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.
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.
"Believe in yourself!" one fan shouted as Young prepared to serve at 2-4 in the second set.
But Young double-faulted on game point, then blasted a forehand long to get broken for the sixth and last time in the match.
"He's very talented, but he probably hasn't fulfilled his potential yet," Hewitt said. "It's a big step up always from juniors to seniors. He's lightning quick and makes [it to] a lot of balls. But probably he plays the big points not so well."
Earlier Monday on the Stadium Court, Russia's Mikhail Youzhny overcame a sluggish start to defeat American Robert Kendrick, 7-5, 3-6, 6-1. Qualifier Somdev Devvarman, an NCAA standout at Virginia, turned back Japan's Yuichi Sugita, 6-0, 7-6 (8-6),and John Isner dismissed Andrey Golubev, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3.
Top-seeded Andy Roddick spent the afternoon practicing on a side court with fellow American Mardy Fish. He'll play his opening match -- his first since the five-set loss to Roger Federer at Wimbledon -- Wednesday night.
Roddick appeared in great shape and even better spirits smacking the ball around with Fish. And he was much the same talking to reporters, who peppered him with questions about every facet of the Wimbledon loss -- from the high backhand volley that he flubbed in a crucial tiebreak to the heartache that set in afterward.
Regarding the backhand volley that looked like child's play, Roddick said: "It's not as straightforward as everyone tried to make it out to be. You're dealing with 30-miles-per-hour wind, a lot of different factors. I thought it was going long, [but] it started diving. I reacted late. It sounds like I was trying to hit a ball into the ocean from the beach and missed."
As for the magnitude of his disappointment, Roddick said that "heartbreak," as one reporter suggested, would be the proper word.
"At the same time," Roddick added, "not a lot of people get a chance to play for that title. And to come close and be a part of something like that -- that part of it is never lost on me. Even 10 seconds after the final, I still realized it's a pretty special thing.
"Was it probably the toughest loss I've had as far afterward? Yeah, that hurt. Normally you don't get hurt by tennis losses. You get mad. But at the same time, it's still a pretty good existence, to get a chance to go out and play matches like that."