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Busted Racquet

Donald Young shows flash of greatness, then falls back to earth

Chris Chase
Busted Racquet

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As a 10-year-old, Donald Young was getting praised by John McEnroe for having "hands like me." By 14, he had turned professional and signed with the largest management firm in sports. One year later he became the youngest player to ever win a juniors Grand Slam title and hit No. 1 in the junior rankings. He was to be the next great American tennis player.

Three years later, the New York Times Magazine essentially said he was washed up, another tennis prodigy ruined by aggressive parenting, marketing and hype. He wasn't yet 18.

This weekend, Young scored the biggest win of his career, knocking off No. 4 Andy Murray in straight sets at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells. The victory fanned the flames of hype yet again. Young is still only 21 and clearly possesses the talent to become a top player. Maybe the win over Murray would kick-start his career and help him live up to the expectations that were set so long ago, back before he signed with IMG and gained the attention of the tennis with his junior success. He made it into the Australian Open earlier this year after a dominating run in the qualifying tournament and had recently jettisoned his mother as coach and began working with a USTA coach, something that was recommended years ago by the governing body of U.S. tennis.

All that talk last less than 48 hours. On Monday, Young lost to Tommy Robredo in the third round of the tournament, getting shutout in the first set and looking like the challenger player he is rather than the mega-star he could have been. Robredo is No. 28 in the world, so the victory over Young was expected. But that's no excuse for the 21-year-old to get broken three times in the first 30 minutes of the match and look like he was barely putting up a fight.

The Chicago native is ranked No. 143 in the world and owns a 15-47 career mark in ATP matches. There's still time for Donald Young to turn it around but it's quickly running out. The flash of greatness against Murray demonstrates that he can be a top 50 player by year's end. The listless loss to Robredo suggests nothing of the sort.

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