I was seven, when I started playing tennis, I saw Venus and Serena Williams playing here and I was like, 'Mom, I really, really want to play there one day'."
"Just qualifying for Wimbledon was huge for me. That was my goal coming into the tournament.
"I'm very excited right now. But I'm hoping there will be better days too."
Oudin, who has French ancestors, has tennis in her genes.
Her grandmother still plays at a local club in Atlanta, Georgia and the rest of the family are all keen players.
The 5ft 6in teenager is a firm admirer of Venus and Serena, but her real idol is Justine Henin, the retired former world number one, who impressed Oudin with her ability to beat more physically imposing players.
"I've learned a lot from Venus and Serena. I saw that they enjoyed it so much and they fought so hard, and I loved that competitiveness," Oudin said.
"But Justine Henin was my idol. She's proven that you don't have to be six feet tall to be the number one in the world and win so many Grand Slams. Her footwork is amazing.
"There's not much I can do about my height. I wish I'd be a little bit taller, but I take what I have and I do the best I can with it."