Donald Young took a big step towards getting his career back on track with a second-round win over 24th-seeded Andreas Seppi.
This is the furthest he has ever advanced at the Australian Open. Will this be the win that catapults his career forward?
It was once thought that Donald Young would become the face of American tennis. He turned pro when he was just 14 years old. A year later, he was signed by Nike. At 16, Young was already playing in his first U.S. Open.
At the end of 2011, it appeared Donald Young was finally coming into his own. He posted his best career record at 19-17, which led to his career-high ranking of 38 in the beginning of 2012.
Here is what Rodger Federer said about Donald Young at the end of the 2011 season according to Bruce Jenkins from Sports Illustrated:
It's hard to live up to the pressure of being so good at a young age. I had those expectations, but I was 17, 18, 19. He had them at 15 and 16. It's a big difference. It seems like he's making his move now.
However, his career took a nosedive in 2012.
Young had one of the worst seasons in ATP history when he finished the season at 3-22. This included a stretch of 17 straight losses.
He was closing on the all-time record held by fellow American Vincent Spadea of 21 straight losses.
All of the confidence Young gained from 2011 was destroyed.
Steve Vigor of tennis.com described how Young looked at the time:
You can see doubt etched on his face from the first moments of his matches—he’s waiting for something to go wrong, and when you do that, you usually don’t have to wait long.
All of the confidence Young gained from 2011 was gone, falling out of the top 200 in the world.
Donald has slowly climbed back up in the rankings by grinding out wins in the Challenger tournaments over the past two years. His ranking of 91 just barely qualified him for direct entry into the Australian Open.
Young had defeated Robin Haase in his first match. Haase retired a game into the fourth set with an injury. Young was up 7-6, 6-7, 6-2, 1-0 at the time and playing well.
Seppi came into the second-round match as the heavy favorite. He had never dropped a set in his two previous matches against Seppi.
The players split the first four sets before the heat postponed the fifth set. Young kept up by playing aggressive tennis. Attacking the net was his best plan of attack. He was 31/48 at the net.
**Full match stats can be found at http://www.ausopen.com/en_AU/scores/stats/day9/1203ms.html**
After the delay, the players returned to the court and were locked into a battle at 4-4. Seppi fell apart in the ninth game, double faulting three times.
Essentially handed the chance to serve out the match, Young crumbled under the pressure. He gave the break right back with four unforced errors. We have seen this all too often with Young.
Here is what tennisreporters' Matt Cronin had to say.
Young serving 4 match vs Seppi at 54 in 5th and broken at love with BH into net. Very Donald, but keeps net rushing & doing well there— Matt Cronin (@TennisReporters) January 16, 2014
Young was able to break right back the next game. This time he kept his composure on his serve, closing out the match 7-5 in the fifth.
Australian Open and 2014 Outlook
Young will next face 16th-seeded Kei Nishikori. He Young beat Nishikori 6-2, 6-2 back in 2007 when they were both teenagers, but this is a much-improved Nishikori and Young lost to him last year 6-3, 6-3.
It is not a terrible matchup for Young; if he can continue to be the aggressor, I like his chances. He will be coming in with confidence, which is huge for Young. His mentality has often been what carries him, for better or for worse.
This match could go in two ways depending on which Young shows up. He could either win a close one or the pressure could get to him and he could lose in straight sets.
I am picking Young to pull the upset 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, 2-6, 7-5.
Will Donald Young advance to the fourth round?
Hopefully Young doesn't crumble in one of the biggest matches of his career.
If he advances, he will face either Rafael Nadal or Gael Monfils. Assuming Rafa wins, I do not see Donald having a chance to advance past the fourth round.
As for the rest of 2014, look for Young to have a bounce-back year and break back into the top 50. His career has been filled with ups and downs; this upswing should carry him back up.
Here is Young on his goals according to Melissa Isaacson from ESPN:
I'd really like to win my first title, that's my main goal. I've been in the top 50, so I want to shoot a lot higher, hopefully I can get into the top 20. That's a goal of mine. If it happens, great. If you shoot for the moon and don't get there, at least it will be a lot higher than where I am now.
I do not see Young breaking into the top 20 just yet. The points he will gain here will allow him to enter more ATP level events and help him move up the ranks.
Young will be able to take the momentum from the Australian Open to his best season since 2011.
Follow me on twitter @Joelexa7