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Donald Young’s long-shot run at Legg Mason title ends in semifinals against Radek Stepanek

- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 6, 2011

Late Wednesday night after he advanced past fourth-seeded Jurgen Melzer to move into the round of 16, Donald Young walked around the grounds at Rock Creek Park unnoticed. By the time his semifinal match Saturday ended, it was assured that Young wouldn't get his name added to the promenade at William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center as Legg Mason Tennis Classic champion.

Young lost to Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals, ending his long-shot run through the tournament.

"He just took me out of my game, pretty much," Young said. "I was a little off today, but that was probably credited a lot to him."

It seemed like even without winning, Young became something of a fan favorite this week. He gained some notoriety in April for a profanity-laced rant on Twitter aimed at the U.S. Tennis Association, but that appears to be behind him now. Despite what he called "mixed emotions" about him, the 22-year-old American had just about the whole crowd behind him Saturday.

However, he disagrees with the notion that he has become more well-known because of this tournament.

"They might just think I'm playing a little better," he said.

Young began his life in the sport at 3 when his tennis-playing parents didn't have a babysitter and put his stroller on the side of the court. He was once considered the next can't-miss U.S. star, but this was the first time he reached the semifinals of an ATP Tour event.

Going up against the 32-year-old Stepanek, Young admitted being "flustered" and showed that frustration throughout the match. Fans yelled at him with encouragement and frustration, as well — one even urged Young to "wake up." That never happened, though, erasing any chance of an All-American final.

But Young is taking a hefty load of positives from this week — namely being able to string together wins and solid play.

"I made it to the semis, I won four matches, beat some high-quality players at this tournament," he said.

He also improved his world ranking from No. 128 to No. 89.

The plan now is to play in Cincinnati and Winston-Salem before the U.S. Open, which he'll have to qualify for. Young insists this week hasn't changed his expectations — something that may be evidence of a growing maturity.

"I'm starting to be able to produce the way I want to play on a more consistent basis," Young said. "Has it changed my goals for the year? No, it hasn't, it's just going towards the goal. It's just helped me get there, even more so."

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