Jared Donaldson is reaching new heights in tennis
There were six touted youngsters in the Rogers Cup draw -- players 21 and under who were ranked in the top 200 -- at the start of the week. Only one remained after Wednesday’s action.
Donaldson, who is 19 years and nine months, is having the best week of his professional tennis life. He will play fourth-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada on Thursday in the third round in a featured Center Court match of an ATP Masters tournament.
On Wednesday, the qualifier defeated the often mercurial Fabio Fognini of Italy, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, in 2 hours 3 minutes on an outside court in hot windy conditions in front of a small crowd. The scene will be wildly different when he faces the Wimbledon finalist, Raonic, on the bigger stage.
“It’ll be fun. I think the crowd will be against me,” Donaldson said, adding and joking, “I think they’ve got a hometown favorite here in Milos. Whether the crowd is against me, with me, hate me, I’ve just got to focus on what I can control.
“Easier said than done. That’s why you go out and play sports. There’s no script out there.”
Donaldson is ranked 147 on the tour and has developed at a slower pace than he would have liked, saying he hit “rock bottom” after losing in the final round of French Open qualifying in June. But he qualified last week in Washington and won a round in the main draw before coming to Canada and getting through qualifying again.
“It’s kind of a long time coming,” he said. “It’s weird. I felt really good at the start of the year and then didn’t have a great start. Kind of got my teeth kicked in a little bit, week after week.
Donaldson was raised in Rhode Island but his residence is listed as Irvine by virtue of his association with his coaches, former tour players Phil and Taylor Dent. Taylor is with Donaldson in Toronto this week; he started working with the Dents more than two years ago, knowing they could help him improve in a certain area.
“I felt I needed to work on my serve,” Donaldson said. “My serve was not amazing. My dad was looking up coaches for players that had great serves and he came across the serve doctor, Phil Dent. “We went out there after I turned 17 and liked what he had to say. It’s been a really good partnership.”
He hasn’t forgotten his Rhode Island roots or his friends.
“Right now, my life is based in Orange County and California but I still go home,” Donaldson said. “You can take me out of Rhode Island, but I’m still a Rhode Islander. A lot of my friends would kill me if they said I was a California boy.”
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