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September 2, 2011

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US Open 2011, Flushing Meadows, New York, USA
September 2, 2011
Editorial by Jane Voigt.


 

Jane Voigt Photo
Jane Voigt

Moving Closer
 
September 2, 2011 -- Donald Young is having his best year -- finally -- after years of hype and failed expectations. He defeated Andy Murray at Indian Wells this spring. Got to the semifinals in D.C. And today he rocked the new show court 17 for over four hours, defeating the #14 seed Stanislaus Wawrinka in five dramatic sets.
 
This is the Donald Young we've been waiting for. A young man, not a kid, with grit and patience enough to come from behind, persevere and pull off probably the biggest victory of his career. Murray ranks higher than Wawrinka, but the U. S. Open outranks Indian Wells in importance, and ranking points.
 
Young won the first set in a tiebreak and quickly lost the next two sets. Most fans presumed Wawrinka, with much more experience at majors, would close out the match in the fourth. No. Donald broke early and won it. The fifth was stuff for the history books. Down 1-4, Young rallied to 5-4 and served for the match. He lost it miserably, as Wawrinka fed the ball and awaited errors. Young constantly looked to his box of support, as if they could fix him and the score. This is where Young had to do his own thing, and fast.
 
Fittingly, the match ended in a tiebreak. Young darted out to a 3-0 lead. Points were long, both men working the ball until it set up like a bowling pin. Wawrinka couldn't put the ball away, committing errors left and right. 4-0 to Young. At 6-0, Young was one tiny point from the match. He closed it 7-1.
 
The final score was 76(9) 36 26 63 76(1).
 
Donald Young should be proud of his result and how he earned it. You can bet the odds were against him pulling off this match. But he defied the odds. Maybe, just maybe, Young's rank will gain him entry into a draw without requesting a wild card, or without going through three rounds of qualifications. He is in the Open on a wild card. And, maybe his dreams, and his parents' dreams, will come true. He will play with the big boys on the ATP. Because for years he showed little will, maturity, or sportsman-like behavior enough to compete at the highest level.
 
From the get go, Donald Young was put on the spot. Here was a black kid from inner city Chicago who could play a white-man's game: tennis. He picked up his first racquet at three and his tennis-teaching parents taught him the rest. Early on, corporate interest zoomed in on Donald. How the camera first focused on the youth is a thing of myth. Some say he asked John McEnroe to hit a couple balls around while the tennis icon happened to be in Chicago for an event. Others say that IMG, the huge promotional agency, found him way before McEnroe exclaimed the kid's virtues.
 
Generally, myth two is the accepted sequence of events that started Young on his climb up the ranks of tennis. And they were substantive steps.
 
At fifteen he won the Junior Australian Open and became the youngest ever and first African American boy to rank #1 in the world. In 2007 he won the Junior Wimbledon singles title and became the youngest player to finish in the top 100 on the ATP rankings chart. He was 18 years and 5 months. Later that year he made his third appearance at the U. S. Open, but lost in the fourth round to Feliciano Lopez, a talented lefty.
 
Nike, plus others, showered him with millions of dollars in endorsements. He assumed the role of a tennis pro, which he turned in 2004, but couldn't keep up with the pack. He was small, slight of stature, and pissy. He threw racquets, spat on court, and generally acted like a brat.
 
Administrators at the USTA urged Donald to leave his parents and take on a real coach or, at least, let the USTA mold his future. But Donald stayed with Donald Sr and Illona while asking the USTA to pay finances for travel, tournaments, and training. Patrick McEnroe, the director of player development, wrote to the Youngs in 2009 and said if Donald didn't leave his parents, the USTA would cut him off.
 
The dissonance between the USTA and the Youngs came to an ugly head in late April of this year. Young lost in the final round of a USTA qualifying tournament that would have secured him a wild card into The French Open. Angry at himself, one would suspect, he posted a profanity-riddled rant on Twitter, damning the giant tennis federation.
 
Days later Young apologized to his coaches, which included Patrick McEnroe. But the damage was done. Young's image was tarnished. He hadn't grasped the reality of earning something, like a wild card. He wanted it given to him. Since then relations between the family and the USTA have mellowed.
 
Perhaps today's victory -- a five set struggle -- will settle inside Young as his doing. When he looks to his box of support, his face seems to cry for validation. I did good, right? Or ... it wasn't my fault I lost that point or game. No one else but Donald Young created today's scoreline. He came from behind. He was patient. He closed the match and earned his berth in round three and another chance to believe in himself and his talent, and the possibility of truly standing beside his co-competitors and being included in the international community of the game.
 

 

 
[26] Flavia Pennetta (ITA) {red with blue dress} d [3] Maria Sharapova (RUS) 63 36 64
 
Maria Sharapova 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Flavia Pennetta 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Flavia Pennetta 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Flavia Pennetta 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Flavia Pennetta 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Flavia Pennetta 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Flavia Pennetta 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Maria Sharapova 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Flavia Pennetta 2011 US Open New York Tennis

 
 
[28] John Isner (USA) {yellow shirt} d Robby Ginepri (USA) 64 63 64
 
John Isner 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Robby Ginepri 2011 US Open New York Tennis
John Isner 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Robby Ginepri 2011 US Open New York Tennis
John Isner 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Robby Ginepri 2011 US Open New York Tennis
John Isner 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Robby Ginepri 2011 US Open New York Tennis
John Isner 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Robby Ginepri 2011 US Open New York Tennis
John Isner 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Robby Ginepri 2011 US Open New York Tennis
John Isner 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Robby Ginepri 2011 US Open New York Tennis
Robby Ginepri 2011 US Open New York Tennis

 
Earlier Columns from this Event:
 
September 1, 2011 US Open: Will the Real Top Seeds Please Stand Up - Federer, Sela, S Williams, Krajicek
August 31, 2011 US Open: Big Day - Murray, Devvarman, Stosur, Vandeweghe
August 30, 2011 US Open: A Kid In a Candy Store - Nadal, Golubev, Blake, Huta Galung
August 29, 2011 US Open: The Youngsters, Plus One - Fish, Kamke, Dulgheru, Kvitova
August 28, 2011 US Open: Before It All Begins
 

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