After 13 Years On Tour, Young Switches It Up
Tennis players are known for being creatures of habit, but Donald Young is having a year of new experiences both on and off the court.
The 27-year-old American is enjoying a rich run of form over the past two months on the ATP World Tour, which he credits to loosening up and being more open to trying new things. His changes in routine have played a part in his rapid rise up the Emirates ATP Rankings, jumping nearly 40 spots since February to his current standing of No. 42.
He's seeded seventh this week at the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship in Houston and opens his campaign on Wednesday against Thiago Monteiro.
“I’ve just been more relaxed at tournaments this year. I’m checking out the movies, going to see the different sights, leaving my hotel room a little bit more than I used to. It’s definitely paying off,” said Young. “I’ve been playing awhile, so I just thought let’s try something new. You can’t get anywhere new without trying something different. It’s a big deal for me to eat at different restaurants, get out more, being more relaxed in general. I still keep the same routines at the tournament site, but everything off-site has been a big difference.”
Young scored back-to-back semi-final finishes this February in Memphis and Delray Beach, prevailing over players he had been winless against including John Isner (Memphis) and Ivo Karlovic (Delray Beach). Last month, he recorded fourth-round finishes at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami, defeating Top 20 player Lucas Pouille in both events.
“I’ve sporadically had wins over top players throughout my career, but to do it consistently now is great,” said Young. “I want it to continue. This is definitely feeling like high-level tennis.”
Moving into the clay-court season, Young is hoping to keep up his current standard of results. He admitted not having much exposure to clay growing up, with match play limited to one National junior tournament a year on green clay. But not only has he embraced this part of the year, he’s seen the benefits that clay-court tennis can bring to other surfaces.
“We have to do well on clay to get our ranking where we want it. It’s a long, important part of the season,” said Young. “You have a Grand Slam, two ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events, some 500-level events. If you can do well on it, it can set your whole year up and not put so much pressure on the American summer events. And it helps you with all aspects of your game, different spins, movement. It’s a great building block for the rest of the season.
“I’ve made it to the third round at Roland Garros and know I can play on clay. I start to like it once I’m on it, but need time to get there, so hopefully I can get a lot of matches over the next two months,” he added. “And then also just being in these great cities, hopefully I can enjoy it more this year, get out and do something, make the tournament a little more exciting and productive.”
Young is also excited to share time on the road in Europe with more of his fellow American players. With 12 competing in the singles main draw this week in Houston, he’s optimistic that Americans of all ages will continue pushing each other up the rankings.
“American tennis is doing great. We’re winning tournaments, competing. You have the top guys up there now, but also a lot of really good younger guys coming up who are going to be great players,” said Young. “They’re pushing us and the group I’m in is pushing each other too. We’re all very cool with each other, so it’s enjoyable to have that company and fellowship on the road.”