Friday, September 30, 2011

Former Sacramento champ Young will crack top 50

   It was supposed to have happened a long time ago. Then it seemed it would never happen.
   Donald Young, a supremely gifted but undersized and temperamental left-hander with strong ties to Northern California, is projected to crack the top 50 in the world for the first time after reaching the semifinals of the PTT Thailand Open in Bangkok.
   The unseeded American routed Japanese qualifier Go Soeda, who won the 2009 Tiburon Challenger, 6-1, 6-2 Thursday night in the $587,000 tournament.
   “It wasn’t as easy as the score suggests,” Young said on the ATP World Tour's Web site. “I had to play well and figure out his game a little bit. I’m happy to move on to the semis, definitely. I hope to go further. I like playing here, and this year I’m coming with more confidence than I’ve had previously.”
   Young will face second-seeded Gael Monfils, ranked ninth in the world, for a berth in the final. Monfils is listed at 6-foot-4 and 177 pounds, Young at 6-0 and 160. In their only previous meeting, Monfils breezed 6-1, 6-1 in the first round at Cincinnati in 2008.
   Northern California has figured prominently in Young's career. He made his ATP World Tour debut in San Jose at 15 in 2005 and won Challenger singles titles in Aptos in 2007 and Sacramento in 2008.
   Young turned professional at 14. At 15, he won the Australian Open junior title to become youngest-ever and first African-American boy to be ranked No. 1 in the world.
   Even then, he accepted wild cards into ATP tournaments for the money, got hammered and lost confidence. He then essentially started his career over, gradually working his way up from Futures to Challengers and back to the ATP World Tour.
  There was one other problem. Having been told all his life how talented he is, Young thought he didn't have to work hard. He finally addressed that issue this year, and it has paid off handsomely.
  Still only 22, Young is ranked a career-high No. 55 after reaching his first ATP semifinal (in Washington) and the fourth round of the U.S. Open for his best Grand Slam result.
  The question is how much higher Young can go. One thing is certain. Confidence, especially when combined with rare talent, can do a lot for a player.
   Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur -- Seventh-seeded Dmitry Tursunov, a Moscow native living in Folsom, lost to second-seeded Viktor Troicki of Serbia 6-4, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the $850,000 Malaysian Open. Tursunov is 0-4 lifetime against Troicki.
   Americans Scott Lipsky and Rajeev Ram, seeded fourth, defeated Australians Matthew Ebden and Bernard Tomic 6-2, 6-3 in the doubles quarterfinals.
   Lipsky, a former Stanford All-American, and Ram, a past singles and doubles runner-up in the Sacramento Challenger, will meet second-seeded Eric Butorac, a former Sacramento Capital from Rochester, Minn., and Jean-Julien Rojer of Netherlands Antilles in the semifinals.
   WTA tour in Tokyo -- Third-seeded Vania King, a Capital living in Boynton Beach, Fla., and Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan lost to second-seeded Gisela Dulko of Argentina and Flavia Pennetta of Italy 4-6, 6-3, 10-8 tiebreak in the doubles semifinals of the $2.05 million Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.
   King and Shvedova, last year's Wimbledon and U.S. Open champions, led 6-4, 3-1 against the reigning Australian Open titlists.
   "We were down pretty much the whole match," Dulko said on the WTA tour's Web site. "They were very tough opponents. At the end we were a little bit nervous, but we closed it out, and we are very happy."
   It was the second consecutive tournament in which King and Shvedova blew a late lead. In a 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) loss to Americans Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond in the U.S. Open final, Shvedova served for match at 5-4 in the second set and had the match on her racket serving at 5-4 in the second-set tiebreaker.
   Unseeded Raquel Kops-Jones, a former Cal All-American from Fresno, and Abigail Spears of San Diego fell to fourth-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and Maria Kirilenko of Russia 6-0, 6-1 in the Pan Pacific quarterfinals.
   Women's Challenger in Las Vegas -- Wild card Maria Sanchez of Modesto dismissed Krista Hardebeck  of Santa Ana 6-3, 6-2 in the second round of the $50,000 Lexus of Las Vegas Open.
   Sanchez and Yasmin Schnack of Elk Grove advanced to the doubles semifinals with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Laura Siegemund of Germany in a matchup of unseeded teams.
   Men's Futures in Laguna Niguel -- Unseeded Kiryl Harbatsiuk, who graduated from Sacramento State in May, wore down Connor Farren, a wild card from Hillsborough who will turn 17 Monday, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-2 in the second round of the $10,000 USTA Futures of Laguna Niguel.

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