For about a half-hour Monday night, the crowd at Hagan Arena for the Freedoms’ home opener could revisit hopes of American tennis fans’ past.
The U.S. struggles on the men’s side have been well-covered since Andy Roddick won the last men’s Grand Slam title at the 2003 U.S. Open. At one point in their careers, the two men in the final singles match Monday were anointed the best chance at ending that drought. In a one-set battle between them, Mardy Fish bested Donald Young, 5-4.
Fish, 35, retired after the U.S. Open in 2015, but he ranked in the world’s top 10 for the better part of a year starting in the spring of 2011. He first reached No. 7, his career high, in August of that year.
Many saw Young as the future of American men’s tennis even before that. The athletic lefty, now 27, turned pro at 15 and won a world juniors title.
Fish admitted that he could not outlast Young in a three-set match. But in a single set with a decisive best-of-nine tiebreaker, Fish put together enough to win.
“He might not play all the time, but for five games, all those guys can play well,” Young said.
Fish won a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics and reached three major quarterfinals, but he never advanced further. He withdrew from a fourth-round match against then-No. 1 Roger Federer at the 2012 Open. He didn’t play again for three years, later describing heart problems and anxiety attacks.
Fish never played Young in an ATP match during his career, but the two often trained together during offseasons and became familiar with each other.
“It was totally different careers and situations, but he’s definitely a great player, one of the players I looked up to as a young guy coming up,” Young said.
No. 50 in the world now, Young is the sixth-ranked American. He has not reached the heights many projected for him. His career-high ranking is 38th. But Fish, a more experienced player who has been in Young’s position before, sees potential.
“Look, Donald’s still got a lot of time,” Fish said. “Let’s get going, but he’s got a lot of time. He’s got a ton of game. I have a ton of respect for his game and how much talent he has. He’s always had the ability. A few breaks here or there, and a few tweaks here and there, and … I think he can go a lot further than he is.”
Last week at Wimbledon, Sam Querrey became the first American man in a Grand Slam semifinal since Roddick in 2009. Jack Sock is currently the top-ranked American man at No. 17, so the major slump will likely not end for a while. But various young men have shown the potential to end it over the years. Two of them were on the court Monday at St. Joseph’s.