At this point, I wonder if the USTA will just cut ties with Donald Young. This could be its big chance to get rid of its biggest headache. And in some ways, that might be best for both sides. A nightmare relationship between prodigy and governing body hit an unbelievable depth Friday when Young wrote this on his Twitter account:
“Fu– USTA!! Their full of sh–! They have screwed me for the last time!’’
Only he didn’t shorten the words to keep them clean enough for publication. (Yes, he wrote “Their’’ instead of “They’re’’).
You just can’t write that, uh, stuff. You can disagree. You can point out that they are bullying you, that they are favoring others over you, that they are lying to you. Young and his parents, who coach him, have accused the USTA of all of those things over the years. But you can’t say Fu—them. Not publicly. Every line was stepped over, stomped on, spit on. That said, my first reaction was that Young is wrong:
No matter how this thing is portrayed, no matter how the USTA tries to put this all on Young – today, Patrick McEnroe, head of USTA’s player development, will have a teleconference – this is a two-sided coin.
And the USTA had better be very careful. Let me put it bluntly: In a sport that has a history of being extremely white, it’s bad enough that the USTA can’t get along with one of the only black players to actually come through its system. It gets worse if that means all effort and hope are given instead to Ryan Harrison, a white kid from the south. That’s assuming Harrison’s relationship with the USTA is still solid.
And I’m not sure it is.
But the Young family is already looking at Harrison and making comparisons, wondering about special treatment. “Look at who gets all the wildcards (free and automatic entries into tournaments),’’ someone close to Young told me recently.
What an amazing run this has been for Young and the USTA, an amazing run of failure. It is not just a story of a failed kid, but also a failed governing body.
They have failed each other, failed themselves, failed you and me and the tennis world. At this point, Young and the USTA both look like losers. You want to pick sides? Go ahead.
This is the story of how not to develop a prodigy. He has been fumbled and mishandled by his own parents, by the USTA, by agents and by a hype machine that started with John McEnroe. Plus, Young has mishandled himself.
And what did we get? Not the savior of U.S. tennis, that’s for sure. Not a good-looking black kid from inner-city Chicago providing an unbelievable, once-in-a-lifetime boost to a game that could have used him.
Maybe Young, handled perfectly, wasn’t going to get there anyway. He doesn’t seem to know how to fight, isn’t mature enough and has awful footwork.
But just last month the public pitch was that he and the USTA had finally come together. Young had worked with the USTA’s coaches and players, and Davis Cup captain Jim Courier said Young had top 50 talent, but had to continue to work hard. Young talked about his new work ethic.
And then he beat Andy Murray. Finally, a signature win. He’s still just 21, and is ranked No. 95. It’s not that he was headed for the top 10, but at least he was accomplishing something.
Forget that. Young apparently was angry because he wanted the USTA to give him a wildcard into the French Open. The USTA had set up a six-person tournament, including Young. Winner gets the wildcard. Young lost in the final of that six-person thing and then seemed to go straight to Twitter.
That’s what a source told me. That’s what Tennis Magazine wrote. But the Youngs aren’t talking. Donald later tweeted that he shouldn’t have used that language, but that his thoughts stand. Then, he shut down his Twitter account entirely. His mother, Ilona, responded to my email by saying there was nothing more to say.
But I just don’t think this is that simple. His anger isn’t based on one wildcard. The entire history and structure of U.S. tennis have not exactly favored inner-city black kids without a ton of money. So it’s fully understandable why the Youngs might be uncomfortable, why they don’t trust the USTA.
Meanwhile, at the 2009 U.S. Open, Young told me that Patrick McEnroe had sent a letter to his family with the threat: Leave your family and do everything our way, or we’re not going to help you any more. McEnroe denied that at the time, but all but acknowledged it in his book, when he said Young’s problem is his parents.
That year, Young said, he told McEnroe he would not ditch his family. Then, Young didn’t get a wildcard into the U.S. Open.
I’m not putting it all on the USTA. John McEnroe and IMG, his agent, went nuts promoting Young, who was just a little kid, as the next great thing. His parents took IMG money, and took wildcards into pro tour level events, getting their son crushed regularly.
So Young, with the maturity and professionalism of a 13-year old, doesn’t want to dance the USTA’s dance. And the USTA, mistakenly thinking of itself as an expert in player development, doesn’t want to fork over tons of money without control over its investment. It’s a fine argument and the sides can’t reach middle ground as they don’t trust each other.
The Youngs don’t know how to coach to a top level. And the USTA’s success rate hovers, roughly, around zero. So to Young, his parents, the McEnroes and the USTA. . .
You have really fu—- this thing up.