There hardly is a guarantee, simply based on his unpredictable early surge and warm public embrace, that he can keep this up. But The New Donald -- The Humble Donald -- had the crowds gushing and the presumptive favorite humbled Tuesday.
Donald Young, once the best tennis player in his age group but for the past nine years hardly a candidate to be a U.S. Open front-runner, staged an impressive revival that delighted the fans on Court 17. Young came from two sets down and a 0-3 deficit in the third to defeat No. 11 seed Gilles Simon of France in their first-round match.
The final score was 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. And had they not been playing on American soil before a partisan crowd, "without those guys [in the stands]," Young said, "if I was in France or somewhere else, some random place around the world, I'm pretty sure I would have lost that match."
He is now 26 years old, more than a decade since he was the world's top-ranked 15-year-old who seemed an inevitable future champion. Aside from a giddy -- if brief -- run in the 2011 Open, when he upset experienced veterans Stan Wawrinka and Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela to reach the fourth round, Young mostly has been to tennis stars what a real estate mogul is to politicians. Something of an outsider.
He entered the Open ranked 68th. Not terrible. But he never has won a title of any sort in his 12 years on the pro tour, with a 74-128 career record, and before Tuesday, never had taken a set from the 30-year-old Simon in five meetings.
"That's definitely tough to erase," Young said. "I haven't mastered erasing it. It was definitely rough to have that in the back of my head, that he's beaten me five times. So I was proud of myself to fight back."
Just when Young was decidedly in the vicinity of the blues, Simon helped him by committing five double faults in the third set, three of them consecutively, which "definitely" invigorated Young. "I mean, he was giving it to me," Young said. "I decided to swing a little freer, start to push the envelope a little bit and start to come in more, just to assert myself.
"I was going to go down swinging."
That strategy not only got him through to the second round, but allowed Young to take up much of the oxygen in the men's field Tuesday, especially among Americans. (Next up for him is 26-year-old Brit Aljaz Bedene, ranked 57th, who advanced when Latvia's Ernests Gulbis retired in the third set, down 6-3, 4-6, 3-0.)
John Isner, the top-seeded American at No. 13, advanced without incident over 31-year-old Tunisian Mark Jaziri, ranked 81st, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4. Isner struck 24 aces and won 98 percent (41 of 42) of his first-serve points.
"Yeah, that's a nice little stat," said Isner, who never faced a break point in completely controlling the match.
No. 28 seed Jack Sock of Tampa won in straights sets over 35-year-old Victor Estrella Burgos, who last year created a buzz by winning two matches as the first Dominican player ever to compete in the Open.
As for campaigns involving non-Americans, No. 2 seed Roger Federer cruised against 34th-ranked Argentine Leonardo Mayer, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. And Federer's Swiss compatriot, Wawrinka, eliminated 58th-ranked Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas, 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (6).