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Tennis

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Former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt Prevails Against Donald Young

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By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Donald Young had the good fortune of being granted a wild-card entry into Washington's Legg Mason Tennis Classic this year, sparing him the hurdle of having to slog through qualifying for a spot in the 48-player draw.

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But Young, currently ranked 162nd in the world, had the misfortune of drawing a former No. 1, Lleyton Hewitt, as his first-round opponent.

At 28 and one year removed from hip surgery, Hewitt is not the player he was in his prime, when he won the 2001 U.S. Open and hoisted Wimbledon's trophy the next year. But he has lost none of his fighting spirit and still has a knack, which Young has yet to master, for playing the big points well.

As a result, Hewitt advanced to the tournament's second round with a 7-5, 6-2 victory Monday night.

And for Young, who has been heralded as the future of American tennis since he turned pro at 14, the journey continues.

At 15, Young became the youngest junior boy -- and the first African American male -- to win a junior Grand Slam event (the 2005 Australian Open) and claim the No. 1 junior ranking. He had a lucrative deal with Nike. Coached by his parents, both teaching pros, he also had no shortage of hitting partners among the sport's elite.

But in 5 1/2 years as a pro, Young has won just 10 matches on the ATP tour, posting a 10-34 record in the top ranks of the sport while spending most of his time mired one rung down, in the Challenger ranks.

He is 20 now. And his once-promising career has proved a cautionary tale.

Young wasn't fully grown when he turned pro, which put him at a sharp disadvantage to more muscular, conditioned men. It took him two years to break into the top 500 and four years to pierce the top 100. And now he's lurking well outside the top 100.

On Monday, playing in just his second ATP-level match this year, he flashed both the potential that has warranted so much attention these last years and the impetuousness.

Neither Hewitt nor Young distinguished himself on the stat sheet. Hewitt landed just 38 percent of his first serves; Young, 35 percent. More points were settled by errors than outright winners.

But the near capacity crowd at William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center fought hard for an upset -- or at least a third set.


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