The percentages could not have been more tilted against American Donald Young Tuesday afternoon at the US Open.
Young, the 68th-ranked player in the world, was down two sets to zero, a deficit he had never overcome in his 12 years as a professional tennis player. He was facing a player – No. 11 seed Gilles Simon of France – whom he had never beaten and never had even take a set off during their five prior matches.
But Young, the tour’s most veteran 26-year-old, focused on only one thing during the match’s final three sets: changing tactics.
“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,” Young said in his post-match press conference. “I was going to go down swinging.”
During the first two sets, Young had been content rallying from the backcourt with Simon, a veteran retriever. But Simon, 30, often displayed more patience during rallies than Young, who ended the second set by slamming his racquet on the court.
In the final three sets, Young ran around his backhand more often and more carefully chose when to approach the net and attack Simon.
Young's new style of play and patience paid off. In the third, fourth and fifth sets, Young won a higher percentage of his net points than he did in the first and second sets.
The fans who packed Court 17 approved of the changes as well. After any rally Young clinched, the Young faithful stood and shouted, “Let’s go, Donald!”
Young, playing in his 11th US Open, wisely encouraged the crowd’s excitement, too, pumping his fists and shouting “Come on!”
At the end of the second set, the stadium had emptied to about half capacity. But after Young had won the third and fourth sets, 6-4, 6-4, Court 17 was nearly full to start the fifth.
Young fed off the crowd's enthusiasm.
“To look at those people and they keep giving you energy, you can't let them down. It was an awesome feeling,” Young said during his press conference.
While Young gained momentum and won more games, Simon changed nothing. He remained by the baseline as Young guided volleys and slammed overheads at the net.
Simon also had little recent success to draw from. He was 1-3 during the summer hard-court swing, including a loss to 33-year-old Mikhail Youzhny, who was ranked No. 107 at the time.
Simon also didn’t have the crowd, which, more than anything, helped Young secure the most dramatic win of his career and advance into the second round at the US Open for the fourth time in 11 tries.
“I give all of the credit to them,” Young said of the crowd in his press conference. “Without those guys – if I was in France or somewhere else, some random place around the world, I'm pretty sure I would have lost the match.”