First-round matches can be tough. Just ask Marin Cilic, who barely won a five-setter yesterday against Marinko Matosevic, an Australian who few know even in the tennis world.
John McEnroe tried to go soft on Donald Young last night while he was being trashed by World No. 1 Roger Federer. McEnroe was once compared to Young, a comparison that was as inappropriate as it is dated.
"Donald Young, an African-American tennis phenom who has evoked comparisons not only to fellow lefty John McEnroe, but to most every American star of recent vintage" said one summary, describing his star status.
Young found himself the darling of the US tennis world in 2005. He was the only sports figure included in the Newsweek Who's Next December 19 article that had Barack Obama on its cover. Young was a top junior player, ranked as the No. 1 junior in the world at the youngest age ever. Obama was an accurate pick. Young was not.
Surely, the story went, this guy would be the successor to Arthur Ashe. Surely, Young would put the United States back on top of the men's tennis world.
Six long years and no tournament wins later, Young reached the fourth round of the US Open, where he showed some promise before being eliminated by Andy Murray in straight sets. In winning a marathon five-set match against Stanislas Wawrinka, Young played perhaps his best tennis of his professional career in the second round.
The rest of 2011, in Asia, Young began to look as if he could find himself very highly ranked. In part due to the way the tournaments shaped up, he beat only Gael Monfils, then ranked No. 9.
The rest of his wins during the rest of 2011 and into 2012 were against very low-ranked players. A low point was in Georgia, where he lost to Steve Johnson ranked No. 402 in the world, although his loss to Paul-Henri Mathieu 0-6, 1-6 when Mathieu was ranked No. 352 may have been worse.
Coming into the match against Federer, there was little to say about Young other than his was a promise unfulfilled, which was lost for good.
And the game against Federer proved it. One article claimed that Federer was "stunning" in his defeat of Young. This was as silly as it gets.
Federer played one of his worst games this year. In fact, at one point early in the match it looked like Young might take the match.
But in coming back, relying principally on his serve and a so-so net game, Federer prevailed in straight sets.
This match does not bode well for Federer. He picked Novak Djokovic as the 2012 US Open winner, and he could be right. Certainly, if he plays as poorly as he did in this match, his road will be blocked by the fourth round if not sooner.