By John Delong
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Aug. 7, 2017) – Jared Donaldson has taken an unconventional path on the road to success on the ATP World Tour.
But Donaldson wouldn’t change a thing.
The Providence, R.I. native moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina at age 15 for more than two years to hone his tennis skills, and the decision definitely paid off.
Now 20 years old, he has climbed to No. 66 in the ATP World Tour rankings and is seventh in the Race to Milan standings that will determine the participants for the #NextGen ATP Finals in November.
Donaldson figures the time in Argentina training on red clay improved his game and helped him mature off the court as well.
“Everyone’s different, and this was the best thing for me as an individual player,” he said. “For someone else, it might be something else completely. But I needed it, and it really worked out well.
“I learned how to put spin and shape on the ball and develop longer point construction. I learned the game better, and I also got a chance to learn a lot about a different country.”
Donaldson has made one appearance at the Winston-Salem Open, as a wildcard entry in the 2015 tournament. He lost in the first round to Sam Groth in a hugely exciting match that went to a third-set tiebreak.
Brad Gilbert, who will once again be part of ESPN’s coverage of the 2017 WSO, loves Donaldson’s work ethic.
“He has gotten up into the Top 100 pretty quickly,” Gilbert said. “He’s a good worker. He’s a good worker and started playing the tour when he was about 17 and he has just worked his way into this position. Here he is 20 now, and he’s been making steady progress.”
Because he was training in Buenos Aires, the 6-2, 165-pounder didn’t play a lot of junior tournaments, but he did make it to the finals of the USTA Boys 18 national championship in 2013 at age 16.
He worked his way up to the ATP World Tour by winning a Challenger title in Maui in 2015 and reaching the finals of two other Challengers, at Sacramento in 2015 and Savannah last year.
His first taste of success on at the tour level came when he reached the third round at Toronto last year, and then he made it to the third round of the US Open by stunning David Goffin in the first round.
This year, his best tournaments have been reaching the fourth round at Miami and the third round at Wimbledon. He reached a career-high No. 58 in July.
Donaldson gives huge credit to one of his coaches, Taylor Dent, who was known as one of the biggest servers in the game during his career.
“Taylor has kind of crafted my game,” Donaldson said. “All the kind of things I’m doing out there now is a reflection of his influence on me, coaching me, working with me. I owe a lot to him. I think his influence and how he believes the game should be played is how I play the game and what I believe. I think we work really well together.”
The serve, for sure, has improved during his time with Dent.
“Certainly my serve has improved a lot since working with Taylor and I feel that is a big key to my game,” Donaldson said. “Especially when I’m able to hold easier, not have to grind out so many points. That was the main reason I went to see him. But he’s also added so much more to my game than the serve. Everything you see out there has been influenced by Taylor.”
Donaldson will definitely be worth watching as the 2017 season winds down because at No. 7 in the Race to Milan standings, he’s right on the bubble for a spot in the #Next Gen ATP Finals. The top seven automatically qualify, then the eighth and final spot goes to a wildcard.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Winston-Salem Open has showcased great up-and- coming players throughout its history from Kei Nishikori to Grigor Dimitrov to Jack Sock to David Goffin. The trend is sure to continue this year with a large group of #NextGen players jockeying for position in the ATP World Tour’s Race to Milan. This is the eighth in a series featuring #NextGen players who could be on hand for the seventh-annual WSO Aug. 19-26.