Donald Young Wins in D.C.                                         Has he Turned a Corner?

By Jane Voigt (July 30, 2014)

Washington, D.C. — Everyone knows something about the travails of American Donald Young. He became the youngest-ever and first African American to be ranked No. 1 in the world in 2005. He was 16 years old with a contract from Nike, his career route paved with gold.  

IMG 0725

Donald Young takes a few moments to talk with the media in the Mixed Zone outside Stadium Court at Citi Open, Wednesday, July 30.

For a kid from Chicago who was ‘discovered’ by an IMG agent, everything was coming up roses. His parents, teaching pros, coached their son. The family affair was an added highlight to this young man’s potential as sport superstar and celebrity. 

But the facts don’t match the flirtation with fortune.

His career high ATP ranking was No. 38, back in February 2012. Currently, he rests at No. 73. His overall win-loss record in 49-100. Nike dropped him last year. He now plays for the European manufacturer, Lotto. Not a household name in the United States. 

But today Donald Young let fans in the Rock Creek Park setting peak at possibility for another go round. He defeated Julienne Benneteau, the No. 17 seed and polished French veteran, 64 63, in their first tour meeting. With the victory, Young advanced to the quarterfinals. 

“I felt good. He played well in the begging. I kept competing and tried to stay tough,” Donald began. “I love playing in D.C. The demographic is similar to Atlanta [his home now] and I enjoy it.”

The hard court season, and more importantly the U. S. Open Series of matches which run up to The U. S. Open, is Young’s time to rake in ranking points. These weeks of competition give him a boost because American home crowds support him, his tennis, his heritage. 

“It was a big win for me because I hadn’t been winning that many matches lately,” Young admitted. “To beat a quality opponent like Julienne and built on it and keep going and climax at The Open.”

Young said he competed well today, acting as if he’d stumbled on something new … a nugget from that golden road.

“Just tried to keep fighting and playing,” he said. “Not to let a couple bad points or missed shots, or bad calls — even though I did get frustrated —  to bounce right back and keep fighting for the next point. That’s key. If you don’t stop you can build on it. You can turn one point to two and three and four, and those points make the difference.”

Young said this mental movement from point to point was strategic, which seemed almost curious. For years fans have watched him implode. Up and cruising at times only to fall down the wishing well with added Oscar-appealing dramatics when millions knew all along his mind was the problem.

“Yeah, this is pretty new,” Young said, with a smile. “I’ve been trying to implement it for a while now but it hasn’t clicked. But it’s starting to click. I’m enjoying it, too.”

Craig Boyton from the USTA coaches Young at times, now, but his parents remain his cornerstone. 

Although Young is now 25, and a mature career upon him, he reflected a youthful spirit after this match as if hope filled his heart in earnest. Fans want to believe too. 

Washington D.C. lights his wheelhouse, which will give Young more confidence to swing out. For dinner he and his family have enjoyed dinners at The Hamilton. But Young wants to eat at the Old Ebbitt Grill, if the wait dips below two hours. 

“Hopefully tonight we can get in there,” he said. 

At The Hamilton he’s been eating the wild Alaskan salmon, macaroni and cheese, sautéed greens, and calamari as an appetizer. And unlike many touring pros, Donald indulges in dessert. “I like sorbet,” he said.  

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013