if Donald Young ever expects to be a competitive player on the ATP Tour, tennis analysts and former champions he must demonstrate the willingness to change his training methods and advisers.
Young was considered the “next great thing” as a junior tennis phenom, yet he is stuck in qualifying tournaments for entry into the main draw of Grand Slam events, 12 years after hitting balls with John McEnroe at a senior tournament at the age of 10.
McEnroe called the big agency IMG and told them to sign him.
From there Young, currently ranked #85 in the world and coached by his parents, rose to the #1 junior in the world. His folks decided to have him turn pro in his mid-teens. From all accounts, he wasn’t ready for that.
In the recent past the tug of war between the USTA and Young’s parents has gone public, helped by the young tennis player and a recent profane-laced tweet.
After not qualifying for the main draw of the 2011 French Open, Young slammed the USTA for its lack of assistance in getting him to the Grand Slam.
An apology was requested and Young obliged but the warfare was now in the open for all to see. Peter Bodo, writing in a tennis blog for espn.com reported that the Youngs want USTA help in developing their son’s career while not agreeing to allow the organization to pick a coach and control his training.
Where did the promise of greatness go?
Some tennis writers believe that there might have been more hope there than talent. Perhaps Johnny Mac’s assessment of Young at age ten was a bit of a stretch.
Others insist that if Young’s parents had ceded control to the USTA, allowing their son to be coached and managed by former pros he could have reached the top 25 at least.
Pros who announce for a living these days have called his work ethic into question. They also say his footwork can still be shoddy, his ability to believe in himself seems to have evaporated and his serve has not developed to the extent that it would be a serious weapon.
At the age of 22 he still has time to turn it around, but not much time.
On the men’s tour, without a big and effective serve, the top echelon of the sport will most likely be a mere dream
In his first round match today at the U.S. Open, Young took care of Lukas Lacko, ranked #97 in the world in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.
While broadcasting the match both Luke Jensen of the Tennis Channel and one of ESPN’s broadcast crew went on a bit of a tear about Young. Jensen decided to be blunt:
“I was raised in a family that helped develop four top 100 players and have come to realize that tennis parents don’t know anything about tennis.”
“If you want to discuss his true potential, at some point the tennis parent has to hand the child over to the experts who know better. You can’t teach a level when you haven’t played the level.”
Young seems to have turned over a new leaf and spent three weeks this summer at the USTA training facility in Carson, CA, surrendering himself to practice techniques and fitness regimes he had never experienced.
After his match today, he told ESPN that he’s happy that James Blake and Mardy Fish have both offered to assist him.
There are exceptions to the rule that parents should hand their child over at some point for his or her own sake.
Examples like Rafa Nadal and the Williams sisters stand out but in general, critics say that the knowledge you get from a person who didn’t succeed on a grand scale in pro tennis is limited
Whether Donald Young can continue to progress with the official USTA help remains to be seen but without it, he doesn’t stand much of a chance to make his dreams come true.