Donald Young


Alejandro Falla (above) looks to make his 2nd Aussie round of 32 right now.

Journeyman Alejandro Falla, currently world #71, has taken the first two sets from Mardy Fish, “the U.S. #1”, on court 3 in the 2nd round at Melbourne.  Falla, best known for going up two sets to zero on Roger Federer in the first round at Wimbledon in 2010, has played incredibly, converting on all 5 of his break chances, including a clutch break back a second ago as Fish was up 5-3, and trying to close out the 3rd set.  Falla has played big tennis and error free tennis, and he has been very clutch at the net, and has clearly dominated on big points.

This would be a disastrous loss for Fish.  The score is currently 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 6-6 (4-2).  The boys have been at it for 2 hours and 40 minutes so far.

Later on tonight, John Isner battles David Nalbandian, Donald Young takes on Luckas Lacko, and Sam Querrey goes against Bernard Tomic.  It’s a huge night for Americans, even if Fish loses.  We expect all the younger guys to represent themselves well.

Also, Christina McHale is struggling at the moment, having lost the first set and down an early break in the second to Marina Erakovic.

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At the biggest hardcourt stop yet of this sumer’s Olympus Series, on the way to the US Open, it’s good to see aggressive players, young and old, bringing some much needed flair to the men’s game as the tour returns to the right type of hardcourt: Decoturf.  In action today are five one-handers, with 3 on the courts as we speak.  American James Blake (above), who dropped off the face of the earth in the last year and a half, is enjoying a surprising renaissance at the moment, leading former Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian 6-2, 1-0 (a break to the good already in the 2nd) taking that first set in a little more than 30 minutes.  Blake’s free swinging style and hard bang ball crushing are a bad matchup for Nalbandian, who tries to dictate without gving up much ground on the baseline with his 2-handed backhand.  Blake is a difficult guy to do so against because he hits with too much pace for Nalbandian not to give up some feet on the baseline.  If Blake is on, it is impossible for a tight two hander to take the ball early against him.  Blake doesn’t give them enough time.  That’s why Blake has given Nadal so much difficulty over the years, especially before Blake’s demise.

Fortunately for Blake, Nalbandian has suffered an injury related demise as well and seems to be struggling to regain his form.  Blake’s demolition at the hands of the almost unbeatable Novak Djokovic in Miami looked like a fait accompli for the once 2nd most talented player in the game.  Blake, complaining about tendinitis in his knee, mused aloud about retirement, and getting smoked by the Djoker in that manner made us wonder if hadn’t already retired mentally.  But Blake has was worked hard with new coach Craig Boynton, who has done wonders with Giant John Isner, and that hard work seems to be paying off right now.  You will remember that Blake, loyal to a fault, refused to fire his previous and one and only coach, Brian Barker, even as the wheels were coming off of his career.  Sometimes you have to change to grow though.  We are glad to see Blake, who is one of the best athletes on the tour when healthy, holding his serve and concentrating again on big points.  We consider Blake a young thirty and feel he can recapture some of the magic his enormous potential and natural ability holds.  Blake is now serving, up 3-2 in the 2nd set.  Go James!

Thirty-one year old Tommy Haas has had a very hard road back from a hip that effectively ruined his last year and a half on tour.  Since returning in April, Haas has shown flashes of the wealth of talent he possesses, but had only won one match, which came at Newport in July against countryman Michael Berrer.  In his next match, Haas was forced to retire down 5-2 in the 1st set.  Today Haas took out former American collegiate star and solid doubles player, Amer Delic, 6-2, 6-3.  Haas’s high risk, high reward style, which has seen him rise as high as world #2, making 4 major semi-finals (3 down under, 1 at Wimbledon), has been sorely missed.  Remember that Haas was only 5 points from closing out Roger Federer in the round of 16 at Roland Garros in 09, the year that Federer won the crown, and that Federer also defeated Haas in the semi-finals at Wimbledon, on his way to his last Wimbledon crown.  That year, Haas defeated Marin Cilic 10-8 in the 5th on the lawns in one of the most entertaining matches in recent memory, and then blitzed Novak Djokovic, upsetting the Serb star in the quarter-final round.

The Blake match is now final, with the American winning 6-2, 6-4 in 1:12.  Blake struck 7 aces and was not broken in the lopsided contest.  He will face the winner of Isner-Kamke, which is just under way, in the 4th round.  Tommy Haas will face another very talented one hander on the comeback trail in the second round, Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, who upset Alexandr Dolgopolov Jr. at Wimbledon (we called it!).

Up and coming one handed Bulgarian prodigy Grigor Dimitrov just came through a few minutes ago against putrid American Tim Smyczek in a 3rd set breaker.  Dimitrov is a kid we’ve had our eyes on for a long time because we see him as having the most potential of any young one hander in the game.  Dimitrov, who has patterned himself after Roger Federer and who was coached by Roger’s same developmental coach, Peter Lundgren, broke into the top 60 for the first time this summer, and has risen relatively quickly in the last year after a rough first year on tour.  Dimitrov has yet to do much on hardcourts, and if he wishes to here, he will have to go through another talented one hander, Frenchman Michael Llodra, in the 2nd round.

Michael Berrer, German one hander, defeated refreshing Italian serve and volleyer Paolo Lorenzi in straights earlier and will face our favorite techno ace, Serb Janko Tipsarevic in the next round, with an opportunity to meet the Llodra/Dimitrov winner in the round of 16.  Big Aussie redheaded one handed serve and volleyer Chris Guccione has just gone to a decisive 3rd set with giant South African Kevin Anderson, a teammate of Amer Delic’s at Illinois.  Notable Americans Donald Young and Ryan Harrison, who is having an excellent summer so far, won their first round encounters as well. 

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Ryan Sweeting (above).

Nineteen year old New Jersey native Christina McHale looked on her way to another tough first round loss today, after a great start that saw her grab a 6-2 lead.  When she lost the second set 6-1, we thought she was in big trouble.  Her opponent, Ekaterina Makarova, the 28th seed, and a good grass courter, is someone who we’ll admit, we thought was sure to win today.  It’s not that we love her so much.  Moreso, we tend to hate McHale’s safe baseline game.  But McHale, who had the edge in conditioning, won an extended 3rd set 8-6, and was able to save 3 break points at 7-6, love-40.

McHale’s serve, not a strength of her game, has definitely improved.  After the match, McHale credited the USTA, namely Patrick McEnroe, for impressing upon her the need to serve bigger.  To that end, McHale had 9 aces today, and served well throughout a tense third set.  She faced only 7 break points, what we consider a low number for the women, with 3 coming in the final game, and she saved 4 of 7 of those opportunities for Makarova.  We have trouble hating on Americans, but we have to be honest.  McHale’s stay at home game is not our style.  Case in point, she won only 3 points at net in 2 hours and 6 minutes. 

Still a great outcome for the young American, who probably worried a lot of people the way she blew her first round match at Roland Garros when she was up 5-0 in the 3rd set and lost 9-7 to Sara Errani.  For McHale, today’s win was her second career win at a major.  She advanced to the 2nd round at Flushing in 2009 with a straight set win over Polona Hercog.  McHale will face the winner of Morita/Paszek in the second round.

Also today, world #66 Ryan Sweeting, an American by way of the Bahamas, notched his 3rd ever major match victory in stunning fashion.  The lanky, 6’5 Floridian, who won his first ever ATP level event in Houston this spring, came from down 2 sets to zero to defeat Pablo Andujar, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (1), 6-1 in 3 hours and 44 minutes.  Sweeting turned this match around with a great winner to unforced error ratio (54/35), a great percentage at net (74% on 23/31 approaches), and by returning better and serving better on both first and second balls. 

Sweeting won nearly half of the points on Andujar’s serve, who looked a bit out of sorts on the grass.  The Spaniard was passed constantly in the final 3 sets, and did not have the muscle to hit through the court against Sweeting on the baseline.  The win will set up a second round encounter with defending champion Rafael Nadal, who defeated journeyman American Michael Russell today in straight, easy sets.

For Sweeting, the result is incredibly encouraging.  Some guys take forever to get a win from 2 sets down (see James Blake).  Obviously, Sweeting has the ability to problem solve on court, which is not an American stregth right now, to be kind.

The matchup will be a rematch of their 2nd round meeting in Melbourne which Nadal won, 2, 1, and 1.  Nadal also rolled Sweeting at Indian Wells, 3 and 1.

We were disappointed to see Donald Young fall to Alex Bogomolov in 4 sets today.  And while we don’t believe in moral victories, Alison Riske played well, as we expected, in losing a 3 setter to defending runner-up, Vera Zvonareva. 

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Canadian wunderkind Milos Raonic (above).

When play commences on the lawns next week, tennis fans will be treated to some very good matchups.  With the Wimbledon draws announced today, we figured we’d let you know what to look out for in the first couple of rounds.  Ladies first:

 

Ladies Singles–1st Round

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(15) Jelena Jankovic vs. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez

Akgul Amanmuradova vs. (23) Venus Williams

Alison Riske (USA) vs. (2) Vera Zvonareva

(6) Francesca Schiavone vs. Jelena Dokic

Christina McHale (USA) vs. Ekaterina Makarova

(18) Ana Ivanovic vs. Melanie Oudin (USA)

Coco Vandeweghe (USA) vs. Eleni Danilidou

Aravane Rezai vs. Serena Williams

Laura Robson vs. Angelique Kerber

(5) Maria Sharapova vs. Anna Chakvetadze

 

Mens Singles 1st Round

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Ryan Sweeting (USA) vs. Pablo Andujar

Fabio Fognini vs. Milos Raonic

Donald Young (USA) vs. Alex Bogomolov Jr. (USA)

Radek Stepanek vs. Fernando Verdasco

Tobias Kamke vs. Blaz Kavcic

Sergiy Stakhovsky vs. Daniel Cox (GBR)

Ivan Ljubicic vs. Marin Cilic

Ivo Karlovic vs. Janko Tipsarevic

Alexander Dolgopolov Jr. vs. Fernando Gonzalez

John Isner vs. Nicolas Mahut

David Nalbandian vs. Julian Reister

Robin Soderling vs. Philipp Petzschner

Kei Nishikori vs. Lleyton Hewitt

Marcos Baghdatis vs. James Blake

…..

The women’s draw features Mary Joe Fernandez’s rag tag crew of hack Fed Cuppers, in Oudin, McHale, and Vandeweghe.  Oudin should get dusted by Ivanovic, who, should she lose, should probably hang it up already.  Coco’s got a glimmer of hope against Danilidou.  McHale should get shredded by Makarova.  FYI, Vania King, who has played well, is in the main draw, as is Alison Riske, who has a very tall order in Vera Z.  Who knows?  Grass is Riske’s best surface, and maybe the Pensylvania product gets lucky.  Zvonareva looked dead during her QF at Eastbourne versus Stosur, after winning 8 of the first 12 games and virtually having the match in the bag.  Zvonareva has played a lot of tennis this year.  Could that bode well for the American who should be installed on our FC squad, especially considering America’s woeful state of affairs and relegation from the World Group?  Journeywoman American by way of Russia Varvara Lepchenko did upset 18th seed Flavia Pennetta at Roland Garros, so we’ll give her a bit of a chance here against 19th seed, Yanina Wickmayer.  Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, one of the few women with the stones to consistently attack, has a great shot to upset Jelena Jankovic.  The Spaniard is 2-1 lifetime versus the gutless, annoying Serb.  Also, it would be nice to see young Brit Laura Robson win her first round match with Kerber.  Kerber will be favored.

Not to run on about the men, but we do feel it’s high time that Ryan Sweeting, with his ranking up to 66th, notch his first ever match win on grass.  We’re very interested to see our boy, young beast Milos Raonic on the grass.  The possibility of a 3rd round match between Raonic and Nadal would make for appointment television.  As would a possible Del Potro/Nadal round of 16 affair.  Nice to see DP in the top 25 again (24).  Tommy Haas looks for his first win of the year, and we welcome him back, as well as David Nalbandian, who won 2 rounds at Halle.  We also welcome back Chilean ball crusher Fernando Gonzalez who might be a big problem for Dolgopolov, who seems to adjust poorly to specialty surfaces.  We love Stepanek, a nice net player, as an upset special in round 1.  We’d love to see James Blake do something in the spot versus Baghdatis, but Blake is even more disappointing than usual at Wimbledon.  Things look good for former boys champ Donald Young, in a very winnable 1st round match versus another American Alex Bogolomov.  We always love watching talented 1-hander Segiy Stakhovsky, who gets diminutive British hack Daniel Cox in round 1.  We hope Soderling has a good run here but it wouldn’t shock us if Philipp Petzschner, a very good grass courter and last year’s doubles champ gave him a good go.  Our favorite techno tennis player, Janko Tipsarevic has his hands full with ace machine Ivo Karlovic.  We might put a few dinari on Dr. Ivo.  It would be a good time for Marin Cilic to wake up, though we don’t have much confidence in that.

And in maybe the most celebrated first round rematch ever, we look for Giant John Isner, whose ranking has fell to near 50, to get back on track and take care for Mahut before it gets to 70-68 in the 5th.  Isner has weathered the clay season, and can not be faulted for taking Nadal to 5 hard sets at Roland Garros in round 1.  We look for him to have a great summer starting here, and carrying over to the American summer hardcourt season.

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James Blake and Novak Djokovic (above).

There are going to be some very interesting matchups on Sunday for the true tennis fan.  It’s not like we didn’t enjoy watching Roger take Radek Stepanek to the woodshed this afternoon, or that we weren’t interested in the troubles of both of the Andys, but tomorrow is to be quite the day.

It gets started early with a very intresting matchup on Stadium, Mardy Fish vs. Richard Gasquet.  Back to the scene of the crime for Gasquet so to speak, whose career was derailed in Miami when he exchanged fluids with a Miami woman on Cocaine.  That interaction led to a failed drug test which has since been set aside, but the net effect essentially set him back 2 years.  The promising Frenchman with the game’s most beautiful one handed backhand took a while to get back on track, but it appears that he is in fine form again.  Recall that Gasquet is a Wimbledon semi-finalist who beat Andy Roddick in that quarter-final, coming back from 2 sets to love down.

We love Gasquet.  And Stacey Gardner (below). 

We try to love Mardy too, but it’s hard.  Especially tomorrow.  Gasquet, blessed with incredible talent, seemed like a guy who’d never put it all together.  We think the brush with the Coke rap has forced him to to appreciate the game more, and we’ve never seen more heart  or fire from him lately.  Key Biscayne’s Agile court surface would seem to favor both players and their aggressive games.  We’ll take the one-hander.  We still expect the big things from Gasquet that we’ve always expected, and like that he’s back on the right path.  And his recent drubbing of Andy Roddick was very impressive, which we’re sure good friends Fish and Roddick discussed.

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Major champions are in action on the women’s side with another one-hander, Francesca Schiavone, and Kim Clijsters both featured.  But there will be heavyweights going all day.  Beat this: Juan Martin Del Potro versus Robin Soderling.  Talk about ball crushers.  Great for the game that Del Potro is becoming a factor again, and we wouldn’t be surprised if he was a little too hot for Soderling to handle tomorrow.  Soderling, having a great year, is yet to produce much on American soil, and JMDP might just thrive in this environment. 

Giant John Isner in action against Murray’s slayer, journeyman Alex Bogmolov Jr.  Interesting that Murray has given career best wins to Donald Young and Bogmolov Jr. in successive tournaments. 

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How charitable is the Scot?  That’s what happens when you keep pushing balls back and you never take any initiative.  Speaking of charity, the very gifted but now scorned James Blake, will take on Novak Djokovic, still undefeated this season.  If Blake ever wanted to do something, having let myriad opportunities just slip away, tomorrow night might be a good time to go for for broke.

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World #112, American Christina Mchale (above).

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Teaneck, New Jersey native Christina McHale, whose best wins in her young career have come on retirements to Victoria Azarenka at last year’s Family Circle Cup and and Nadia Petrova at the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open (though to be fair, she was ahead 7-6 (4), 5-3 when Petrova laid down her racquet), notched by far the best win in her young career last night, perhaps inspired to a degree by Donald Young, when she stunned two time major champion and 11th seed, Svetlana Kuznetsova, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (7), on the torturously slow Plexicushion at Indian Wells.

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Despite managing to get in only 49% of her first serves, McHale, behind a very strong return game, converted on 5 of 16 break opportunities en route to the straight set victory that she sealed with two dramatic tie breaks, the second of which, by a score of 9 points to 7.  Kuznetsova only won 51% of the points on her first serve, despite making 72% of her first balls.  Frankly, the clay like, soft blue Plexicushion played too slowly for Kuznetsova, and she seemed frustrated by the night winds and lack of traction her serve and groudstrokes had and her inability to move the ball through the court.

In total, Kuznetsova only won 58 points of 116 on serve, while McHale, 2 months short of her 19th birthday, was a bit more efficient in that area.  McHale won 47 of her 88 points on serve, and was outstanding in the return area, where she stymied the clearly poorly conditioned Kuznetsova by getting so many balls back with her quickness and defensive skills.

McHale, who received a wildcard into the draw here at Indian Wells, will finally have a paycheck to speak of, after collecting a meager $460 in prize money coming into this event.  In round one, McHale defeated 66th ranked Uzbeki Akgul Amanmuradova, 6-3, 6-1.  McHale will next face Russian Nadia Petrova.  Petrova, another poorly conditioned Russian, may have her hands full with McHale in round 3, especially if the match is played at night when conditions are even heavier. 

In fact, the draw looks excellent for McHale.  Potentially, she could face Lucie Hradecka or Shuai Peng in the round of 16, as most of her quarter of the draw has completely fallen out.  A quarter-final would see McHale face one of the following players: Stosur, Safina, Rezai, Sharapova.

Indian Wells is upset city, so anything is likely to happen.  Though we despise IW for the Plexipave Slow Plexicushion surface they use, topped with more sand than perhaps any other “hardcourt” in the world for the way it favors defensive tennis and diminishes shot making, we’ll be rooting for the girl from New Jersey, who has shown a lot of heart, effort, quickness, and composure, if not true tennis talent.

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American tennis prodigy Donald Young (above).

Donald Young, the Atlanta native by way of Illinois who perhaps had the greatest junior career of any American in recent memory, had his best ever win way back in 2007 as an 18 year old at the US Open, in the 2nd round at Flushing against Richard Gasquet.  It was a walk-over.  So Young was gifted into the 3rd round there that year, still his best major outcome, stormed out against Feliciano Lopez in round 3, won the 1st set, dropped the 2nd, and then dropped a close tie-breaker 7-5 in the 3rd set in which every fan watching knew that the breaker’s outcome would decide the match.  Young provided some incredible highlights against Lopez in that match, like when he backed up to the fence and then lept like his idol, Michael Jordan, to return a smash from Lopez that somehow went for a winner.

Young must have a favorable matchup with the hard serving Lopez.  The next year, in 2008, Young defeated the Spaniard at Indian Wells.  Lopez was ranked world #32 at the time, and until about 8 PM EST tonight, that meager  result was still his greatest win.  Young, who won the Easter Bowl, the Orange Bowl, Junior Wimbledon, and Junior Australian Opens was the youngest ever junior world number one, and is still the only black junior number one.  As a pro, the contrast in terms of success has been stark.  We’ve seen him play a few good random sets, and frankly, he’s lost most of those.  Going toe to toe with Nikolay Davydenko for 25 minutes and then petering out is not the mark of the coming of the next great American.  Nor is almost taking John Isner to a tie-breaker, or going 5 sets with James Blake at the Open and losing.  The best result other than the Gasquet walkover and the IW Lopez victory was probably an obscure win over Alejandro Falla.

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We are big Young supporters, but he has quite honestly been making a fool out of us.  He needed to hit a home run sooner or later.  We weren’t about to press him when he was 18, and that was the last time he showed the tennis world much.  We didn’t press him at 19.  Or 20.  We even said that we thought he deserved to be in the main draw at the AO in January, having watched his ranking climb to around 100.  We feel like we were the only ones watching him.  And as tennis fans, we fully understood that he has exhausted all of his free passes into the majors.  He qualified.  Good for him for earning his way and not having to hear any talk of who that spot should rightfully have gone to.  But Marin Cilic totally dusted him in round 1, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1, ending any magic carpet ride before it began.  Young deserved to lose.  He did not bring it, could not get into points with Cilic, who dominated DY with his power, leaving the DY criticisms about his slight frame and lack of power, not only valid, but resounding.

So we were very proud to see Young defeat Andy Murray today, 7-6 (4), 6-3, in one hour and 33 minutes.  The very slow IW Plexicushion, which we feel is an utter embarrassment of a hardcourt, is not a good court for Young, in our estimation.  Sure these awful plexipaved courts, topped out with max sand to further slow an already dampened ball, have favored counter punchers like Nadal in Australia, and Canas versus Federer here, but they also can favor the very big hitter who has the power to hit through the court or still get max pop on their serve, like Karlovic today, like Tsonga in Melbourne, like Federer in Melbourne versus Murray.

Playing safe against Murray is not the strategy that’s best.  Murray is going to dink and dunk you, is one of the kings of safe play himself, but he just did not play the big points well enough today.  You are only as good as your second serve, and that’s probably Murray’s greatest weakness, after his passive style.  Murray claimed only 28% of his second balls, and was broken 4 times in the match.  Young may not have hit a ton of winners, but he surprised us with his ability to hit through the court, which kept the pressure squarely on the Scot.  In the end, Young held a 74-62 advantage in total points, despite hitting just one ace and dumping in 7 double faults.

Young played the bigger points better today than world #5 Andy Murray.  That’s a step forward for the American, who we really want to see good things happen for.  Style aside, we have always regarded Young as a very talented kid with a diverse game, and nice touch.  The pressure of being junior #1 and American prodigy status has only made more difficult his transition to the pro game, and we hope today’s win is a sign that he is finally starting to figure some things out.

Young couldn’t hope for a kinder 3rd round matchup.  Next up will be #25 Tommy Robredo, a guy who doesn’t have the type of weapons to scare anyone.  A few years back when Robredo was in the top 10, my friends and I dubbed him the top 10 player you’d most want to play if you absolutely needed a win.  Opportunity knocks.

The ball’s in Young’s court.  Hopefully, he keeps doing something with it.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, www.crackbillionair.com)

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