Category Archives: US tennis

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


U.S. OPEN: From Hardest Moment, Sloane Stephens Rises on Biggest Stage

From my column at FoxSports.com

Sloane Stephens

Sloane Stephens tweets about her nails, about arguing with her brother, about debating with her mom over what kind of car to buy. Typical 18-year-old things. But Stephens, the American tennis hopeful, also loves to deliver short-order philosophies in 140 characters or less:

“Count your blessings, not your worries.’’

And: “Things fall apart so that other things can fall together.’’

Her little daily affirmations would make a Hallmark card writer proud.

But on Thursday night, after her breakthrough victory in the US Open — 6-1, 7-6 (7-4), over 23rd seed Shahar Peer — her words came straight from her heart:

“2 years without you here with me, I miss you dad! I know your always with me! You would have been so proud of me today! I love you.’’

The US Open is always going to be a conflicted place for Stephens.

She is the daughter of former New England Patriots running back John Stephens, who died in a car accident two years ago this week, days before his daughter would play at her first Open.

“I still think about that,’’ she said recently. “Like I say, I played on Court 11 when I came back from the funeral, and it was crazy. I don’t even know how I played.

“I woke up. I came back late at night. I woke up the next morning and played the second or third match on. It was crazy. Like the emotions and everything were crazy.’’

The story is deeper.
Please read the rest of the column here


U.S. OPEN: One Last Run Left for Venus Williams? No. Great American Tennis Story About Done

From my column at FoxSports.com

 

We’re not ready for tennis’ Great American Story to end. Venus Williams deserves one last good run, one more major championship, one more leap of glory.

She’s not going to get it.

Williams is 31 years old, a senior citizen to tennis, and her body is breaking down. Injuries and health issues are taking her away from the game. On Wednesday, she withdrew from the US Open an hour before her second-round match against young German Sabine Lisicki, a Wimbledon semifinalist.

She later issued a statement saying she had been diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, “an autoimmune disease which is an ongoing medical condition that affects my energy level and causes fatigue and joint pain. I enjoyed playing my first match here and wish I could continue, but right now I am unable to.”

She said she was just glad to finally know what’s wrong. With Sjogren’s, which usually affects women, white blood cells attack healthy glands. The disease is manageable.

But Williams’ body is betraying her now. It’s that time. And it’s just so hard for any athlete, especially a superstar, to accept. That body has always done what it was supposed to do, climbed every mountain, won every Wimbledon. It was there to be counted on, perfected.

Now, Williams has lost nearly two years of tennis because of it. She will drop out of the top 100 in the rankings, mixed in with a group of players no one has ever heard of.

Please read the rest of the column here


U.S. OPEN: Is American Tennis Crazy to Bank on Mr. Crankypants, Ryan Harrison?

 

 

Ryan Harrison kicks a field goal at the US Open

 

The future of American tennis threw his racquet into a tree at the French Open qualifying tournament this summer. He took a divot out of the grass court at Wimbledon qualifying. In Cincinnati, he angrily hit a ball over the stands, out of the stadium and into the food court.

“I mean, I wasn’t like out of control when I hit it,’’ he told me at the time. “I wasn’t in a frenzy.’’

No frenzy in Savannah, either, where he called his opponent, Wayne Odesnik, a weasel (truth is no defense)? Or in Winston-Salem, where he threw his racquet into a parking lot? Or on Monday, when he threw the racquet at least half a dozen times and kicked a ball into the stands while losing to 27th seed Marin Cilic in the first round of the U.S. Open? It was 6-2, 7-5, 7-6 (8-6). On Tennis Channel, Mary Carillo called Harrison Mr. Crankypants.

“I didn’t break any racquets,’’ he said. “I didn’t say swear words on court. I didn’t really go nuts.’’

Are we nuts to be counting on this guy as a great American hope? Continue reading


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 Far Can Mardy Fish Go? Should We Buy in? Does he Believe?

 

Mardy Fish

The feelgood story that is Mardy Fish just keeps feeling better and better. He is into the top 10 now, won in Atlanta, and is heading straight for the finals again this week in Los Angeles. The problem with Fish is this:

How much should we buy in? How far can he take this?

Up to now, his story is about his newfound maturity and commitment late in his career, his weight loss and commitment to fitness. It was a cute story when he passed Andy Roddick in the rankings this spring to become the top-ranked American. Roddick wrote him a note of congratulations and said he’s coming back to reclaim that ranking.

But the truth is, it wasn’t just a nice moment for Fish, and Roddick isn’t going to pass him back. Fish isn’t just the top-ranked American.

He is the best American.

For now, no other American man can win a major championship. Can Fish? The stars would have to align.

He is rolling through the first part of the U.S. hard court season, leading up to the U.S. Open. But Americans have been duped for years by believing in Roddick. And if they’re going to buy into Fish, it would be nice to know that he’s buying in, too. Continue reading


WIMBLEDON: Venus, Serena Williams Lose on Same Day at Wimby. Is Great-American Tennis Story Ending?

Venus, Serena Williams

From my column in Sporting News

Serena Williams couldn’t move to the ball. Venus Williams couldn’t hit it onto the court. This was the worst day ever at Wimbledon for the Williams sisters, and maybe their worst tennis day anywhere. For the first time, they both lost on the same day at the All England Club. Is it the end of their era, the end of their Great American tennis story?

Best bet: For Venus, it is. For Serena, it probably is not. But that’s going to be up to her. It won’t be so easy anymore, and will be about what’s inside. That’s not to question Serena’s fight, but instead her desire to commit to a game after worrying about her life. A few months ago, doctors discovered blood clots in her lungs.

“I can only get better,’’ Serena said. “That can potentially be really scary, because I can only go up from here and I can just do so much more.”

That sounds great, and she surely meant it. But the truth will come on the practice courts on hot days, and in the less-important tournaments. Those haven’t been her best places over the years. And now, she’s three months from turning 30.

In the end, maybe it was too much to ask either of them to win Wimbledon again this year.

Please read the rest of the column here