By Nicole Russin
The next time you happen upon Nikko Japanese Steakhouse, don’t be surprised when you see an excited young guy enjoying himself, just returning from a tennis match.
“I go there every trip when I come back to celebrate. I had my birthday there. It’s a really nice place. I order the Nikko Special. It has a fillet, lobster and shrimp with double fried rice,” Donald Young said.
It hasn’t all been a fun ride and Japanese steakhouse celebrations for the 22 year old.
Young began playing tennis as a toddler and more seriously at 14, when he had to decide between baseball and the former as a career choice, though he encountered ups and downs on the ATP roller coaster. “I’ve gone from Top 100 to 40th in the world. It happens when you play on the tour one year and don’t win any matches,” he said, recollecting memories of his career so far.
“It’s new territory. I am getting into a bunch of tournaments I was never in before. Hopefully, the Olympics later this year. The whole month of August, that’s all you see on TV.”
If he retains his current ranking, Young will be in the top four American seeded players, qualifying for the United States’ Olympic team process.
On court, Young has the makings of a true Top 10 tennis player — he, like Roger Federer and others, has begun thinking about every aspect of his game, from his physical reflexes to mental characteristics.
“It was a tough loss for me [at the Australian Open],” Young said. “I thought I was going to win the match because I had beaten Lukas Lacko previously at the US Open last year. It’s probably more mental than anything. I try to figure it out in my head. Strength? I really like my forehand and weakness, I work it out, making everything better, probably mental or just getting my emotions better.”
Off court, Young, who lives just 30 miles south of Atlanta in Peachtree City, enjoys going into the city with his friends.
In his everyday life, Young, whose favorite recent movie is Limitless, dresses in his own blend of high and low fashion.
“I really like Armani stuff,” he says. “I like a lot of it. I just got some Armani shoes. I like jackets, leather jackets quite a bit. I like just designer stuff. I like the normal stuff also. I like a mixture of things.”
When he returns from a night out though, he wants a tranquil atmosphere.
“The weather for me for Chicago was better,” Young, who is originally from Hyde Park in Chicago’s Southside, said. “For tennis, I can practice 10 to 11 months outside of just three in Georgia. There’s just so much land and it’s open. The people are kind of laid back and relaxed. It’s great. It’s just easier. The people I’ve met are real. In Chicago, I couldn’t get the living-in-the-country feel I can get here.”
Young describes the tennis tour lifestyle as “pretty boring. It’s the hotels to the site to the hotel, the hotel to eat and back to the airport until the next stop. I don’t get to do much sightseeing in these places.” But, he added, “I’m enjoying it right now…right now, I’m focusing on my tennis.” Marriage, or settling down in general, he feels, “is way down the road.”
He donates to the United Way and said running a business and personal charity lie in his future versus the spotlight.
“Hopefully, my tennis gets to a point where I can make a cameo appearance in a movie. That’d be great. But to be a full blown actor, I am not really good at faking. In 15, 20 years, I’d like to have my own business in whatever it is.”
For the time being, “I like a house with a lot of grass. Right now, I enjoy the look of the house for sure. I’m still figuring stuff out. The extent of me doing things like bedding, the way it looks and the color as far as the house and making it special? I don’t do a lot of planting. I’ve maybe planted two flowers or so in my life.”
As an alternative to gardening, Young spends time with his two cats, a little girl named Zoe and a boy called Spike. “I enjoy hanging out with them quite a bit,” he said, along with his parents. “I have a close relationship with my immediate family. I don’t have any brothers and sisters.”
What’s on his secret wish list? A car collection, of course.
“I really like cars a lot. I enjoy looking at them. I have a Corvette. I really like it; it’s fast. I would love to collect cars or race them. I would really like to try that one day. I spend most of the time in the car.”
He grew up admiring Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, but Young’s words of wisdom work for everyone.
“If you have a coach or someone advising you, you should really listen,” Young said. “You can never know everything. You can always get better. When someone is advising you from the outside, they can actually see more than you, so never close your mind.”
As he continues winning and rising in the ATP rankings, he also has many more Nikko specials in the coming years.
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