Donald Young finally did it. He won his first match on the ATP tour on Sunday beating Amer Delic, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Then he nearly shocked the tennis world by narrowly losing to the world’s number four ranked player Nickolay Davydenko 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 in the second round at the Pilot Pen Classic.
It hasn’t been an easy road for Young. After a much heralded junior career that included junior championships at Wimbledon and the Australian Open, Young chose to turn pro in 2006 after being offered a significant endorsement deal from Nike. Unfortunately for Young his transition into professional tennis has been anything but smooth. He lost his first 11 matches without giving any of his opponents much trouble.
The criticisms of Young’s game began to surface. His game was based on finesse, which worked well on the junior circuit, but was obviously not effective at the professional level where power is king. Many people in the tennis world started to voice concerns that Young’s junior success would never translate onto the ATP tour.
Young’s confidence waned, but he was undeterred. He committed himself on the Challenger circuit, which is the minor league of the ATP tour. Donald improved the pace of his serve and the power of his forehand. He stayed away from ATP competition until he won his first Challenger tournament earlier this year in Aptos, California.
After winning his match on Monday at Pilot Pen against Delic, he advanced to play the number four player in the world Nickolay Davydenko in the second round. Davydenko has been no stranger to the news lately. He has been the center of a betting scandal that along with NBA referee Tim Donaghy, has helped to bring the issue of sports gambling to the forefront of the mainstream media.
Shortly into his second round match it was clear that Young was not going to be intimidated by Davydenko even though Young entered the match as a huge underdog. He kept the match close down 3-2 to Davydenko early on. Then Davydenko cruised to take the first set 6-2.
In the second set Young regrouped to hold serve on the first game and take a 1-0 lead. Then Davydenko surrendered the second game, and Young held serve again to take a 3-0 lead, bringing the largely pro-Young crowd to life. Davydenko broke Young’s serve to make it 3-1, but Young broke back and then held serve to go firmly in control up 5-2.
Davydenko wasn’t finished yet as he won the next two games to get back to 5-4, but Young broke Davedenko’s serve again to take the second set 6-4.
In the third set Young started out poorly on serve surrendering the first game easily, but he broke back on the serve of the error ridden Davydenko to tie it at 1-1. Each player held serve to make the score 3-2 until Young broke Davydenko’s serve again to take a 4-2 lead. Davydenko broke back to get back on serve at 4-3, and eventually tied the match at 4-4. Young rallied to go up 5-4 on his serve, and the crowd at Pilot Pen was up on their feet trying to will Young to the upset. In the end the experience of Davydenko prevailed as he broke Young again to take a 6-5 lead and served out the match to win 7-5.
While Young lost the match, he showed the rest of the tennis world that he belongs at the pro level. He was upbeat about the way he played against one of the world’s best.
“Obviously it gives me a lot of confidence to hang tough with a guy like Nikolay” said Young.
Young will compete again next week in the main draw of the U.S. Open where he has been granted a wild card.