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Better late than never for D Young

By Scott Riley,
Tennis Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Donald Young is finally starting to show the promise that tennis experts had been expecting for the last few years.

Young joined the ATP World Tour following an outstanding junior career, one in which he was ranked as the No. 1 junior player in the world at one point. He became the youngest male to capture a junior Grand Slam event by claiming the Australian Open title back in 2005. (Aussie Bernard Tomic would break that record at the 2008 Aussie Open.)

In 2005, the African-American left-hander from Chicago became the youngest- ever year-end No. 1 in the junior rankings, at 16 years, 5 months. He captured that Aussie Open junior title at the age of 15 to become youngest-ever and first African-American male to be ranked as the No. 1 junior in the world.

In 2007, Young secured the Wimbledon junior title and was the first American to do that since Scott Humphries turned the trick back in 1994.

But after joining the grueling ATP circuit (perhaps a bit too soon) in '07, it became tough sledding for Young, who failed to reach a final...until last week, that is.

Young may have enjoyed a breakthrough of sorts at this year's U. S. Open, where the 22-year-old surprised most by reaching the fourth round in the Big Apple. Nifty British star Andy Murray, however, would end the American's run in straight sets in New York.

Donald Young
Donald Young has cracked the Top 50 for the first time in his career.
Prior to this year's Open, Young had never advanced beyond the third round in the main draw at a major event, including a whopping 10 first-round losses in his 12 previous Slams.

Ouch!

He reached the third round at the 2007 U.S. Open.

Young finally landed in his first-ever ATP final last week in Bangkok, where he'd won four straight matches before running into Murray, again, in the final. The Aussie Open runner-up Murray would again level Young in straight sets, dropping only two games in two sets in the process.

"I had been in the semi before or reached the fourth round in a Grand Slam, but nothing was like being in the final," Young said. "I beat some high- caliber players. I won four matches."

Young actually caught everyone's attention by stunning Murray, in straight sets no less, in the second round at a Masters event in Indian Wells back in March. That may have been a springboard for his second-half-of-the-season surge.

Earlier this year, Young caught everyone's attention, in a bad way, following a run-in, of sorts, with the United States Tennis Association.

Young found himself in a war of words with one of the most-respected names in American tennis -- Patrick McEnroe.

It started with Young's expletive-laced shot at the USTA via Twitter over what the American perceived as a snub in the awarding of a wild-card spot for the 2011 French Open.

Things got hot when "P-Mac" held a conference call with some media in which he demanded an apology and all but called Young a self-seeker with overbearing parents.

Young's ill-advised tweet came after a loss in the final of a tournament that determined who would receive the USTA's wild-card entry into Roland Garros.

Donald Young
Young has reached at least the semifinals in two of his last four events.
"(Expletive) USTA! Their full of (expletive)! They have (expletive) me for the last time!" Young tweeted shortly after succumbing to compatriot Tim Smyczek.

McEnroe, who heads up the USTA's player development program, countered with a similar message, sans swearing of course, by saying that he was offended and called for Young to apologize if he wanted to continue his relationship with the Association.

The younger brother of the legendary John McEnroe pointed out how the USTA had assisted Young with such things as grant money, coaching and training opportunities since 2005. Patrick McEnroe also said that in addition to the coaching and financial aid, the USTA had given Young a bevy of wild-card entries into different U.S. Open draws over the years. McEnroe also said the process of awarding that French Open wild-card spot had been determined much earlier, and Young was aware of this.

Young ultimately put out a follow-up tweet. "That tweet was out of character. ive never been like that before. but im tired of it. sry about the language, but not the thought behind it."

In addition to the USTA, the Atlanta-based Young has also played under the tutelage of his aforementioned parents, Illona and Donald Sr., and that has caused some tension over the years, as his folks and the Association have disagreed on the best training regimen for him. Young's parents are both tennis teaching professionals and run a tennis center in Georgia.

Two years ago, McEnroe sent a letter to the Youngs saying that if Donald didn't leave his parents (in terms of tennis), the USTA would cut him off financially.

All that controversy aside, Young finally seems to be progressing now, as evidenced by a 12-4 record over the last two months. He started his run of quality play by reaching the semifinals at a tournament in Washington, D.C. He's beaten the likes of top-10 star Gael Monfils, former Aussie Open runner- up Marcos Baghdatis and top-20 performers Jurgen Melzer and Stanislas Wawrinka in the process.

As a 10-year-old, legend has it that the former phenom Young asked John McEnroe to hit some tennis balls with him at a senior event in Chicago. Johnny Mac agreed to hit with the kid, and apparently was so amazed at Young's talent that he immediately called his agent and asked him to sign his fellow southpaw.

We're not sure if that story is exactly true...but it's certainly an interesting one if it is.

As early as the early part of this year, Young was considered a prodigy lost. But somehow things have turned around for the Youngster.

Young has finally cracked the world's top 50, currently resting at a career- high No. 43. He is the fifth-highest-ranked American, behind Mardy Fish (8th), Andy Roddick (15th), John Isner (18th) and Alex Bogomolov Jr. (38th).

The capable Young possesses good hands and a nice touch, but does he have enough game to ascend to the top 10?

I don't think he does...but only time will tell.

Ace or double fault? Send your comments to Scott Riley at sriley@sportsnetwork.com.

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