- The Washington Times - Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday’s quarterfinals at the Legg Mason Classic epitomized more than just great tennis; it embodied the classic American spirit. Donald Young and John Isner embraced their national motto of gritty resilience to upend their favored opponents and lend each of Saturday’s semifinal matches an American flavor.

The unseeded Young was the first to bring the partisan crowd to its feet, dispatching seventh-seeded Marcos Baghdatis 6-3, 7-6 to earn his first-ever trip to an ATP World Tour semifinal.

Though the straight sets victory may suggest otherwise, Young’s fortitude in the second set gave the end result a dramatic, come-from-behind feel. After dropping the first three games, Young fought back to win the next four. Baghdatis regained momentum after sweeping the 11th game to go up 6-5, but Young refused to back down during a final stretch that went back and forth in breathtaking fashion.

The agile 22-year-old had his tired opponent running back and forth in the deuce, only to fluff a simple drop shot into the net to hand Baghdatis advantage. But Young climbed back yet again, hammering a forehand down the line to win his third consecutive point and tie the set 6-6.

Up 5-4 in the tie-break, Young watched as a desperate backhand attempt from Baghdatis fall short of the net and released a primal roar before tossing the ball into the second tier of the grandstands. The tournament’s biggest upset was in the books.

“I feel great today,” Young said. “I’ve reached my first semifinal and to come through beating the quality of players I have beaten this week, I feel great and very excited and hopefully I can keep moving forward.”

Playing in his first ATP World Tour quarterfinal since February 2008, No. 128 Young entered the match as a clear underdog against No. 26  Bagadatis, who has 175 more career wins. Young — whose 19-53 career record has hardly met the expectations cast upon him — acknowledged a mindset change as a reason for his success.

“When I go into a tournament, I want to win it,” Young said. “I’m not there just to make it a few rounds and see what happens. It definitely feels different to actually accomplish getting to the semifinals versus thinking about getting there, but the tournament’s not over for me, and now I have to focus on tomorrow.”

Young also benefitted from the pre-match fatigue of his opponent. Baghdatis played two games Thursday, defeating Thomas Bellucci 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 and Somdev Devvarman earlier in the day, 6-2, 0-6, 7-5. Young, on the other hand, played only two sets that day in a 6-3, 6-3 win against Michael Russell.

Isner moves on: No. 11 seed Isner battled through inconsistency to take the first set of his match against third-seeded Viktor Troicki, 7-6. A series of wild hits and flubbed drop shots cost him the second set 6-3 before he finally found his groove in the decisive third. From there, the 6-foot-9 Isner utilized his vicious serve and smooth forehand to breeze through a 6-1 win that had the crowd breathing a sigh of relief.

“My attitude got a little better,” Isner said. “Really from the early part of the first set I wasn’t really feeling that great out there. I felt like I was being a little too negative and I couldn’t get out of my own way. … When we got to that third set, I just kept telling myself to try to stay ahead. If I could do that I knew my opponent would feel a little pressure.”

Young meets No. 54 Radek Stepanek — a 6-4, 6-4 winner over Fernando Verdasco on Friday afternoon — in the 3:00 p.m. semifinal, while Isner will face top-seeded Gael Monfils in the evening.

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