NEW YORK — A year ago at the U.S. Open, American teenager Melanie Oudin told the world to "BELIEVE," with her sneakers and her play.
Among those she motivated: Beatrice Capra, 18, from Ellicott City, Md., and a wild-card entry, who is following in Oudin's footsteps at Flushing Meadows, albeit without any mottoes written on her shoes.
Making her Grand Slam debut — and in the main draw of a tour-level event for the first time — Capra, ranked 371st, upset 18th seed Aravane Rezai 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 Thursday to reach the U.S. Open's third round.
Capra, who trains at the Evert Academy in Delray Beach, is the youngest and lowest-ranked player left in the women's field. She knows Oudin from the junior ranks and paid close attention in 2009, when Oudin, then 17, knocked off three-time major champion Maria Sharapova en route to the quarterfinals.
Capra's next opponent: Sharapova, the 2006 U.S. Open champion and this year's 14th seed, who beat 68th-ranked Iveta Benesova 6-1, 6-2.
"When I was younger," Capra said earnestly, "I used to always look up to her."
After losing in the second round of singles Wednesday, Oudin spoke about being a "tiny bit relieved" about distancing herself from the expectations and spotlight that accompanied last year's run. Oudin is keeping tabs on Capra.
"I'm really, really happy that she's done well," said Oudin, who is about 61/2 months older. "For me, especially, I'm, like, great with the other American girls doing well, because she can take some of the stuff away from me. … There can be more of us for people to pay more attention to, instead of, like, just me."
As the temperature climbed into the 90s yet again at Flushing Meadows, Roger Federer hardly broke a sweat in dismissing 104th-ranked Andreas Beck 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 in 1 hour, 41 minutes to ease into the third round. "It's about just saving your energy for the really big match coming up, maybe the next one," Federer said.
Third seed Novak Djokovic also reached the third round, beating 52nd-ranked Philipp Petzschner 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) in the day's final match in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Djokovic next plays wild-card entry and Tampa resident James Blake, who beat 205th-ranked Peter Polansky 6-7 (1-7), 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
Kei Nishikori, the 147th-ranked qualifier, fought cramps in his racket-holding right hand and elsewhere while taking a minute shy of five hours to wrap up a 5-7, 7-6 (8-6), 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-1 win over 11th seed Marin Cilic.
Nishikori, 20, began feeling his muscles tighten in the second set but didn't really begin worrying until trailing 2-1 in sets. "I was thinking about it in fourth set, mostly: 'Even if I win this, I have to play one more set. It's not going to be easy for me, you know, cramping,' " said Nishikori, who reached the fourth round two years ago, the first Japanese man since 1937 to get that far at the U.S. Open. "But I was able to fight through."
His was one of a handful of upsets on Day 4. Besides Rezai, No. 22 Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez lost to Patty Schnyder, and No. 6 men's seed Nikolay Davydenko was eliminated by Richard Gasquet, a former top-10 player.
Top seed Caroline Wozniacki, like Federer, didn't waste time on the court, blanking 84th-ranked Chang Kai-chen 6-0, 6-0. Wozniacki has lost a total of two games in her first two matches.
"I've been playing really great tennis," she said. "I'm feeling good, so no worries."
The women's winners also included 2004 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, 2008 runnerup Jelena Jankovic and 2010 Wimbledon finalist Vera Zvonareva.
A day after Victoria Azarenka collapsed on the court during a singles match, she and partner Dinara Safina pulled out of women's doubles. Azarenka, seeded 10th in singles, stopped playing in the first set of her second-round match Wednesday after she staggered and fell.
Azarenka was taken off the court in a wheelchair and to a hospital for tests, which showed she had a mild concussion. She said she banged her head in a fall at the gym before the match.