NEW YORK—Back in April, Donald Young won a challenger event in Tallahassee and expected the USTA to reward the result with a wild card into Roland Garros. When he was denied, Young lost his cyber cool and tweeted some f-bombs in the USTA’s direction. The tirade drew consternation from USTA honcho Patrick McEnroe and backpedaling from the 22-year-old. Young took his medicine and recorded a few decent wins, and the combination resulted in a wild card into the U.S. Open.
Even at his young age, this is already Young’s seventh entry into his home Slam. He had advanced out of the first round in only once, but today drew lucky loser and 162nd-ranked Lukas Lacko. It was a good matchup for Young—all he had to do was play within himself and allow Lacko to self-destruct. Young jumped out to an early two-break lead in the first set and held on to win 6-4. Early in the second set, Lacko had a break point to go up 3-1, but Young came up with well-constructed points to hold. He immediately broke Lacko in the next game and the Slovak essentially tapped out. The final two sets were a relatively routine, 6-2 and 6-4.
While showing signs of the creativity and soft hands that garnered Young so much early praise, it was his defense and head that ruled the day. There were a few extended rallies, but most points ended with Lacko spraying a ball from the mid-court. Young let loose on some forehands when the opportunity presented itself, but conservatism was the best course. Young ended with a 20:19 ratio of winners to unforced errors. Lacko? 29:56. At times it was ugly stuff. But credit Young for recognizing the situation and not playing down to it.
“I think everyone’s light turns on at their own time,” Young said after the match. “I’m starting to feel like mine is turning on…Not everybody does it when everybody expects it to be done. I wish it could have been earlier. It’s starting to come now and I’m excited about it.”
In the second round, Young will be a considerable underdog against 14th-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka. Those mid-court balls that Lacko struggled to put away will look very pretty to the hard-hitting Swiss. Young will have to be mindful of keeping his groundies deep and with better penetration. Otherwise he will burn through his shoes chasing Stan’s huge backhands. Young’s serve will also have to be more of factor. Even though he’s lefty, whether it’s mechanics or attitude, Young just doesn’t serve like one. He averaged 104 MPH on his first serve and just 80 mph on his second offering without hitting a single ace. He did crack a few at 120 MPH, but Young clearly prefers placement over power. He didn’t need to be against Lacko, but against his next opponent, Young had better be pinpoint.
Either way, it will be a good test of whether Young is indeed turning a corner, or if today was just a case of playing the right opponent.