*Flushing, NY – Former juniors star and American tennis hopeful Donald Young has the game to compete with some of the top-ranked players, but he’s been lacking in heart since his glory days as a junior. But in his first round match on court 17 he pulled a “Serena” and came back from two sets and three games down to upset 10-seed Giles Simon, 2-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. Lifted by home-crowd support that made the match feel like it were a Davis Cup decider, Young ripped victory from the jaws of defeat by tossing caution to the wind and just “swinging freer:”
“Down two sets to love and 3-0 actually, that’s when I decided to swing a little freer, start to, you know, push the envelope a little bit and start to come in more, just assert myself to the match,” he said.
It was a win that can give him the confidence he’s been lacking and set him up to go deep in the tournament. His next opponent is 57th ranked Slovak, Aljaz Bedene, who’s only appeared in one U.S. Open and lost in the first round.
Two other Americans on the schedule Tuesday wrapping up first round play, Sachia Vickery and wildcard Francis Tiafoe, didn’t meet with the same fate as Young. Vickery had her hands full against American Shelby Rogers and never really got into the match. She lost decisively, 6-2, 6-2. Tiafoe, Jay-Z’s signee, fought a respectable fight, but succumbed to Serbian Viktor Troicki in three straights after surrendering breaks he earned in the first two. They both stay alive in the tournament by joining competing together in mixed doubles.
In Second round action, Madison Keys kicked off the day session at Ashe stadium up against Tereza Smitkova of Czechoslovakia and basically served and hit her off the court. The chastised Czech managed one game in the first set and two in the second, but at 2-5 on serve, the Czech flag turned surrender white. She simply couldn’t deal with Keys’ raw power and went down 1-6, 2-6. In Serena’s quarter, Keys will move on to face the tricky Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland before the potential all-Amerrican match up. Keys has not beaten Radwanska in four tries, but hopes to change that narrative at the Open.
The next second round match of note from Wednesday’s action was the “first” match (see day 1) for Serena Williams. It was the last day session contest Wednesday on Ashe and she was up against Kiki Bertens from the Netherlands. Looking at the two as they approached the net for the toss, if Bertens couldn’t match Serena in skills, she had one up on her in stature … 6’1 with legs like tree trunks.
The match started with routine holds, but the Nederlander grabbed the third of three breakpoints she earned in the third game, bolting out to an early lead. After that hiccup and a double fault, it was looking like it was gonna be one of those tough days at the office for the defending champion.
With Bertens up 4-2, a little urgency began to set in for Serena and she played a succession of fiery points to grab another game for 3-4. She let her opponent make her way to serve for the set at 5-4, but as history would have it, Serena put the pressure on her and reclaimed the break for 5-5.
“Pressure is a privilege,” she always says, but it’s also obviously a *bleep* when you’re trying to win a high stakes tennis match.
After a marathon 5 all game – with a few shocking double faults, Serena finally took her first lead in the match, 6-5, but her steely opponent recovered and held to force the tiebreaker. Serena dropped the first three of her service points, giving Bertens a 4-0 lead, but it’s never quite over when Serena is down. The world no. 1 fought back and went on to narrowly take the set, 7-6(5) with a net grazer and a guttural, “c’mon!”
At the start of set two the relieved 33-year-old had her chances to get an early lead, but a couple of unforced errors spoiled her plans. She didn’t squander her second chance to do so, however. She buckled down and got her first break of the match to go up 2-1 on Berten’s next service game … then gave it right back, 2 all … then snatched it back … and held to love, 4-2.
The intensity settled a bit for both players allowing them easy holds for 5-3, but at that point, KiKi realized who she was playing and crumbled, surrendering at 7-6(5), 6-3.
Serena lives to fight another round.
“I just focused and thought one point at a time, then next thing I know it was 4 all,” she said about coming back from being down early.
She made her way to the practice court straightaway from the uncomfortable win, saying, “Patrick saw some things I needed to work on as well as the serve.”
With a high concentration of Americans in the top half of the draw, There was a lot of US cannibilization over the first few days. The latest compatriot eliminated – which occured while Serena was battling Bertens – was the Sloane-slayer, Coco Vandeweghe. American Bethany Mattek-Sands took out big serving countrywoman quite decisively at 6-1, 6-2 – during which she epically destroyed a racquet with 6 smashes and an encore.
With one sister over the hump – and speaking of cannibalization – Venus Williams kicked off the night session on Ashe against fellow American Irina Falconi. As the eldest woman in the draw, Venus is still a dangerous competitor and she demonstrated why early on against her compatriot. She allowed the match to go even till 3 all, then utilized her aggressive returns, powerful groundstrokes and deft net play to take the next 3 games – and the set, 6-4.
She carried that momentum into the next set and immediately secured the break … but lost it at 2-1. Falconi was able to hang on for a another game, but was broken again by the 23 seed for 3-4. Venus narrowly escaped being broken back and set herself up to head toward the locker room by winning one of the next two games … but she failed to win either. 5 all.
She is a Williams, though, so … she got the break right back and set herself up to serve for it yet again. But she isn’t Serena a Williams, so … she gave it right back, went to a tiebreaker … and lost the set. It was looking ominous for the veteran, because her three-set record hadn’t been that great on the back end of her career and specifically at the U.S. Open.
But, annoyed and determined, she dug deep and found a way. The break and break back seesaw continued through set three, but the better opponent, Venus Williams – despite the intermittent lack of belief and depleted energy, finally secured the win at 6-3, 6-7, 6-2, taking one step closer to meeting Serena in the draw. She’ll next face Belinda Bencic, who she holds a winning record over but is on a streak that includes being one of only two women who have beaten her sister Serena this year.
Check here for complete day 3 results.