NEW YORK (Reuters) - Donald Young was hailed as a tennis prodigy and future grand slam winner at age 15. By 19 he was branded a has-been.
Now 26, the left-hander has dedicated himself to his fitness conditioning and the work is paying off at the U.S. Open where he battled back from two sets down for the second time this week to reach the fourth round at Flushing Meadows.
“Hopped in the ice bath. The legs are feeling pretty good already,” Young said after his 4-6 0-6 7-6(3) 6-2 6-4 victory over 22nd seed Viktor Troicki of Serbia on Saturday.
“I’m looking forward to going out there and battling again. I’m sure it’s going to be a battle. Every match is going to be one. I’m happy to be able to push forward. This is what you put the hours in the gym for.”
Young has had a workout at the U.S. National Tennis Center this week, escaping another two-sets deficit in his opening match to beat French 11th seed Gilles Simon 2-6 4-6 6-4 6-4 6-4, then beating Britain’s Aljaz Bedene in four sets in the second round.
Next up for Young is French Open champion Stan Wawrinka, another five-set victim of the American, who won a fifth-set tie-break in the second round at the 2011 U.S. Open.
It has been a see-saw ride over the years for Young, who became the youngest Australian Open boys champion and junior number one at age 15, and competed at the U.S. Open by 16.
Young was in the top 40 in 2011, plunged to 190 in 2012 after a 17-match losing streak when he was criticized for his training habits, and has worked his way back to a current ranking of 68.
“I never really forgot the fact that when I was 19, I wasn’t going to be good ever,” Young said. “(And) When I was 15, I was supposed to win Wimbledon the next year.
“It’s always felt like that. I tried to keep it in perspective.
“I’m here now, I’m 26. I’m right in the thick of things. That’s when a lot of people start to play well. I’m playing better.”
Young said he understands the kind of player he is.
“The basis of my game has been outmaneuvering the guy, putting him in awkward positions,” he said.
“I’m not going to be hitting a ton of aces, I’m not going to be slapping you off the court. I’m going to have to find other ways.
“Fitness was a way that could actually give me an edge.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury