PARIS -- Nine years ago, Donald Young finished as the world's No. 1-ranked junior player and promptly turned professional. The dazzling shot-maker was five months past his 16th birthday and the youngest ever to achieve that feat.
In 2007, Young won the boys' singles title at Wimbledon. Then the tennis world waited for the native Chicagoan to assert himself in the professional game. And waited. In a decade, Young has finished inside the ATP World Tour's top 100 exactly once.
He has been to one final, Bangkok in 2011, and lost to Andy Murray. The consensus around tennis was that he didn't work nearly hard enough.
The good news? He's still only 24 years old and seems committed to doing what it takes to get better. The message: It's never too late.
Before the fortnight began, Young had never won a match on red clay. After his 6-3, 7-6 (1), 6-3 upset of No. 26 seed Feliciano Lopez on Thursday, The Donald has won two in a row on the burnt sienna surface. On Saturday, he'll play Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, the man who took down No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka, for a chance to reach the second week.
"At one time I was a lot better than a lot of my peers and you can rest on your laurels a little bit," Young said afterward. "I maybe didn't work as hard as I could have and gotten better and trained harder. Definitely seeing the way the outcome was, I would have taken a few fewer wild cards to tour events."
Young is one of five Americans through to the third round. He ended an 0-for-5 streak against top-30 players, but he's won only two of 17 matches against that caliber of opponent. He's currently ranked No. 79 and seems to be earnest about getting back toward his career-high ranking of No. 39, achieved more than two years ago.
After beating Dudi Sela in the first round, Young's news conference was cancelled due to the late hour and a lack of interest. This time, plenty of reporters were eager to hear his thoughts.
"I mean, would I love to be further along by now?" Young asked himself rhetorically. "Yeah, for sure. But it didn't happen. Now I'm starting to play better. Not better, but more consistent than before. Definitely. I mean, whenever it's coming or it comes, I'm going to be there and ready and happy it happens. So I'm not going to be mad it didn't happen earlier, because that's in the past and I can only deal with what's in the future."
Crowd carries Mladenovic
Alison Riske is not yet a household name, but on Thursday she was trying to reach the third round in her fourth consecutive Grand Slam, something no other American woman was able to do here at Roland Garros. Not even Venus and Serena Williams.
Even though Riske's opponent, Kristina Mladenovic, was ranked 48 rungs lower, Mladenovic proved to be a formidable opponent. It was Mladenovic, a Frenchwoman, who stunned No. 2 seed Li Na in the first round, and most of the 15,000 roaring after points at Court Philippe Chatrier were roaring for her.
Riske, a 24-year-old native of Pittsburgh, made it close but lost 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-3. She said it was the biggest, loudest crowd she's played in front of.