NEW YORK - Stephen Sondheim wrote it. Melanie Oudin is living it. "I was taught,'' Sondheim's lyrics go, "when the prince and dragon fought, the dragon was always caught. Now I don't even wince when he eats the prince.''
Chomp. Chomp. He just took a hunk out of Melanie Oudin.
Pumpkins into coaches, little Miss Nobodies into celebrities, stuff we can only wish for. But fame can bite you when you're not looking.
Which is what happened to Melanie. The result of her last match at the U.S. Open isn't the reason.
But after that final match, the quarter-final loss to the more accomplished Caroline Wozniacki, Oudin, was asked about changes in what she contends was the life of a basic teenager.
"I've gone from being just a normal tennis player,'' said Melanie, "to almost everyone in the United States knowing who I am now.''
Knowing she's a 17-year-old with a lot of heart and talent.
Knowing her parents are in the middle of a divorce, about which "everyone in the United States'' would have been unsuspecting. Until Melanie became the lady of them all.
There was the dragon gnawing away. There was Sports Illustrated digging away.
That apparently Melanie's mom and Melanie's tennis coach, who, ironically she referred to as a second father, have played a bit of doubles after dark, was the content posted on the SI.com web site. Just about the time Oudin was walking off the court against Wozniacki.
It's old news, seemingly, John Oudin, Melanie's father, filed for divorce from Leslie Oudin, July 24, 2008, citing adultery as grounds, and Leslie Oudin a few weeks later, Aug. 12, 2008, denied the charges.
But it was an issue only for friends and family until Melanie took over the Open and New York tabloids.
Leslie Oudin, who had been sharing a hotel room with her daughter not John, realized whatever happened at the Oudins, down in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, Cobb County, no longer stayed at the Oudins. Leslie, however, was just a little bit late.
Sensing the divorce records might go public, Leslie Oudin filed a motion with the Cobb County Superior Court a couple of days ago asking all documents be sealed from public view, citing "embarrassment.'' Sports Illustrated already had viewed them.
Somebody had talked. Whether it's at the White House or the house around the corner, somebody always talks.
In a sworn statement made last month, Aug. 10, 2009, John Oudin specifically alleges his wife had been unfaithful with Melanie's coach of the past eight years, Brian de Villiers. He also states, Melanie suspected the alleged affair.
"Both (Melanie and fraternal twin sister Katherine) asked me point blank ,'' John Oudin said in a sworn statement, "if I thought mom was having an affair with Brian . . . Melanie told of one occasion she woke up at 1 a.m. and Leslie was not there. She called Brian's cell phone and connected with her.''
A Hollywood ending. That's what this is, if not the type where people live happily ever after. Doesn't everyone in Hollywood split?
Melanie Oudin, wise beyond her years, has dealt with the divorce as capably as possible. She played well at Wimbledon this summer. She played better at the U.S. Open this summer. Yet, if it's all true, if her mom and coach indeed were having an affair, what eventually will happen to the relationship between coach and player?
The shame is that the story had to surface when it did. These surely have been the best 10 days in Melanie's blossoming career, if not her life, and now they are diminished. What was a relative secret is being shouted across the country.
Attention is at once both wonderful and awful. Melanie has gained new endorsements, one a data mining firm BackOffice Associates for a six-figure sum according to Sports Business Daily. Melanie, as the report of the divorce proves so painfully, has lost her privacy.
Melanie Oudin doesn't deserve this, having her parents' woes detract from an enchanting few days of success. Tennis doesn't deserve this. The 2009 U.S. Open, because of Oudin and Serena Williams and the great Roger Federer reaching a 22nd straight semifinal in a Grand Slam, had been wonderfully upbeat.
Oudin's experience in the tournament, going through four rounds to the quarters, will prepare her for a future that might carry her to high rankings and championships. Her experience away from the courts, dealing with the discomfort, the hassle, will be no less beneficial.
"I don't think of myself as a celebrity,'' said Melanie Oudin. "I don't see myself as being that kind of like, star.''
She is that kind of, like, star. The joy and the pain of stardom has arrived.