Category Archives: Donald Young

FRENCH OPEN Ten Years of Donald Young. Time for Another Look?

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Donald Young celebrates during French Open win over Feliciano Lopez

 

If we have learned anything from Donald Young over the years, it’s that the time to talk about his emergence is now. Today. As in, before his next match at the French Open, when everything could be ruined.

This month marked 10 years since Young’s first professional tennis match. He was 14. Of course, in his case, we knew about him even before that, when John McEnroe, playing a senior event in Chicago, walked past a court and saw Young, a ballboy, hitting groundstrokes. McEnroe was so taken by what he saw that he started hitting with Young, then ran and called his agent to tell him about this amazing kid.

That whole story was a fake, by the way. It was a publicity stunt set up by agents, and it worked to build a myth. The myth worked against Young, told a lie that everyone bought into, including Young and his parents, because U.S. tennis is so desperate for the next big thing.

But since then, Young’s career has had far too much reality, anyway. The losses. The highs followed by crushing lows. The moping. The giving up. And the contentious relationship with the USTA, which once led Young to tweet “FU—USTA!’’

The thing is, when he beat Feliciano Lopez in the second round of the French Open, Young, finally became a feelgood story again, guaranteed to last until his next match, anyway.

It’s time to take another look at Donald Young.

And maybe the USTA, too. Young has told stories of how he was childhood friends with fellow Chicagoan Taylor Townsend, who had her breakthrough at this French Open. The USTA threatened to cut funding on Townsend two years ago, saying she wasn’t fit. It was a dangerous threat, using a code word to call a teenage girl fat.

That story isn’t going to go away. CNN asked Townsend about it on Thursday, and she said that when she got the news from the USTA, she went home and cried.

So two black kids from Chicago, two prospects who were the No. 1 junior players in the world, had major fallouts with the organization charged with developing them. That said, the USTA did help Continue reading


AUSTRALIAN OPEN: From Valedictorians to Class Clowns, Here are Grades for the Year’s First Major

Maria Sharapova icing down during a match

Maria Sharapova icing down during a match

Stan Wawrinka, next banner up

Stan Wawrinka, next banner up

Genie Bouchard. Next.

Genie Bouchard. Next.

We got an inspirational new champion, a re-invented former champion, a few possible future champions and then, well, failure and theater of the absurd. Really, Australian Open officials? It’s OK to have players out there in 110 degree heat because people used to chase antelope in Africa?

WHAT?

So here are the final grades for the Australian Open, of valedictorians, teacher’s pets, class clowns and everything in between.

VALEDICTORIANS

LI NA: In a sport in need of mainstream attention, Li not only gives tennis something every sport dreams of – something to market to the massive population and economy of China – but also a post-championship match victory speech that goes viral. As a result, Li might be the most important player in the women’s game today, maybe even more than Serena Williams. Li was able to win the Australian Open without beating a top player, but that’s not her fault. Eight months ago, with her results failing and the Chinese media ripping her, Li nearly retired. Her work with new coach Carlos Rodriguez has helped the sport big time. Grade: A+

STAN WAWRINKA: Wawrinka’s championship was even more impressive than Li Na’s, considering the tougher competition he had to beat. He spent the past few years thinking he was never going to be able to break through the Big Four in men’s tennis, but finding honor in getting up after every defeat to keep fighting anyway. And then he took down Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. You can’t win two major tennis matches by fluke. He earned this. Grade: A+

TEACHER’S PETS

ANA IVANOVIC: The game has just been waiting for her to get her nerve back. And she came out firing again. She beat Serena Williams, not to mention Sam Stosur, and showed that she’s perfectly capable of being a top 10 player again and a threat to win another major. . .if she keeps believing. Grade A-

ROGER FEDERER: New racquet, new coach (Stefan Edberg), new, aggressive gameplan. Same results? Federer lost to Rafael Nadal again. Well, that is a completely unfair analysis. Federer is finally doing all the right things. It is the only way he’s going to win another major, and he finally seems to realize that. It’s not just that he’s coming to the net, but that he’s trying to step into the ball and attack. Sure, he waffled on it against Nadal. This is all new to Fed. It was a GREAT first step. I was starting to watch him and wonder who he’d lose to next while slicing and dinking. Now, I can’t wait to see him. He still can’t beat Nadal, but he now is a threat to win another major or two. He still has game. He even has a legit shot at the French Open. Grade: A

DOMINIKA CIBULKOVA: Hard to know if Cibulkova just changed her career, but remember this: She came into the Australian Open as a known choker. She left with wins over No. 3 Maria Sharapova, No. 6 Aga Radwanska and No. 11 Simona Halep before reaching the final. Forgive her for some nerves early in her first major final. That happens. The thing about women’s tennis is that there are only a couple of superstars. The women’s players are sort of cookie-cutter, and if someone with talent and nerves of steel comes along, then it’s going to take a top player playing well to beat her. Hope is that this won’t be Cibulkova’s Melanie Oudin-moment, and that she’ll have found her nerve for the long run. Grade: A+

ACED THE CLASS, FLUNKED THE FINAL

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Aga Radwanska plays brilliantly, wins

Aga Radwanska plays stupidly, loses

Aga Radwanska plays stupidly, loses

AGA RADWANSKA: She might have played the match of the tournament in beating Victoria Azarenka. She was everywhere on the court, with just enough power. Azarenka was flustered and confused. And the media hailed Radwanska as a genius for that match. But in her semifinal match against Dominika Cibulkova, Radwanska played as if she had had a lobotomy. I’m not even sure Radwanska tried. When things weren’t working, she kept doing them. There was no hint of strategy. This is the problem with the almost-greats. You see incredible things, and then you are reminded why they don’t reach the mountaintop (see Tomas Berdych). Same thing happened with Radwanska at Wimbledon. So what’s the grade? Well, I think she’s good enough to win a major, and marketable enough to be a star. And that semifinal match was so bad, I can barely remember the Azarenka match. Grade: F.

TOMAS BERDYCH: He reached the semifinals, and then smiled and credited his team when he was told that he had become the only current player outside the Big Four to reach the semis of all four majors. Hey Tomas, that’s not really a compliment. Another way of putting it: You are the only player on tour to reach the semis of all four majors, but never win one. Berdych is adding topspin to his forehand, which is being credited for his recent improved play. I don’t know about that. That flat forehand was the reason he was winning matches. The way he fell apart briefly against David Ferrer in the quarters was shocking. Lost his nerve at moments against Stan Wawrinka in the semis, too, but in hindsight, it’s hard to mark him down too far for losing to the champ. One more thing: there was nothing wrong with Berdych’s much-criticized prison-cell shirts, other than his team was wearing them, too. Grade: B

DAVID FERRER: When he lost to Berdych in the quarters in what I’m calling the Bridesmaid Bowl, he lost his unofficial title as best player never to win a major. He pushed the line judge, too, but at least he isn’t hitting balls into the stands at crying babies anymore. Still fighting hard. Still stuck in the land of almost. Maybe Wawrinka’s win will show him what’s possible. Grade: C

Continue reading


AUSTRALIAN OPEN: U.S. TENNIS, R.I.P.

John Isner, now the best American player

And, poof, just like that, American tennis is gone. No, not just from the Australian Open, where the last American man standing, John Isner, lost before the first weekend of the year’s first major. US tennis is gone from the world map, too.

The top players have faded, and the bottom ones aren’t good enough. This is the moment US tennis has been nervous about for years:

Not one American man is good enough even to contend for a major championship. Forget Wimbledon. Forget the US Open. And only one woman, Serena Williams, is good enough. She will hide the problems in women’s tennis in the United States for a little while longer.

But the men? They are a vacuum.

It has been coming for years. John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors passed the baton to Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, who passed it to Andy Roddick, who managed to win just one major. But still, he was a top player. And now? Roddick has crossed the finish line and put the baton on the ground somewhere. No one will take it. You want it? It’s yours.

Please read the rest of the column at FoxSports.com


U.S. OPEN: Fairy Tale Over, Donald Young Makes a Real Move

Donald Young

From my column in FoxSports.com:

 

John McEnroe ruined Donald Young. Young’s parents ruined Donald Young. His own bad, lazy attitude ruined him. His agent, IMG? Ruined him. The media: Ruined him. The U.S. Tennis Association?

Ruined Donald Young.

Young has been a study in all the different ways to screw up an American tennis phenom. He was supposed to be tennis’ Tiger Woods. By 2007, The New York Times dubbed him a failure with a story in its Sunday magazine entitled: “Prodigy’s End.”

He was 17 at the time.

But the last, last, last straw didn’t come until this spring, when things dropped so far that Young wrote on his Twitter account: “F— USTA” and they’re “full of s—.” Only he didn’t use dashes.

So it’s a little hard to figure out how Young, now 22, is the story of this year’s US Open, after Serena Williams that is. He has beaten two seeded players to reach the fourth round, the final 16. He beat Stan Wawrinka in a classic fifth-set tiebreaker, tennis’ ultimate test of mind, body and guts. Tuesday, he’s scheduled to play No. 4 Andy Murray for a spot in the quarterfinals.

“Everybody’s light comes on at their own time,” Young said. “Hopefully, mine is coming on now.”

These phenom stories are all mapped out. Either a sudden emergence, or a straight arrow to the top. Anything less is how a 17-year old winds up being labeled a failure.

There has always been too much reality in Donald Young’s fairy tale. Is it possible to take all the wrong steps to the mountaintop?

Please read the rest of this column on FoxSports.com


A Prodigy Replaced: Donald Young Finds Motivation and Rivalry, Thanks to Success of Ryan Harrison

Donald Young having his moment?

Sometimes, it’s just the moment. Or maybe it was just time for it to happen. There can be a point when it all just comes together, and who really knows why. Well, I think I know why it’s happening to Donald Young right now, and what set it off.

Tennis waited so long for Young that it finally gave up. Now, as a failed prodigy, he’s in his first tour-level semifinal, at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington. He beat No. 26 Marcos Baghdatis Friday and should beat Radek Stepanek today to reach the final.

“I feel everybody clicks at their own time,’’ Young said. “The light comes on in everybody’s due time.’’

What made Young’s light come on? Two words:

Ryan Harrison. Continue reading


Did Serena Williams lead Stalker Right to Her, all Around Country, by Twitter?

Serena Williams and the man accused of stalking her

Patenema Ouedraogo talked his way past security in Tampa last month, saying he was Serena Williams’ assistant, and got all the way to her dressing room at the Home Shopping Network, where she was making an appearance. She had him escorted from the building, the allegation goes, but he just waited outside for her the rest of the day.

He tried to make contact with her at a Hollywood radio show in April. He followed her to a meeting with her agent in Los Angeles in October, saying he wanted to promote her clothing line and TV show in Africa. And he was arrested near her house in Florida this week for allegedly stalking her. He was carrying a note saying they were soul mates.

Ouedraogo, 40, said he kept track of Williams’ whereabouts. . .

By following her on Twitter.

This is another Twitter-related accident for tennis, and for sports in general. We have been overwhelmed by them lately. Less than two weeks ago, U.S. tennis player, Donald Young, the (former) prodigy, tweeted “Fu—USTA!!’’ They’re “full of sh–!’’ He ended up having to apologize. He also took down his Twitter account entirely.

This week, several athletes in several sports angered people with comments on Twitter about the U.S. killing Osama bin Laden. Pittsburgh Steeler Rashard Mendenhall tweeted “What kind of person celebrates death? It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side.’’

It created such an outcry that he issued a blog post later, saying he didn’t mean to sound pro-bin Laden or anti-U.S., that he was only commenting on the large celebrations over a “murder.’’

Murder?

Well, this isn’t to infringe on anyone’s First Amendment Rights, but to warn athletes that Twitter can be dangerous. It is this new Internet toy, but it’s not all fun and games. It’s dicey business. Continue reading


How Not to Develop a Prodigy, Part III: Patrick McEnroe Gets His Apology, Makes Donald Young Dance. Now What?

Donald Young

So Patrick McEnroe has Donald Young’s apology. He and the USTA have Young’s  words of appreciation for what they’ve done. And now, we forgive and forget.

Everyone loves a happy ending. Everyone loves a smiley face.

Young had a temper tantrum. McEnroe’s little feelings were hurt. It’s all over.

And how do things move forward? They go back.

Same spot they were before. And by that, I mean they go back to a relationship so bitter between aging prodigy and governing body that it can’t keep from bubbling over, out into the public.

What an amazing fail. Young was hyped from the age of 10, way before you can tell anything about the future of a male tennis player. But he was sold as tennis’ Tiger Woods. Instead tennis’ Tiger wrote on his Twitter account Friday, “FU—USTA!’’ He wrote that the USTA is “full of shi—! They have screwed me for the last time!’’

Now, Young has apologized. But what could have been a constructive, learning moment over the past few days turned instead into a little superfluous spat. By not doing the hard work that could go to mend this relationship, both sides, basically, are just trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube.

Not possible.

“Basically, I want to just apologize for what I said and the way I said it,’’ Young told the Associated Press on Tuesday. “It wasn’t the right way to say it, at all. I appreciate the USTA’s support over the years. It helped me out a lot.’’

That was an excellent apology, but Young was forced into it. McEnroe made Young dance by appealing to the public to apply pressure. That’s all that was accomplished. Young had to dance because he needs the USTA. The USTA, meanwhile, continues down a path with a zero success rate, not realizing how much of its reputation hinges on Young. Continue reading


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