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Ryan Harrison finding himself again

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Ryan Harrison may be a top 100 player again soon

He is just one of three players to have won a match before his sixteenth birthday on the ATP World Tour. High expectations have dogged Ryan Harrison ever since.

But tennis can be a fickle sport, and success as a young junior player with nothing to lose does not always turn into a regular feature in the top 100 of the ATP World Tour. Indeed many junior no.1 ranked players, a group to which Harrison does not even belong, have struggled to translate success at that level into the professional circuit. Just ask Tsung-Hua Yang and Filip Peliwo, both former Junior World no.1s ranked well outside the top 100, and have never entered that hallowed group. Indeed, neither have broken the top 150. Harrison’s win in 2008 over Pablo Cuevas in Houston, saw him join the exceptional company of Rafael Nadal and Richard Gasquet, and such early success means he has endured unfair comparisons to such world-class players ever since.

In the US Open of 2010 Harrison defeated former world No.3 Ivan Ljubicic in the US Open first round, serving to increase his exposure to high expectations, and career predictions from rash sources. Harrison, like Thiemo de Bakker, a former junior ranked No.1, actually transgressed the difficult path to the top 100, enjoying a ranking of 79 whilst still a teenager in 2011. Highlights of this year saw Harrison take a set from two-time French Open finalist Robin Soderling in the first round, and win his first match at Wimbledon as a lucky loser over Ivan Dodig. He then took David Ferrer the distance of five sets in the second round. Wins over Milos Raonic, Viktor Troicki, and Victor Hanescu convinced many that Harrison was now a fixture of the top 100 for many years to come.

2012 saw Harrison break the top 50 for a time, and add John Isner to his large list of scalps. Grand Slam draws were not kind, as he lost to Andy Murray, Gilles Simon, Novak Djokovic, and Juan Martin Del Potro, at the latest in the second round. Djokovic was the only one to beat him straight sets, as he fought well with Murray, Simon and Del Potro. Semi-finals in San Jose, Eastbourne, and Newport saw him maintain a strong level of consistency before slowing down towards the end of the year.

2013 was when he began his fall towards what many thought was mediocrity, destined to join Alex Kuznetsov as a much-hyped talent burnt out by expectations and fragile mentalities. An early season win over John Isner masked an underlying problem. He had been a fixture now for more than year, and players if they had not already known, were noting his weaknesses. In particular, a vulnerability to remain consistent in long rallies on his backhand saw many players play to that wing much more often, avoiding his potent forehand. Harrison picked up few wins and dropped back to challenger level where he did find some success. His poor luck in Slam draws continued, facing Djokovic, Isner, Chardy and Nadal all in rounds one or two. He let slip a two set lead against Isner at the French Open. Like his slow finish to 2012, Harrison experienced a similar dip in 2013, losing in qualifying for main draw events to the likes of Kevin Kraweitz and Go Soeda.

2014 proved even worse, losing often in Challengers and rarely featuring beyond the qualifying or first rounds of any ATP event, his ranking dropping precariously near the edge of the top 200. There was a feeling that Ryan Harrison was finished.

It only takes a small spark, something, anything to find that player again.  Harrison worked on changing his serve, adding more spin to what had once been a fiercely flat delivery. The backhand was also changed so that it became less of a weakness, though still not a strength.

The Happy Valley Challenger in Australia saw a Ryan Harrison ready to rock once more. He defeated a young Hyeon Chung in the first round, and also Blaz Rola in his run to the final. His win over former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis in the final. He qualified, won a round, and then played a tight three-setter with Kei Nishikori in Memphis. Whilst outside pundits began to cautiously begin mentioning his progress, there was a steely determination and long-absent consistency in his play. Proving Memphis was no fluke, Harrison then tore through the Acapulco 500 event, dispatching Donald Young, Ivo Karlovic, and Grigor Dimitrov. Like his maiden Wimbledon, Harrison then pushed David Ferrer the maximum number of sets in his semi-final.

The last two weeks has seen Harrison reach back-to-back challenger finals, losing to Dennis Novikov on both occasions. A strong run this week would see him return to the top 100 after more than a two year absence. His play the last few weeks continues the trend seen from him this year. He is more consistent, stronger, fitter, and seems to have more self belief than ever before. He struggled again for a period during the middle of the season, but he has had a mental strength to come back that was not apparent before.  Previous years have seen him drop off at the end of the year. The new Ryan Harrison is upping his game.

He may have turned into the world beater that many expected in the race to replace Roddick, Blake, Fish and others of that generation. That cannot be his focus, and anyway, he is far from the only young American on the tour these days. Jack Sock, Denis Kudla, Fritz, Paul, Tiafoe and Donaldson are all playing their part. His return up to this point has been very much under the radar. That could work out very well for Ryan Harrison and his future place in the game

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Andy Murray Surging In Confidence After Reaching First ATP Quarter-Final Since 2019

The 34-year-old believes he is getting better with every match played on the Tour as he eyes a spot in the final later this week.

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Andy Murray (image via https://twitter.com/ATPTour_ES)

Former world No.1 Andy Murray says he is starting to gain more belief in his game after reaching the quarter-finals of the Moselle Open on Wednesday.

 

The three-time Grand Slam champion rallied to a 6-3, 6-3, win over Canada’s Vasek Pospisil in the French city. Murray dropped serve only once at the start of the second set but broke his opponent four times en route to the victory. It is the first time he has registered back-to-back wins on the ATP Tour since Wimbledon and it is the first time he has reached a quarter-final since winning the 2019 Antwerp Open.

Murray showed glimmers of his best tennis recently at the US Open where he took Stefanos Tsitsipas to five sets in the first round before losing. However, in his following tournament on the Challenger circuit he lost in the second round to world No.154 Roman Safiullin. Despite the mixed performances, the Brit says his fitness continues to improve and he believes he is heading in the right direction.

“For me, this period of the last few years has been the most I have played really,” Murray said following his win over Pospisil.
“My body feels good and I am starting to gain just a little bit of confidence with each match, starting to see the points and how I want to play them, which is great.
“There have been times in the past year where I have been a little bit confused and not seeing how the points are developing which was always a strong part of my game.
“It made me feel quite uncomfortable on court when I was feeling that way, so I am starting to get that back and the results are coming, my tennis is getting better.”

The 34-year-old, who now plays on the Tour with a metal hip after undergoing two operations, is targeting a return back into the world’s top 100 for the first time since 2018. He came agonisingly close in July when he reached 102. At present, he is currently ranked 113 but will climb at least four places following his run in Metz this week.

In the next round Murray will play either top seed Hubert Hurkacz or former top 10 player Lucas Pouille. Both players are likely to be a stern challenge for the three-time Grand Slam champion who is hoping to reach the final for the first time since 2007.

“I would love to get another opportunity to play here in the final, but there is a lot of tennis to be played before then potentially against the number one seed in the next round,” he reflected.
“It is not going to be easy if I want to reach the final, but I am playing well and have an opportunity.”

Murray has won 42 ATP titles and has earned more than $62M in prize money so far in his career.

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Diego Schwartzman Receives Threats On Social Media Following Shock Davis Cup Defeat

The world No.15 is the latest player to speak out about recieving abusive messages on social media.

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The weekend has been an emotional rollercoaster for Diego Schwartzman, who suffered ‘one of the worst’ losses of his career before helping secure victory for his country in their Davis Cup tie against Belarus.

 

On Saturday the world No.15 was stunned by unranked 18-year-old Daniil Ostapenkov who is yet to play a professional match on the pro Tour. Ostapenkov is currently ranked 63 in the world on the junior circuit. The comprehensive victory shocked the Argentinian team who was hosting the tie at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club.

Despite the shock upset, Schwartman managed to redeem himself the following day when he defeated Alexander Zgirovsky 6-1, 6-2. That victory handed his country an unassailable 3-1 lead in their tie and secured their place in the 2022 Davis Cup qualifiers which will take place next March.

Not only playing Davis, but in Buenos Aires, with a lot of people you don’t see, it’s not easy. My level can be and has to be much better. After the game on Saturday I had a difficult day in the spirit of being able to get up and enjoy with the group,” La Nacion quoted Schwartzman as saying.
“The most normal thing was that we won the series. It’s what everyone expected. But when you have a very difficult day at work like it was on Saturday and then you win, it excites you because you have some internal things withheld.”

Between those two matches, Schwartzman revealed that he was trolled on social media by some people unhappy about his loss in the tie. The 2020 French Open semi-finalist said he received criticism and even threats from some asking him to leave his home country. Something he admits affected him at times.

“It was one of the worst days of my career,” Schwartzman commented on his loss to Zgirovsky. “I lost to an unranked, inexperienced player. All that already affects (me) a lot. Although 80 or 90 percent of the people are always encouraging (me), there was a minority who criticized me with bad intentions.’
“I received threats, insults and requests not to return to Argentina. More or less, it affects (me)”.

Schwartzman is not the first player to speak out about online abuse. During the US Open Shelby Rogers said she was expecting to receive ‘death threats’ following her loss to Emma Raducanu who went on to win the title. Sloane Stephens has also previously spoken out about being the victim of racism online.

The 29-year-old says he has previously tried to interact with those who have trolled him on social media to find out why they are doing so.

Sometimes I start to answer some messages and I ask those people if they realize what they are sending,” Schwartzman said during his press conference. “The vast majority apologize and say they had not realized it. But at the moment it hurts. That very ill-intentioned criticism is the only bad thing about social networks.”

Schwartzman has won four ATP titles and earned more than $10M in prize money so far in his career.

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Spanish Veteran Feliciano Lopez Addresses Future On The Tour

23 years after he played his first main draw match on the ATP Tour, Lopez says his longevity in the sport has been achieved with the help of of some luck.

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Feliciano Lopez of Spain is pictured during the semi-final of ATP Fever-Tree Championships tennis tournament at Queen's Club in west London on June 20, 2019.

Feliciano Lopez has dismissed any speculation that he could retire in the coming weeks after saying he is taking life on the Tour in his stride.

 

The 39-year-old Spaniard is currently the second oldest player in the world’s top 200 after Roger Federer, who is a year older than him. Lopez made his ATP Tour debut at the 1998 Barcelona Open which was before the birth of Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz. In June he became the 10th active player to record his 500th win on the Tour.

Currently ranked 111th in the world, some are starting to wonder how much longer Lopez will continue playing. So far this season he has achieved a win-loss record of 9-19 with his best performance being a run to the quarter-finals of the Mallorca Open which was held on the grass. It was in Mallorca where he defeated Karen Khachanov who is the only top 30 player he has beaten so far in 2021.

I play year-by-year, the last 6-7 years have been like this, a tennis player at that age cannot think about extending his career. After turning 30 I have been lucky, I have obtained the best results of my career,” Lopez told reporters on Friday.
It is not very common for players my age, at (almost) 40 years to continue playing in the best tournaments.” He added.

Throughout his career, Lopez has impressively played in a record 78 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments dating back to the 2002 French Open. During that period he has reached the quarter-finals of a major tournament on four occasions.

“I don’t play to break records, what makes me most excited is to continue playing Grand Slams. For me, maintaining that record (78 consecutive Grand Slams played) is very nice, but more to follow. Being competitive,” he commented on the milestone.
“It is difficult for someone to overcome it because it is 20 years in a row without missing a great one. I have had continuity and enormous luck. Those of my generation are practically all retired.”

Away from the court, the former world No.12 is the current tournament director of the Madrid Open. Making him one of a few players historically to both be playing on the Tour and managing a tournament at the same time. Recently it was confirmed that Madrid will continue hosting it’s combined event until at least 2030 following a renewed agreement between the city council and the Madrid trophy promotion.

Lopez has won a total of seven ATP titles so far in his career and has earned more than $18M in prize money.

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