NEW YORK—Donald Young pressed his palms against the blue back wall of the Grandstand court as if trying to shove away an obstacle occupying his personal space. Young kept pushing, but an unwielding Florian Mayer wouldn't budge.
The 47th-ranked German saved two set points in the opening set and played cleaner tennis throughout, repelling Young, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4, to reach the third round for the second time in three years.
The 24-year-old Young had not dropped a set in three qualifying matches before crushing Martin Klizan in round one, 6-1, 6-0, 6-1. He came out playing assertive tennis, cracking a cross-court backhand to break for 3-1, but double-faulted to hand back the break in the next game. Sudden shifts from flashy shotmaking to mind-numbing errors can make Young both a magical and maddening player to watch. Case in point: He ripped an electrifying running forehand pass down the line—skidding to a stop near the front row—to earn a second set point at 5-4, only to block a playable forehand return deep on the next point, barking at himself in frustration.
In contrast, the 29-year-old Mayer never looked remotely stressed. He held for 5-all with an ace, blistered a pass smack on the sideline for break point, and broke for 6-5 on a Young double fault. Mayer's accurate serving on crucial points was key: He erased a break point in the next game and ripped an ace that rattled the court-side clock to seize the 51-minute first set.
Young broke first again in the second set, building a 2-0 lead, and then dug in to deny four break points. He earned a game point for 3-0, only to implode with successive double faults and a flat forehand into net to give back the break. The rangy Mayer got his racquet on just about everything in the set—he put 39 of 42 serves back in play—placing the left-handed American under near-constant pressure on serve in the second set. Mayer converted three of 14 break points in the set, reeling off eight of the last nine points to build a two-set lead as a stewing Young left the court for a bathroom break.
There are some signs of maturity in Young. When he stripped off his Lotto shirt for treatment of an apparent lower back strain at 1-2 in the third set, it was clear that his upper body is much more thickly muscled than when he reached the U.S. Open fourth round two years ago. He also won 31 of 54 trips to net and his first serve has a bit more sting these days. But too often it's the same old story for the former junior world No. 1: When the going gets tough and Young makes a mistake, he beats himself up rather than shaking it off.
Meanwhile, Mayer gave little away and his stoic commitment to the cause—in this age of grunting, the German barely makes a sound when striking the ball, and even challenges by simply raising his racquet—combined with some timely serving and a jolting, leaping two-handed backhand.
I once asked Young about the process of learning to employ his variety in constructing points. "Yeah, sometimes I feel like a jack of all trades, master of none," he said. Watching him today you could understand exactly what he meant.
IBM Stat of the Match: Mayer won seven of 21 break point chances, a high number of opportunities and conversions in a three-set match.
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