Bud Collins

If once, promise fulfilled

By Bud Collins
Globe Correspondent / September 3, 2011

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NEW YORK - The name is Young, whose story was old and nearly forgotten.

Until yesterday. Until he awakened a sleepy tennis tournament called the US Open.

Until he looked like a lefthanded version of the Matterhorn that avalanched his victim from the Alps.

Until he laughed as happily as the full-house throng of 2,800 at Court 17 as the last point fell - and the husky Swiss, Stanislas Wawrinka, fell with it.

It was a crash all right as Wawrinka ranks No. 14 globally and was Roger Federer’s Olympic gold-medal collaborator.

Young - first name Donald - has been a problem child for US tennis administrators for a long time. Plenty talented, but coached by his parents and failing to take advantage of many opportunities, Young, 22, was given numerous tournament entries on wild cards and accomplished little.

It was another wild-card gift that got him into this biggie at Flushing Meadows, and it looked like same-old as Young lagged behind, two sets to one.

Gone. Until. Until he summoned the guts to win going away, breaking down Wawrinka with potent groundies in a fifth-set tiebreaker. Only the US Open uses the mental torture of a TB in a fifth set - and Young reveled in it, outgunning Wawrinka, winning the first six points.

“It was nerves, nerves, nerves - but mine held up,’’ said the trim Atlantan. “It’s the first five sets I’ve ever played. Kept looking at the clock - over four hours, could I be doing this?’’

But what he did in 4:20 was the triumph of his on–and-off life, 7-6 (9-7), 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-1). This landed Young - with a record of 3-12 in singles majors - in the third round against No. 24 Juan Ignacio Chela.

With teeth and diamond earrings in both ears glittering as he talked, Young declared it “to be the beginning of a new life for me. I’m ready to work and train harder.’’

The crowd was everything in that fifth set.

“I was kind of tired midway through the third, fourth set. They were chanting my name,’’ he said. “Yeah, you know, just reminded me and made me feel great that all these people really wanted me to win here. It just pushed me through. I can’t describe how great it was.

“There’s been a lot of pressure and problems, expectations. But they can be fixed. They will be.’’

He was referring to the US Tennis Association’s disappointments in him, and misunderstandings with black athletes, too scarce in tennis.

He revealed a recent workout with Pete Sampras. “Just fun. Lot of laughs,’’ Young said. “He called me a little princess.’’

Only locker-room humor, but some of the players regarded him that way, reluctant to put in the necessary labor.

He had been the world’s No. 1 junior as a 15-year-old, but his high-level performances were infrequent.

Maybe this was the firecracker. Patrick McEnroe, former US Davis Cup captain, wasn’t impressed, but said after the match, “Donald became a man today. He can make a difference for us.’’

But if Donald Young rang the fire alarm at the somnolent tourney, others chipped in as the second week is about to begin.

It will begin without Wimbledon finalist Maria Sharapova. Curiously for a woman of such talent - winner of three majors - she can’t fetch her serves over the net. She may be wealthy, but can’t buy a decent serve. Her 12 double faults were a major contribution to Flavia Pennetta’s 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 victory.

Some of the regiment of British writers may have found that alarm clock and put it beneath Andy Murray’s pillow. The fourth-seeded Murray was almost kicked out (with wooden sneakers?) by the tall Dutchman, Robin Haase, but it took five sets: 6-7 (5-7), 2-6, 6-2, 6-0, 6-4. Won’t those poor Brits somehow purloin a major?

Gone but still remembered, for good reason, a man we’ve missed, Juan Martin del Potro. He’s not quite ready to repeat his 2009 title, but his damaged wrists are coming around, meaning danger for such as Federer, his prize two years ago.

In a romp with an Argentine countryman, Diego Junqueira, 6-2, 6-1, 7-5, del Potro socked nine aces.

But serving awards went to John Isner on 20 aces, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, over ex-Davis Cupper Robby Ginepri, out for nine months with a badly fractured elbow. It was an heroic hurt. Dodging a squirrel on his mountain bike path in Kennesaw, Ga., Robby saved the beast but not himself.

Into the US Open on a wild card, Ginepri said, “Nice to be back, even losing, it’s nice.’’

Wonder how Donald Young’s new life will be. Until . . . until . . . until.