As a player who had the weight of his country's expectations on his shoulders as a junior, Andy Murray can appreciate what life has been like for Donald Young, his fourth-round opponent here today at the US Open. What the 24-year-old Scot cannot understand is the way the 22-year-old American's career was handled in his early years.
Six years ago the brightest of futures was predicted for Young after the left-hander became the youngest ever year-ending world junior No 1. Having been thrust into senior competition at 15, he was playing on the main tour at 16 thanks to a series of wild cards. However, for all his talent Young was no match for grown men. He lost his first 11 matches on the main tour, winning only one set – ironically enough, against Novak Djokovic in the 2006 US Open.
"It was tough because I wanted to win," Young said after his straight-sets victory over Juan Ignacio Chela here on Sunday put him into the last 16 of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time. "I was used to winning. When you're used to winning and you start losing, it doesn't feel good.
"Then I was looking at myself at 15 playing grown men, aged 25 to 30. If I look back at myself, even at 22 I would hate to lose to someone 15, so I would try a lot harder anyway – and I really can't see myself losing to someone 15. So it was a learning experience. I think those things I did helped me now. It's better late than never."
Murray, who earned his meeting with the world No 84 with an emphatic 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Feliciano Lopez on Sunday night, said: "If you think it's good for someone to be playing senior events when they're 15 or 16 years old you're wrong. When he was that age the game had already started to become really physical. You need to make it a gradual progression. If you rush someone too early they're not going to be physically ready. That's why it's better to wait. If you're taking wild cards left, right and centre rather than qualifying for the tournaments by right that's just the wrong way to go about it."
Murray, who played only one main tour event before his own 18th birthday, added: "As a player you need to be able to say: 'I need to try something different here or go back to winning Futures and Challengers.' Take the odd wild card and get the experience of playing in the big events, but not 20 in one year and winning one match."
Young, who was given his 14th US Open wild card (including singles and doubles) to play in the current tournament, hit with John McEnroe at 10, impressed Brad Gilbert at 12 and told an interviewer at 14 that Pete Sampras was his idol and he wanted to "maybe surpass what he did or come close".
Perhaps it is no surprise there have been occasions when Young, frustrated at his failure to live up to all the hype, has stepped out of line. Earlier this year he wrote an expletive-filled message on Twitter lambasting his national federation after losing a play-off for a wild card at the French Open.
Nevertheless, there have been signs of maturity both on and off the court. Young, who admits that he did not work hard enough in the past, trained in the off-season with Sampras, Mardy Fish and Sam Querrey, while his results have improved since the biggest win of his career in March at Indian Wells against Murray, who was in the middle of his post-Australian Open slump and went on to lose to Alex Bogomolov Jnr in Miami. A fine shot-maker, Young can be erratic but has deceptive power, volleys well and has a good all-round game.
Murray, who is due on court at 4pm BST but could be delayed by rain, said he wanted revenge for the Indian Wells defeat. "I was in a pretty bad place around that time," he said. "It was a tough, tough part of the year for me. It's not so much revenge against Donald, it's more for the situation I was in there and making sure that I can move on from that. Winning against Bogomolov in Cincinnati was very important for me. The match against Young won't be any different."
The Scot's win over Lopez could hardly have been more emphatic. Murray won the first 14 points, took the first set in 26 minutes and had the victory wrapped up in under two hours. He did not drop his own serve – Lopez forced only two break points – and broke the big-serving world No 26 five times.
It was Murray's best performance of the tournament after his opening victory over Somdev Devvarman and a patchy five-set win over Robin Haase. "I played some good tennis towards the end of the first match, but the second match was poor. I didn't think it was great, but I found a way to get through. Tonight was good, but so much can change in a couple of days. You just need to make sure you stay focused on the next match. It's a big match for me because of what happened earlier in the year, but I think I'll be feeling good energy-wise going into that one, hopefully for a long second week."
Busy Autumn for Scot
Andy Murray is planning a busy autumn schedule after agreeing to play in Britain's Davis Cup tie in Glasgow against Hungary starting in 10 days' time, followed by three tournaments in Asia. He has entered both the Thailand Open and Japan Open in the build-up to next month's Shanghai Masters. "Sometimes if you take too long off that can be counter-productive," Murray said. "When I decided that I was going to play in the Davis Cup I just wanted keep going between then and the end of the year."