On a day filled with American men dominating in their respective matches, rising teenager Ryan Harrison defeated Mischa Zverev in 3 lop-sided sets, 6-4, 1-6, 6-1. In his post-match press conference, he pinpointed specific times in the match where momentum changed and even talked about the role Andy Roddick has played in the development of his mental game.
Harrison has had a breakthrough summer plowing to a career-high #82 in the world after becoming pro as a 15-year-old and signing with the prestigious IMG management group. With his semifinal runs in Los Angeles and Atlanta recently, his confidence is soaring. And he expected nothing less, recalling that he always “wanted to be a pro so badly. I wanted that to be my profession. Everyone talked to me about the college experience, the college life, and my answer was: ‘Why do I need that when I want to be a professional tennis player?’ It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.” He touches on discussing the decision with his parents but came to a conclusion very quickly and “it was a no-brainer. I said ‘I want this. I’m going to make it happen.’ That’s just the way I am. If I want something, I’m either going to get it or die trying.”
And get it he did on Tuesday evening, but not without a set-long drop in play. “At the beginning of the match I thought I was actually doing good. I started off well, I was serving well. It was frustrating at the beginning as I was returning really good … I felt it was opportunity after opportunity to get on top, and he was just hanging around. I never really got that break that I was looking for. Then, finally I snuck out a break at 5-4 in the in the first set. I was relieved to get it. At the same time you’re happy to break, but you’re disappointed that you couldn’t close it out sooner. At the beginning of the second set, he started swinging out. Once he broke, he just loosened up… He started swinging out on a couple of balls and he connected. It just got away from me really quickly. I just started getting physically drained because of a lot of traveling, just getting used to the new time zones. But I got a second wind. At the beginning of the third set, I picked my energy level up and was able to get back on top.”
Zverev attacked the ball, rushing to the net any opportunity that he got, and that proved to be the difference in the second set. However, as Zverev’s mis-hits increased, his play decreased, and with it Harrison got the momentum back. When reflecting on how his year has been so far, he responded “I’ve been having some of the most exciting moments of my career, and it’s exciting to be playing.”
His goals going into the U.S. Open is to become a top 50 player and he thinks that it’s definitely possible. “ I’m 25 to 30 spots away right now … with a deep run here, good showing in Cincinnati, and in Winston-Salem , they could all do that for me. At the US Open I know I can play well; I played well last year but lost a heartbreaker in the second round. I don’t want to say any round goal I want to get to. I honestly believe that no matter who I draw, at the end of the day, I have a shot to win. It’s about putting it together and making consecutive match wins is going to be the trick.”
And speaking of tricks, Harrison admitted to be a very coordinated tennis-loving kid, having started playing tennis at the age of 2. “I don’t really have any memory not involving tennis. I had good coordination from a young age, I was able to hit the ball over the net by the time I was 3; we have it on video… Tennis was just something I was passionate about and I was really motivated to be good at it.”
He speaks respectfully of Andy Roddick and the role he has played in the young Harrison’s life during his climb up the ranks. “I’ve gotten a lot of advice from Roddick, especially, because we’re similarly wired and the fact that we’re both high-strung and very intense. So he’s talked to me about how he learned to channel his energy and it’s been very helpful to me to the start of my career.” Roddick is surely an interesting character to be receiving mental advice from, but perhaps this gives Harrison a head-start to develop his character in a positive light to fans – something that has taken Roddick years to achieve.
Harrison even went so far as to add that in two to three years he sees himself as a “grand slam champion. Multiple grand slam champion.” Watch out, Federer, there’s a new king on the rise.
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