Donald Young 18 years old and he’s made it into the top 100, but he’s still a young player.
Here’s the first indication that Donald Young is still young. Like most teenagers, late is the same as being on time and when he did wander into the media interview room after his straight set loss to Rafael Nadal today, his parents accompanied him.
Like most youngsters, he’s very anxious to prove himself. After a miserable first set in which he held service once, he stayed with Nadal till the middle of the second set then he dropped his serve again. In the next game he had Nadal down 0-30 on his serve then proceeded to make two straight errors by going for too much and lost his advantage. I asked him if he overhit because he felt pressure to break back:
I don’t know about feeling the pressure, probably I just wanted to win the game so bad.
That’s how it is when you’re young: you try to do too much to show the world that you can play with the big boys. It almost cost Young his career because he struggled through 11 straight ATP losses when he should have been playing Futures and Challenger events.
The low point was a 6-0, 6-0, loss to Carlos Berlocq in Miami two years ago. It probably sunk even lower when Berlocq lost to James Blake by the same score in the next round. Young was horrified at the loss:
I’ve never lost 0-0 in my life, and then I lost 0-0 in one of the biggest tournaments I played. That wasn’t confidence boosting at all. Actually shut it down pretty bad… It just looked really bad, so it hurt my feelings a lot.
When Young went down 0-4 to Nadal in the first set today, I wondered if that 0-0 match seeped into his mind. Was his mind freaking out something like this: “Oh no, here we go again, another 0-0 match, can’t do that, can’t have that, it just cannot happen again…” How long does it take before a low point like that stops seeping into your mind under duress and the steady confidence of a more recent triumph takes its place?
The answer is linearly related to the number of matches you win: the more matches you win, the faster you forget such things. The more you lose, the longer you remember the low points. Young won two matches here and they were his first two Masters Series wins so he’s on his way but it’s a slow and steady process. After he failed to serve out the second set to win the match against Lopez, he had to apply a bit of mental management to prepare himself for the third set:
, , , I took a bathroom break and tried to refocus and think about the things I did do well because usually I would get really upset and just pretty much not be there mentally at all for the third set, and I didn’t want that to happen.
It’s puzzling when you hear that from someone who was the number one junior in the world and won junior slams but he’s still a kid on the ATP tour and that’s how it is for everyone when they start playing with the big boys.
I want to say one more thing before I leave you today. Young suffered those 11 straight losses because tournaments kept giving him wild cards. People tend to blame Young’s parents for letting him take those wild cards when he probably wasn’t prepared to play on the ATP tour, but his management company didn’t help either.
At the time, he was managed by the huge management company IMG. IMG represents many players including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. IMG also owns the Bollettieri Tennis Academy and part of the Evert Tennis Academy. And it owns a number of tournaments including that tournament in Miami I mentioned above.
I spent a long time today talking with Norman Canter, the co-owner of Renaissance Tennis Management, a much smaller management company whose clients include Jonathan Erlich, Andy Ram, and Benjamin Becker. In his view, collusion between management companies, tournaments, the USTA and the ATP leads to a very corrupt system which harms tennis and particularly tennis players, including players like Donald Young.
I’ll talk much more about that tomorrow. Nighty night.
Indian Wells has started up and already there’s a casualty – Andy Roddick.
Hello everyone. I’m sitting in the Media Center overlooking the stadium court at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Carlos Moya and Philipp Kohlschreiber are warming up below. Fans and media are wandering right up to the edge of the practice courts where Richard Gasquet and Feliciano Lopez are warming up as you can see here.
Off in the distance you can also see the snow capped San Jacinto Mountains. Yesterday I was walking through a lush green park which had six large grates for water drainage at its edge and a tunnel from the field running underneath the adjacent road. This is the middle of the desert, I thought to myself, what’s up with all the water management? I never saw anything this elaborate in the Northwest Pacific and that’s a rain forest. Then I got it: flash floods.
This is the Coachella Valley which is surrounded by those snow capped mountains and when the snow melts: lotsa water. It’s a funny ecosystem because one day you’ll get 90F (32C) and the next it’ll be windy and cold. Andy Roddick got a taste of it yesterday and he’s now on his way home.
It wasn’t just the wind, he also likened the court surface to sandpaper meaning that the ball grabbed the court and kicked up. Rafael Nadal will be happy to hear that. More likely, though, the problem was Tommy Haas. Haas attacked Roddick’s backhand and then threw down some smack in the postmatch media session. Someone asked Haas if Roddick’s backhand had improved over the last 18 months:
Real improvements on his backhand or his game, I really don’t see too much.
Ouch. He wasn’t even asked and he dissed Roddick’s game while he was at it. It’s a good question. Did Roddick’s game improve while he was working with Jimmy Connors or was it just his state of mind and level of confidence that improved? For sure his return of serve improved because Jimmy moved him closer to the baseline on the return and Andy certainly attacked the net more.
But his basic weaknesses are his basic weaknesses and there’s another story here. Haas just started working with Andy’s old coach, Dean Goldfine, and there’s little doubt that Haas’ strategy reflects Goldfine’s opinion of his former pupil’s backhand. While the level of Andy’s game has risen since working with Jimmy, the thing that helped him most was having the fiery iconoclast in his corner. While the media was pouring it on Andy for being a one-slam wonder, Jimmy had his back. In his best fatherly manner, he called him kid and said that people in the U.S. “are begging to root for this guy, ” meaning that people would be rooting for him if the media wasn’t so hard on him.
I always thought Goldfine was too mild mannered for Andy. Andy may have had problems with Brad Gilbert when he was his coach and that’s hardly unique where Gilbert is concerned, but Andy’s an emotional guy and I think he’s needs that intensity in his box. Goldfine is never gonna take a swipe at the media but Gilbert wouldn’t think twice about it.
This is a critical point in Andy’s career. A Wimbledon or U.S. Open title is there to take – we don’t know who to pick when we sit down and look at the draw – and he’s just come off a huge title in Dubai. So I’m rooting for Andy when he gets to Miami. Jimmy, did you hear that?