April 20, 2008
Donald Young is going to spend a couple weeks at the Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton, where, finally, he is going to spend time hitting and competing in practice sessions with other U.S. pros.
This is, perhaps, the final piece of the development puzzle for Young, and it has been a long time coming. It can only help Young, 18, whose parents have had him "doing his own thing," as Bobby Reynolds recently said.
After Reynolds had beaten Young in the final round of qualifying at the Sony Ericsson Open, I asked Reynolds how often he and Young, both Atlanta residents, had practiced together.
The answer was never, even though Reynolds spends considerable training time at Robby Ginepri's Olde Town Athletic Club with Ginepri, Scoville Jenkins and just about any other pro filtering through town. But never Young.
When he was introduced to reporters at Key Biscayne a couple weeks ago as the new USTA Elite Player Development general manager, Patrick McEnroe spoke about the need to get Young involved with other U.S. players.
It's now happened.
It's significant that Young is finally ready to associate more with fellow Americans, and moreso that he's going to Bollettieri's under the USTA aegis.
McEnroe made a point at Key Biscayne that the USTA is going to step up its program of training young talent at its center in Boca Raton, but that there would be private academy options. What is noteworthy here is the solidifying bond between the USTA and Bollettieri, who is happy to have Young in Bradenton.
"I'm a people person, and I've always had a great relationship with players' parents," Bollettieri said. "Whether it's the Williams family or the Young family or anyone else."
If Young's parents have been reluctant to turn over any coaching control to outsiders, they seem to have softened, although Illona Young will be in Bradenton with her son and closely supervising along with Bollettieri and USTA coaches.
He had a strong 2007, winning the Wimbledon juniors and a Challenger at Aptos, then reaching four other Challenger finals. But, though his ranking has improved from 98 to 79 since Jan. 1, he has stalled in six tournaments this year, losing last week in the second round to Oscar Hernandez at Houston.