Donald Young's Broken Promise: What Happened to the Former Phenom?

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Donald Young's Broken Promise: What Happened to the Former Phenom?
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Trust me when I say that I am as surprised as everyone else that I haven't seen Donald Young's name in the draws of many major ATP tournaments.

Young played phenomenally in the juniors, demonstrating talent that some said was akin to that of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.

He has, however, also done a 180-degree turn in the pros with a career characterized by marginal success and overwhelming disappointment (at least by the expectations he set in the juniors).

Looking back, Young went from an ITF No. 1 and junior Wimbledon champion to a career-high ATP ranking of 73 that has since hovered between the mid to upper 100s. Largely playing matches on the Challenger circuit and having some success, Young has yet to break into the highest levels of ATP competition.  

This is not to say that that we haven't been treated to glimpses of Young's promise. In fact, the reality is quite the opposite. Young qualified for the Australian Open main draw and had a good win over then world No. 85 Christophe Rochus, eventually falling to former Grand Slam champion Lleyton Hewitt, who, albeit a little old, still has some game. 

Hailing from the same generation of players as Victoria Azarenka and Sam Querrey, Young certainly has a lot to live up to. Indeed, Azarenka has secured herself a spot as a solid top 10 player, and Querrey has demonstrated that he has the talent to win matches. Compared to this, Young's career certainly leaves something to be desired. 

This is not Donald's fault, however, or at the very least he should not be entirely blamed for it. I've read too many articles blaming Young's immaturity and lack of work ethic for his lackluster pro career. While it is true that Young has been caught moping around like a teenager on the court, the root of these problems is something entirely different.

Young was pushed (by his parents) into the pros at an early age (16-17) when his playing style was still developing. He did not have the match experience that his older and more experienced opponents had, and as such Young was unable to win any main draw matches during the early part of his career. 

Add to this the pressure of meeting expectations and the pressure the USTA put on him to change coaches, and you get a recipe for disaster—not to mention Young's tendency to get down on himself after losing matches. Indeed, Young's confidence took a serious hit from the start and apparently has yet to recover.

None of this is to absolve Donald Young of all responsibility for his career, but we should give him some slack. He is doing the "dirty work" now that some have said he should have done when he was playing in the main draws of Grand Slams, and I hope it pays off. American tennis could use the talents of a player like Donald Young.

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