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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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Christian Garin extends his winning streak to ten consecutive matches in Santiago de Chile

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Chile’s Christian Garin beat Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2 0-6 7-6 (7-4) in the quarter final in Santiago de Chile after two hours to extend his winning streak to 10 consecutive matches including six three-set matches. Garin, who won two titles this year in Cordoba and Rio de Janeiro, will take on Brazil’s Thiago Seyboth Wild in the quarter final.

 

Garin converted on six of his seven break points. The Chilean started the opening set with three consecutive breaks and closed it out with a hold at love thanks to an ace in the eighth game.

Davidovich Fokina broke three times to take a bagel in the second set. Garin fended off two break points at 2-3 and earned a break at 15 in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead. Garin wasted two match points at 5-4 as he was serving at 5-4. Alejandro Fokina broke back with a drop shot to draw level to 5-5. Garin got another break in the 11th game after a double fault from Davidoch Fokina. The Spanish Next Gen player broke back in the 12th game to set up a tie-break. Garin clinched the breaker 7-4 with a forehand winner.

“This is a very important tournament for me. I hope I can play here every year. I want to compete well here after winning in the past two tournaments. I have won several matches. I have a lot of confidence. I feel the responsibility of always winning and much more in Chile. The crowd’s support helped me a lot. After the second set I started to feel pain in my back. I wasn’t feeling good, but the people’s support was important. It was nice to see the crowd helping me when I came down”,said Garin.

Thiago Seyboth Wild edged Argentina’s Juan Ignacio Londero 7-6 (9-7) 6-4 in 1 hour and 45 minutes. Seyboth Wild never faced a break point and converted one of his six break points to clinch the win in straight sets. Londero saved all three break points in the opening set, including two set points at 5-6 to set up a tie-break. The Argentine earned a set point with a service winner.

Seyboth Wild fended off the set point with an ace. Londero did not convert a second set point at 7-7 after a forehand error. Thiago Seyboth sealed the tie-break with a backhand down the line winner. The Brazilian player earned a break in the third game of the second set with a forehand down the line winner and lost six points in five service games and closed out the match with a service winner in the 10th game.

Seyboth Wild reached the second round in Rio de Janeiro earlier this month

Brazil’s Thiago Monteiro beat Roberto Carballes Baena 6-1 6-4 after 1 hour and 23 minutes. The Brazilian player saved all three break points chances and broke three times to reach his second quarter final of the season after Buenos Aires.

Monteiro will face Spain’s Albert Ramos Vinolas, who beat lucky loser Juan Pablo Varillas 7-6 (7-3) 6-2 in one hour and 39 minutes. The Spanish player rallied from 3-5 down in the first set and fended off a set point at 4-5 to clinch the tie-break of the opening set 7-3.

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Novak Djokovic saves three match points to reach the final in Dubai

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This year’s Australian Open champion and four-time Dubai winner Novak Djokovic came back from losing the first set to beat Gael Monfils 2-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-1 after 2 hours and 35 minutes at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Tournament. He will face Stefanos Tsitsipas in tomorrow’s final.

 

Monfils wasted a chance of defeating Djokovic for the first time in 16 head-to-head matches, when he did not convert three match points at 6-3 in the tie-break of the second set.

Djokovic dropped his serve three times in the first and second set and went down a set and a break in the second set.

Monfils dropped six points on his serve and broke Djokovic twice to win the first set 6-2. Djokovic saved a break point in the first game of the opening set before dropping his serve in a marathon third game, when he hit his backhand long. Monfils hit a service winner to open up a 3-1 lead. The Frenchman earned another break in the seventh game after a drop shot error from Djokovic. Monfils sealed the opening set 6-2 with a service winner in the eighth game after 45 minutes.

Monfils went up a set and a break in the third game of the second set at love after a loose forehand from Djokovic. Monfils earned a break with a forehand crosscourt winner. Djokovic broke straight back to draw level to 3-3 in the sixth game after Monfils netted a forehand. Djokovic held serve with an ace for 4-3. Monfils won his service game in the eighth game to draw level to 4-4. Djokovic held his third consecutive service game to take a 5-4 lead, but he wasted a set point in the next game with a loose forehand.

Djokovic earned five set points in the second set, but Monfils saved them to set up a tie-break. Monfils forced an error from Djokovic to take a 4-2 lead and hit a backhand down the line winner in the eighth game. Monfils brought up three match points with a forehand winner, but Djokovic saved them to draw level to 6-6.

Monfils fended off a set point at 6-7 with a service winner. Djokovic earned a mini-break, but he made a forehand error in the next point. Djokovic earned his eighth set point at 8-8 and converted it, as Monfils made his sixth double fault.

Djokovic earned two consecutive breaks in the third and fifth games and closed out the match with his third break at 5-1 in the seventh game with a forehand winner to complete the come-back setting up a final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

“It’s anybody game really. Stefanos has won eight matches in a row now from last week in France winning the Marseille title, now playing more or less every single day, which is quite impressive. It’s not easy. I hope I can recover. I hope I can be atm y best be at my best because I need to start better than I have tonight. Hopefully I can get a title. Today I just wasn’t taking my chances when I was having rallies on those first five set points. That kind of turned around from 3-6 in the tie-break. From that moment onwards I felt I was going through the ball better”, said Djokovic.  

 

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Stefanos Tsitsipas reaches the final in Dubai for the second consecutive year

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Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Daniel Evans 6-2 6-3 in 1 hour and 21 minutes in the semifinal of the Dubai Duty Free Championships to reach the final at this tournament for the second consecutive year. Tsitsipas will play his second consecutive final one week after lifting the Open 13 Trophy in Marseille.

 

Tsitsipas converted on four of his ten break points and did not face a break point. The Greek player has dropped just one of the 17 sets he has played since arriving in Marseille last week.

Tsitsipas earned his first break with a backhand winner in the fifth game of the opening set to take a 3-2 lead and consolidated it with a hold at love. Tsitsipas converted his second break point in a three-deuce seventh game after a forehand error from Evans before claiming the first set in the eighth game with an ace after 34 minutes.

Evans saved four break points at the start of the second set. Tsitsipas earned an early break in the third game of the second set to take a 2-1 lead and backed it up with a service winner for 3-1.

Tsitsipas held serve for 5-3 before closing out the second set with his fourth break in the ninth game.

Tsitsipas finished runner-up to Roger Federer in the final of last year’s edition of the Dubai tournament. Tomorrow the Athens native player will face either Novak Djokovic or Gael Monfils.

“I just managed to stay solid throughout the whole match. I didn’t have massive breakdowns and just played a quality of tennis which I enjoyed. I am really impressed by the quality of my game today and I really hope to bring the same and probably better in the next round”, said Tsitsipas.

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