Tag Archives: Donald Young

WIMBLEDON: Sloane Stephens Loses in 1st Round. Hype was Wrong, Unfair

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Sloane Stephens isn’t living up to expectations. First there was the loss to Simona Halep in the battle of Generation We-Got-Next at the French Open, and on Monday she lost to Maria Kirilenko 6-2, 7-6 (8-6) in the first round at Wimbledon.

Just 17 months ago, she beat Serena Williams at the Australian Open. Now, while doing well in several majors, she has never even won a pro tournament at any level.

What is wrong with Sloane Stephens? There are things for sure, things that make me wonder if she can be a major champion. But she’s still in the development stages of her career. And the narrative about her shortcomings is revolving around a timetable that was based on expectations that should never have been put on her in the first place.

The point is this: She is not living up to the hype and expectations, but it was the hype and expectations that were wrong.

Here is an example. Earlier this year, a writer at ESPN.com wrote about Stephens’ failure to live up to her hype, yet also ripped the “hype machine” over and over. The article said the goal of reaching greatness is made difficult by the public’s and media’s desire “to anoint.”

All great points, except for one thing: When Stephens had beaten Williams in Melbourne, that same writer wrote that “Sloane Stephens is ready” and “She may not be ready yet to be favored to win a slam, but that doesn’t mean she’s not ready to win one.”

No, she wasn’t ready. She still isn’t. We don’t know if she ever will be. I’ll get into that in a minute. But whose hype was she failing to live up to, anyway?

Even at the time, and shortly after, I warned people not to make too big a deal out of that win over Williams, as Williams’ back was so hurt so bad she could barely move. Stephens’ arrow was pointing up, though.

Now, she has flown too high on borrowed wings, to steal a phrase. And the media desperation to always find something new, something fast, something first, has only threatened her career. We overhype these kids, and they aren’t ready for it. Adults aren’t ready for it, either, by the way.

But Donald Young and his parents did not need to hear, when he was a little kid, that John McEnroe thought he’d be the next, well, John McEnroe. It threw off everything and it has taken Young a decade to get his head on right.

Michelle Wie won golf’s U.S. Open Sunday, and is one of the most

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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


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


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


How Not to Develop a Prodigy, Part II: Patrick McEnroe Rips Entitlement of Donald Young, U.S. Youth (Forgets Where it Came from)

Donald Young

I agree with Patrick McEnroe that today’s kids have a ridiculous sense of entitlement. In my opinion, especially with star athletes, it comes when you treat kids like rock stars, build them up too much. They are used to having things taken care of for them. You just focus on your greatness, we’ll deal with everything else. We’ll resolve your problems.

So they don’t live a normal childhood and then don’t know how to behave normally as adults. They have no practice at solving problems.

Donald Young has a ridiculous sense of entitlement.

Maybe that led to his profane outburst on Twitter Friday, when he wrote, “Fu—USTA!!’’ They’re “full of sh–!’’ Or, maybe not. That’s just McEnroe’s side of the story, that Young was upset he wasn’t handed a wildcard, a free pass, into the French Open. He didn’t want to play the six-person tournament the USTA had set up first. We still haven’t heard Young’s side of things.

Where are you Donald?

But let’s just take McEnroe’s word for now. He is frustrated, and had a teleconference Monday to talk about it, saying several things such as this: “You have to earn your way to get something.’’

It was a shot directed straight at Young. The problem was it wasn’t pointed the right way.

Don’t blame children for feeling entitled. It’s the adults. The kids aren’t born with an attitude problem, but have a lack of maturity, and also faulty teaching about compassion and empathy. Rock stars don’t need those things.

For example, imagine this: A sports agency and one of the greatest, and most popular tennis players of all time, get together to concoct a story that turns some 10-year old kid into The Chosen One. Turns him into tennis’ Tiger Woods. All he hears for years is that he’s the greatest. He can’t miss. And then, as a kid, he gets wildcard entries into pro events, where he can be crushed regularly, but everyone can ogle him. That, of course, interests Nike.

Meanwhile, the USTA pushes him as The Next Great Thing.

Well, we don’t have to imagine that, do we? That is Donald Young’s story. The USTA sold him – to us and to him and to his family—as the next great thing. Now, Patrick McEnroe, of the USTA, speaks out against his sense of entitlement? Of course he has a sense of entitlement. Continue reading


How Not to Develop a Prodigy: Donald Young Tweets “Fu– USTA.” Will USTA Dump Him?

Patrick McEnroe

Donald Young

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:

The USTA will absolutely screw him again.

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. Continue reading


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