American tennis fans have been waiting on pins and needles for the next big American male player. They might have to be patient for a little bit longer, but one player that is making a name for himself is 18-year-old Jared Donaldson.
The Rhode Island native is currently ranked at No. 174 in the world. He won the Maui Challenger in both singles and doubles earlier this year. He also just made it to the quarterfinals of the Sarasota Challenger, including taking out former World #8 Radek Stepanek in the first round. His success on Florida clay should come as no surprise though, as his favorite surface is clay; Donaldson trained for two years in Argentina.
In fact, many believe that the two years in Argentina was the turning point for him as he came back a much different and stronger player. Donaldson and his coach Taylor Dent have been working on having a good all-around game. His movement is very fluid and he has a solid forehand. His backhand has been compared of that to Andy Murray. His net game is extremely well crafted, especially for someone his age.
The biggest issue in Donaldson’s game is his serve. He is listed at 6’2” on the ATP website but has definitely grown, so he should be able to provide ample power. However, his first serve percentage is a measly 47 percent on the season. The good news is that he wins 73 percent of his first serve points. If Donaldson can get his first serve in more it would raise his level of confidence in the rest of his game. His first serve should be a weapon that he can get free points off of or set up an easy put away.
Donaldson also needs to build up his physicality. The ATP website has him listed as 160 pounds, If he wants to compete in the physical modern game, he is going to need to bulk up a good 20 pounds. This will be easier for him to do once he has stopped growing but is a vital step in a sport that has gotten more and more physical over the last few years.
The young American could also learn to be more patient from the baseline, being more selective with his shot making. In his quarterfinal loss to Federico Delbonis in Sarasota, Donaldson just hit too many errors from the baseline.
The only other serious area for Donaldson to work on is his mental game, which most players his age struggle with, especially early on in their professional careers. The mental maturity will come with time, but American tennis fans will have to be understanding. If American tennis fans aren’t, he could end up struggling like Donald Young did early on.
Some will question if Donaldson should have gone the college route like fellow Americans John Isner and Steve Johnson. However, the college route is not for everyone. Regardless, Donaldson is nowhere close to reaching his full potential, but he definitely has flare. We won’t know what he is truly capable of doing for at least a few more years, but if people have watched him play he is definitely one worth watching.
Jared Donaldson will be in action next at the Savannah Challenger this week before heading to the Tallahassee Challenger next week. The American player with the most points during the USTA Pro Circuit Har-Tru season (i.e. Sarasota, Savannah, and Tallahassee) gets a wild card in to the main draw of the French Open. Donaldson is currently tied for second with Francis Tiafoe–another young American to watch–with 18 points, trailing Chase Buchanan’s 35. However, Buchanan will not be playing in Savannah so this is a great chance to make up ground.