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Big Talent: He's Small, Light, 15 Years Old And On His Way To Glory

December 22, 2004 10:46 AM

Atlanta, GA's Donald Young is considered by many to be one of the most promising young tennis phenoms in the U.S. The following article, written by Mark Starr, can be found in Newsweek Magazine's "Who's Next 2005" year-end issue, which can now be found on news stands. The article can also be found online at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6732972/site/newsweek/.

When Donald Young was just 10 years old and a ball boy at a seniors tennis tourney, he had a chance to hit a few rallies with John McEnroe. Afterward, impressed by the kid's stunning array of shots, the tennis legend said, "He has hands like another lefty I know very well." Over the past five years, Young has evoked comparisons not only to McEnroe but to most every American star of recent vintage. "I played with Pete Sampras when he was the same age and it's comparable," says Eliot Teltscher, director of tennis operations for the U.S. Tennis Association. "Within three years he should start to do some real damage."

The American tennis establishment can't wait. With the sport's appeal on the wane here, it needs the boost that a new, homegrown star can deliver. Moreover, the hope is that Young, an African-American, might attract a new audience, as the Williams sisters did for the women's game. At 14, Young officially turned pro. The unusual decision provoked much criticism in tennis circles. But Young's father, Donald Sr., says it was necessary to pay the training and travel costs-Donald now has deals with Head and Nike-of a budding international star. "All we're trying to do is what it takes to make Donald the best player ever," says Dad.

While his parents remain his coaches-both were college players-they insist they never pushed their son into tennis. When his precocious talent began to reveal itself, his parents tried to send him to other coaches and clubs. But he kept bouncing back to them. This fall Young scored his first victory in the main draw of a pro event, thrashing a 27-year-old ranked 220th in the world. At 5 feet 10 inches and only 145 pounds, Young compensates for the lack of a big serve with foot speed and a remarkably mature grasp of tactics. "He sees the court things happen," says Teltscher. The USTA can only hope he sees the future as well. "My dream is to win each Grand Slam," Young says. Then he adds, "Twice each, so nobody can ever say it was a fluke."

 

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