Donaldson Finding form at 19
Deb Weinreich, USTA New England Contributor | September 13, 2016
PROVIDENCE, RI- Jared Donaldson’s secret is out. The 19-year-old who trained on the clay in Argentina as a young teen instead of taking the junior route throughout the United States, has remained virtually under the radar publicly. Until now.
After an outstanding performance at the 2016 US Open that resulted in the 6’2” big serving right-hander reaching the third round, Donaldson has cracked the top 100.
And even if he wanted to stay under the radar, the Rhode Island native’s fans wouldn’t let that happen.
His fans certainly wanted everyone to know at New York’s Billie Jean King Tennis Center who Jared Donaldson was. Family, childhood friends, his first hitting partner and a group of young players who train under Mario Llano—the same coach Donaldson first learned from—filled Court 17. Chants of “Let’s Go Jared” from the fans who refer to themselves as “J Block” were so forceful that those passing by Court 17 couldn’t help but hear the young American’s name. ADVERTISEMENT
“It was very, very special,” said Donaldson. “As a player you dream of playing those matches with people in the stands cheering for you. It’s an awesome feeling and humbling to have people that want you to win as much as you do.”
Donaldson had shown no signs of disappointment after learning he didn’t receive a Wildcard into the US Open Tennis Championships. Instead, he took to the New York courts and proved himself, over and over again.
After winning three straight qualifying matches, he headed to the first round of the Open, where he brought his fans to their feet by defeating No. 15 seed David Goffin in four sets with a 6-0 exclamation point in the final set. He went on to the second round where he beat Viktor Troicki in straight sets, before losing in the third round to the imposing 6’11” Ivo Karlovic, whose big serve proved too much for many throughout the Open. In fact, Karlovic fired 61 aces in his first-round match, setting a US Open record.
Still, Donaldson put the blame for the loss on faults in his own game.
“The key really wasn’t his serve,” said Donaldson, who will turn 20 next month. “The key was to take care of my own serve. He broke me once in each set. I can’t have that happen.”
Donaldson’s US Open run was over. For now.
Overall, he was extremely pleased with his performance throughout the Open.
“It was a great experience. I definitely grew as a player,” said Donaldson. “I am now putting things we work on into match play and improving.”
Courtney Donaldson, Jared’s father, was thrilled to witness his son reap the benefits of his hard work.
“The moments of enjoyment are intense, but few, and the hours and hours of effort are huge,” said Courtney Donaldson. “It makes it more enjoyable to put in the hours when you experience the benefit of your effort, especially in the development phase these moments can be too far in-between. Success is like a shot of adrenaline to help him continue to work hard to achieve his ultimate goals.”
“I learned a lot over the past year and my fitness has improved a lot,” Jared said. “By playing top 50 (players) earlier this summer, I learned how to hang in there if I am down and persevere.”
One of those top 50 players Donaldson learned from this year was Stan Warwinka. Donaldson took the first set from Wawrinka in August in Cincinnati, (6-2), before falling 6-3, 6-4 to the 2016 US Open champion.
Donaldson’s strong summer has come to an end, but the hard work continues. He has cracked the top 100, but the journey is long and Donaldson has a long way to go. His hard work, eagerness to learn and improve continues to result in success. –His current No. 97 world ranking is an amazing leap from the No. 1,134 next to his name just three shorts years ago in 2013.
Donaldson's coach, Taylor Dent, a four-time ATP champion and former world number No. 21, insists the ranking and tournament wins are not the immediate focus. Improvement is.
“Where Jared is, is amazing, but we aren’t concerned with rankings right now. Tennis is cutthroat. It matures you quickly. We try not to get too high or too low,” Dent said.
“We could have Jared play in Challengers, get points and improve his ranking but that is not important right now,” Dent added. “He’s too young to be chasing rankings. We’re not chasing rankings. We are more concerned with playing ATP players and improving his game. The goal is to keep progressing and keep improving...then the rankings will come.”
Instead, Donaldson, who headed right back to California after he was eliminated from the Open, leaves almost immediately for Asia, where he will compete in several tournaments comprised of top ATP players.
“You become who you surround yourself with,” said Dent.
“I want to compete against the best players and Asia is where the best players are competing,” said Donaldson. “I want to be a world-class player. I am not there yet, but I will work on it.”
The goal Donaldson and Dent have set is simple.
“I just want to keep improving and laying the best competition out there,” said Donaldson. “The Open was a great first step on this long journey.”