Donaldson Makes Strides in 2017
Deb Weinreich, USTA New England Contributor | May 17, 2017
Patience Key for Rhode Island Pro Donaldson
If Jared Donaldson has learned anything as he enters his fourth season as a professional, it’s to be patient. The 20-year-old American makes a valiant effort every day never get too high or too low. His journey as a professional tennis player has only just begun, and he is hoping it will be a long one. Patience, he has learned, is the key.
Identifying areas that require improvement are equally as important to Donaldson - sometimes more important than the final match results. For this is a long journey and he is just getting started.
Donaldson remains even keel, although you couldn’t blame the Rhode Island native if he raised his excitement a bit upon review of his young pro career. Eight months ago he cracked the ATP top 100 after an outstanding performance at the 2016 US Open, which included a victory over (then No. ADVERTISEMENT 15) David Goffin. Donaldson rose has high as 73 at the start of 2017. He is now 78, an amazing leap from the 1,134 ranking next to his name just a few shorts years ago in 2013.
The 6’2”, 165 pound big serving right-hander insists the ranking and tournament wins are not the immediate focus. Improvement is, and there have been some major changes recently on Donaldson’s journey.
Donaldson and his former coach Taylor Dent, a four-time ATP champion and former world number 21, amicably parted ways. Dent’s decision to move to Texas to open a tennis training facility forced Donaldson to move in another direction.
“Taylor has ambition to start his own academy and club. That is awesome. I am his biggest fan. He and his dad (Phil) are great people and unbelievable coaches. They wanted to go to Texas and I am most comfortable in California.”
Enter former top Americans Jan-Michael Gambill and Mardy Fish, Donaldson’s new coaching team.
“I had watched him practicing and was very impressed with his work ethic,” said Gambill, the former ATP World No. 14. “What impresses me about Jared the most is how coachable he is, his willingness to listen and actually implement what I say. Very few players listen like he does.”
Right away, Gambill and Fish worked to improve Donaldson’s leg strength, his speed and made some changes to his serve.
They also worked on his emotions. While Donaldson has matured on the court and learned how to control his emotions over the past few years, he has now learned to incorporate his emotions into a match.
“I tried never to get too high or too low, but recently I was actually too low on the court,” said Donaldson. “I needed to balance my emotions better and use positive emotion and be more aggressive in my matches. It’s a learning curve.”
“I continue to work on my form and just my overall game,” Donaldson added. “I am gaining more confidence coming to net, learning not to give up easy balls and to be more aggressive on my defensive shots.”
His hard work has been on display as the 2017 season has picked up.
The improvement was notably evident in April when he reached the fourth round of the Miami Open before losing to top ranked American, No. 14Jack Sock.
Most recently, Donaldson had a solid outing in his first ATP clay tournament, the 2017 Mutua Madrid Open, claiming his first victory, in straight sets (7-5, 6-3) against Adrian Mannarino.
“I’m pretty happy about that. I really think it’s just a show of how much I progressed in my game the past couple of years,” said Donaldson, who as a teen trained on the red clay in Argentina. “I feel I have the ability to both play real solid on offense, which I kind of have always had the ability to do, but also to play longer rallies and be a little more patient during points. It’s just one match, but I think I gained a lot of confidence from it.”
His run in Madrid ended 24 hours later. Donaldson bowed out of the tourney, losing in straight sets to World No. 7 Dominic Thiem, who had just come off an outstanding performance two weeks earlier in the 2017 Barcelona Open where he reached the finals before losing to Rafael Nadal.
Gambill is pleased with Donaldson’s steady progress both in training and in matches.
“If Jared continues to refine all areas of his game and continues to believe in himself he will keep moving forward. The goal is simple: to make the best decisions on the court, to work on strategies in practice and implement them in matches,” said Gambill. “Continuing doing that every day and the wins and (high) ranking will come.”
Donaldson will head to a tournament in Rome and focus his efforts in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on. He has a long summer ahead, but admits it's hard not to look ahead at potential berth in the 2017 Next Generation ATP Finals in Milan in the fall.
“There are a lot of great young players who are playing right now. Whoever gets in, it’s going to be really special,” said Donaldson.
“It (Next GEN Finals) is something obviously on my mind, but I do not dwell on it because if I do it will be impossible for me to play with the pressure. I just try to go out there and give every match 100 percent. If I make it, great, if I don’t, well, I’m not good enough to be there and I just have to keep working on my game. I have a long way to go.”
Patience, Donaldson knows, is the key.