cinderella run

Donald Young: Cinderella run to the Legg Mason Tennis Classic semifinals

Young American Donald Young took full advantage of Marcos Baghdatis’ depleted energy and was able to continue the biggest run of his career, winning 6-3, 7-6(4) and reaching his first ATP tour level semifinal on Friday evening at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic. Baghdatis had played two 3-setters yesterday and was simply outplayed by the 21-year-old in the crucial moments, unable to convert any of the three opportunities he had of taking the second set.

Young has been a consistent underachiever on tour since turning pro in 2004. He has received innumerable amounts of coaching help through the USTA Player’s Development program, but the dominant role his family members have taken have caused conflict between the two parties. As he walked into the press conference, his posse was noticeably bigger than the previous day’s, and it will surely continue to grow going into the weekend.

Young broke through in 2008, reaching a career-high 73, but he had never won more than two ATP matches in a row until today, citing his “attitude towards playing” as the difference. “I feel like I actually can do it, … and not just a hope of ‘Maybe I can do it.’” Earlier this year, he beat Andy Murray in the second round of Indian Wells, but fell apart in the next round against Tommy Robredo, losing 6-0, 6-4. Consistency has never been his strong suit.

This week has been a revelation to the potential his game holds. He dominated with his forehand painting lines and shoving Baghdatis further and further back, taking away any kind of game plan he might have had. While Baghdatis served only 37% for the match, Young hovered in the mid-60’s. Baghdatis referenced his drop in play partly to his hands being “a bit tight … I couldn’t hit the ball [as good as yesterday].”

After taking the first set, Young was quickly broken to go down 0-3, but came back fist-pumping his way to take the next four games. At 5-6, he held serve and fired an explosive forehand down-the-line to force a tiebreaker. As Baghdatis tried forcing Young to hit from his backhand side, he himself unsuccessfully ran around his backhand, only to clobber the ball into the net. At 6-4 in the tiebreak, Baghdatis hit a defensive lob allowing Young to hit an easy overhead shot to take the match. Young pounded his chest and smiled in joy looking to his box, hardly believing the results himself; the crowd roared with him.

When asked about if he ever doubted his abilities of being on tour and making a run like this, he answered honestly: “Sure. For every year that it didn’t happen, you think ‘Oh, it’s another year; is it going to ever happen?’ … I’m not really where I want to be yet but this is just a step moving forward and hopefully I can continue having these results.”

He’ll next take on Radek Stepanek who is a tricky player, exceptionally comfortable at both the net and slugging away at the baseline. He’ll be another true test of Young’s abilities.

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