WASHINGTON, D.C. — Jared Donaldson didn't let a crushing first set ruin his Monday evening at the Citi Open. Playing against world No. 70-ranked Dudi Sela in his opener, the American had to fight back, or risk an early loss in front of a home crowd.
In the opening-set tiebreaker, Donaldson had four set opportunities before dropping it with the loss of three consecutive points, 6-7 (6).
“My first inclination—or most people's first inclination—is to go over to their bag and break all their racquets, and then just walk off the court right?” the 20-year-old told TENNIS.com about his missed chances. “But then I thought about it for a moment, and thought that's not productive... Let's figure out how to win this match. I felt like there was a lot of room in my game to be able to improve.”
And improve he did. The Californian likes to go big on his serve and forehand, but he made his first strikes (his serve and return) sharper. What also sets him apart from countless other rising youngsters on the tour is he's not afraid to drill a backhand down-the-line, or pull out a dropper.
“My backhand down-the-line, I think, is one of my best shots in my arsenal,” he said. “I work on changing direction a lot, I feel like that's a strength in my game. So play to your strengths, right?”
His strength-filled game has translated to big-time results already—as a qualifier he reached the third round of the US Open last year, and made a third-round showing at Wimbledon earlier this summer.
On Monday, Donaldson certainly made life a little bit harder for himself, and needed to stay calm in the second set against the 32-year-old veteran. He was so calm he pulled off a deft behind-the-back trick shot at 4-4, which led him to a crucial break.
Closing out the second set 6-4, Donaldson kicked off the third with an immediate break. A failed tweener from Sela’s racquet at 5-3 handed Donaldson the match, 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-3.
Luckily for the world No. 69, his expected next opponent, Atlanta champion John Isner, withdrew at the last minute. Lucky loser Marc Polmans of South Africa nabbed the spot, and the bye.
“I haven't seen him play a competitive match... I'll have to look him up on Youtube and do a little scouting,” Donaldson said. “But you wan't to play the best player. It's a bummer that John had to pull out. You want to test yourself.”
Still, not playing an American will be some relief for Donaldson. In Atlanta last week, Donaldson was stunned by Georgia Tech senior Christopher Eubanks (then ranked No. 461). That marked Donaldson's 13th loss of 2017—nine of which have come at the hands of compatriots.
“I want to be the best American, but I want to be the best player, too,” Donaldson said. “I think it obviously shows we have a lot of good players, established and younger coming up. Hopefully, it'll be my turn one of these days to get them back. That's just an awful stat—I'm getting dominated by my countrymen. But least the red, white and blue are winning, so there’s some good news in that.”
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