For years, the tennis community had their eyes set on Donald Young. After all, Donald got off to a promising start in junior tennis, showing the world what could be. Some of Donald’s accomplishments in the juniors include winning two grand slams (Australian Open, Wimbledon) and being the youngest year end number one, at the age of 16.
As a junior, Donald continue to set the bar high with every match that he won. Most assumed because of all that success, Donald would be able to translate that into the professional tour. However, for this talented young left hander, that was not the case.
Since being on the professional tour in 2004 Donald’s tennis has toed the line between mediocrity and excellence. Young possesses a ton of talent and has an array of shots that he can hit on the court. However, the results for most of his career has been nothing to be desired. Sure, Young did have a few impressive wins here or there. One of those being knocking out Andy Murray in the third round at Indian Wells. But still the consistency was missing.
Donald soon began to earn the reputation of being a former great junior player who just couldn’t cut it in the big leagues (a script often played out in tennis).
To even complicate Donald’s story, he also clashed with the USTA (United States Tennis Association). One of the many jobs of the USTA is to help develop the game of young Americans. Donald’s parents, who are also his coaches, didn’t like the direction the USTA was taking with Donald. For that reason, they decided to cut ties and go at it alone.
Donald having to choose between the USTA and his parents, obviously sided with his family. But it was obvious Donald, himself, was also displeased with the USTA. Donald was so frustrated that he tweeted an expletive (hint: it starts with the letter F) about the USTA and their handling of him and denying him a wildcard into a tournament.
It is debatable as to whether that rift with the USTA hindered the development of Donald and led to his poor results. Tennis greats such as the Williams Sisters and Roger Federer developed without the help of their country’s tennis association. But they are legends of the game so hard to envision that could have happened for Donald.
Donald has since moved on with his issues with the USTA saying in an interview for ESPN in 2015, “Honestly I think that they (USTA) are doing a great job.”
Still is it has been a long unpredictable road for Donald. In February of 2012, Donald reached his career high ranking of 38 in the world. Despite attaining that ranking, Donald’s tennis began to dip. So much so that Donald lost 12 straight first round matches. Over the next couple of years Donald again was hit or miss on tour. He’d have a tournament where he would have some wins over quality players but then would lose early the next couple of tournaments. That consistency was still missing.
Donald start to 2017 was not impressive, with an early loss at the Australian Open. It seemed that he was on pace to have another rollercoaster year. But things started to turn around for Donald, and the consistent results that eluded Donald for years finally began to show its face.
Not only has Donald made it to the fourth round in three of his last four tournaments (in two of the four he’s made the semis), Donald is defeating quality opponents. In the tournaments of Memphis and Delray Beach, Donald was a giant slayer, taking out big servers such as young American Reilly Opelka, Ivo Karlovic and John Isner.
Donald continued his good play making it to the fourth round at the BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells (a Master 1000 tournament). In route to this result Donald dispatched rising, top 20 player Lucas Pouille (Young just recently beat Pouille again to reach the fourth round at the Miami Open, another Master 1000 tournament).
So, what’s been the difference? The combination of strong gameplay along with, arguably Donald’s strongest improvement, greater resilience, has him playing the best tennis of his career. In an interview at the Miami Open Donald credited having a clearer game plan as an integral part of his recent success. He said, “I know what I’m going to do and so it is an ease of mind knowing what you are going to do and you not having you a lot of different options and keeping it simple.” According to Donald, that game plan is being more aggressive and staying on the baseline.
Perhaps it is that clarity in strategy that has also improve the attitude of Donald, especially when things look grim on the court. In the past if things weren’t going Donald’s, he would get extremely negative, berate himself and disappear in the match. Now, Donald has limited the outburst and shown more positive body language when faced with adversity in a match. In some of the matches Donald won, he had to come through in three tight sets. Showing that he is not the Donald of the past.
No doubt about it, life is going great for Donald. In Miami, Donald stated that he is “I’m just enjoying myself both on and the court when it is calmer off the court I can play on the court.” For Donald’s sake and his tennis, hopefully this will be a trend that continues to happen.