NEW YORK – We can’t be talking about Donald Young again, can we? The young (pun intended) African American tennis prodigy who turned pro at 14, became the youngest Australian Open boys champion and junior No. 1 at 15, and competed in his first U.S. Open by 16? The kid who, despite all of that talent and the backing of tennis legends such as John McEnroe and Jim Courier, never lived up to any of the hype?
Once pegged as the next big thing in American men’s tennis, the 26-year-old Young spent nearly half his entire professional career trying to shake the label of tennis bust: dreadful losing streaks, public feuds with the USTA (he once posted an expletive-filled tweet after failing to get a wild card for the 2011 French Open) and criticism about his training habits (Pete Sampras once called him a "princess" for showing up late to a practice session) and coaching choices (mom and dad). He has yet to win a title on the ATP Tour. Just two years ago, he fell out of the top 200. In fact, Young hadn’t seen the second week of a Grand Slam event since 2011.
“I’ve kind of been beat up,” Young said. “I’ve beat up myself. I’ve kind of been down. I’ve had good times, bad times, confusing times."
So why are we still talking about someone who had seemingly veered so far off track that he’s rarely mentioned? Because everyone loves a good comeback.
Playing into the hearts of more than 6,000 tennis fans on the Grandstand on Saturday, Young beat No. 22 seed Viktor Troicki 4–6, 0–6, 7–6 (3), 6–2, 6–4, in three hours and 33 minutes. It was his second two-sets-down comeback of the week and of his 12-year career. In the first round the 68th-ranked Young was down two sets and a break before beating 11th-seeded Gilles Simon. For the tournament Young is now 3-0 in singles, 2-0 with Michael Russell in men's doubles and 1-0 in mixed doubles with Taylor Townsend. Not bad for a guy who two weeks ago wasn’t even a part of the conversation.
“Even though I lost 6-0 in the second [to Troicki] I had game points,” Young said. “I felt like I still had more to give. Even if it wasn’t enough I would have been satisfied because I was out there competing my butt off.”
And compete he did.
After getting bageled in the second set, Young had treatment on his lower back before steadying himself and reflecting on some of the self-help book musings he has come to rely on. He then started serving big, rushing the net and dictating the action, causing Troicki to make 60 forced errors.
“I got a Christmas present a couple of years ago and it was Tony Dungy’s book, Quiet Strength. I’ve been reading that and I used that. It helped. I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit.”
A forehand winner down the line to end the fifth set sent Young falling to the court while the boisterous crowd erupted into hysterics. He was so caught up in the moment he initially forgot to shake the hand of chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani.
“I’m right in the thick of things,” said Young after the match. “I feel like I can still improve things a little bit, be more consistent and keep moving up.”
His next challenge in singles will be No. 5 seed Stan Wawrinka, who Young last beat in a five set thriller in the second round of the 2011 U.S. Open.
“I’m not to the point where I would even thinking about saying that I should be winning the tournament. But this is an improvement for me and I’m working on it,” he said.