By John Delong
The weight of the tennis world was finally lifted from Donald Young on Monday afternoon.
The 23-year-old American lefthander ended a six-month drought and snapped a 17-match losing streak by defeating Leonardo Mayer 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the first round of the Winston-Salem Open.
A nice afternoon crowd at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex was clearly in Young’s corner and there was no hiding his emotions after the win.
"It feels great to get the match win," Young said. "I haven’t had one in a while so it’s good to get the monkey off my back, kind of. It feels awesome. I feel a little lighter. The things I have been working on have finally come around."
Young, ranked No. 80, had not won a match since beating Grigor Dimitrov in the first round at Memphis in February. He lost in the first round in each of his next 16 tournaments. He came into the Winston-Salem Open with a 2-20 record for the year.
"I didn’t know the exact number but I knew it was getting up there," he said. "Every match you lose, you’re like, ‘Man.’ And it doesn’t help to think about it.
"I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling the pressure. I kept saying ‘This match is going to be it,’ ‘This match I’m going to win,’ and it didn’t happen. So every match became more and more crucial to winning because the Open was coming up. I had to just not think about it that much and practice, because in practice I was playing great."
Young, who was ranked a career-best No. 38 in February before the streak started, quipped that at least now he won’t have many points to defend next year. He tried to keep in good spirits throughout the losing streak.
"When I played the Olympics, all the guys were like, ‘You’re playing well, it’s only a matter of time before it’s over, you’re too good of a player to keep losing,’" Young said. "But then you go to another match and lose, and you keep expecting it to happen and it doesn’t. If it was someone else, it could possibly be funny. But it was me, so it wasn’t."
Actually, it looked like more of the same early in the match, as the Argentine Mayer won the first set. Young then fought off a couple of near-disastrous break points early in the second set, and gained momentum as the set went on and eventually got the break he needed. In the third, Mayer fell apart, and Young seized the moment.
"I started out not playing well, losing the first set, down early break points in the second," he said. "It just didn’t feel good. But I fought through a couple of points and it changed and then he started to be the one actually to miss more.
"The big thing I did was to actually put the ball in play. I wasn’t putting the ball in play in the first set and he didn’t have to work for it. I told myself, at least put it over the net and you never know what’s going to happen. If you don’t put it over the net, you don’t give him the opportunity to miss. So that’s what I was trying to do."
Young will now face ninth-seeded Feliciano Lopez on Tuesday in the second round.
The other big news of the Monday afternoon session was that all four qualifiers won. Michael McClune stunned Alejandro Falla 6-1, 6-4; Ernests Gulbis beat Carlos Berlocq 6-4, 7-5; Benjamin Becker beat Tatsuma Ito 6-3, 4-6, 6-2; and Sergiy Stakhovsky beat Gilles Muller 7-6 (4), 6-4.
In other afternoon matches, Thomaz Bellucci advanced when Marcos Baghdatis retired, with Bellucci leading 7-5, 3-1; Lukasz Kubot beat Tommy Robredo 6-1, 2-6, 6-2; Martin Klizan beat Benoit Paire 6-2, 7-6 (4); Yen-Hsun Lu beat Lukas Lacko 6-3, 7-6 (3); and Robin Haase beat Nikolay Davydenko 6-3, 6-2.