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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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Jack Draper Wins In Stuttgart, Potentially Faces Andy Murray in Round Two

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Jack Draper – ATP Monaco di Baviera 2024 (foto via Twitter @atptour)

Britain’s Jack Draper tight first round win headlined the opening day’s results at the Boss Open 2024 in Stuttgart – and possibly faces a second-round match with Andy Murray who takes on Marcos Giron tomorrow.

Less than 24 hours from the last ball being hit at Roland Garros, the ATP Tour had already switched surfaces onto the grass, and 22-year-old Draper was well tested but ultimately came through in two tie-breakers over Sebastian Ofner.

The sixth seed’s 7-6, 7-6 win contained just one break of serve each, both coming in the second set, as serve dominated proceedings on the faster grass courts in Germany.

While the Austrian won 75% on his first serve, Draper won a whopping 89% behind his first delivery as well as hitting eight aces. These kind of service stats will surely take him far during the grass court season.

“I thought it was a really good match,” Eurosport quoted Draper saying after his match. 
“Both of us played really clean tennis, executing really well.
“When it came down to it, I’m glad I competed really well and got over the line – it’s good to be back on the grass as well.”

There were also wins for Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann who won 6-3, 6-3 over wildcard Henri Squire, while compatriot Dominik Koepfer won in three sets over China’s Zhizhen Zhang 4-6, 7-6, 7-6. 

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Carlos Alcaraz Still Owns A Magical Racket

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The legend of Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket lives on.

The 21-year-old Spaniard executed one magical shot after another with his racket and legs  Sunday afternoon in the French Open final. That bit of magic spelled defeat for Germany’s Alexander Zverev.

This was a final to remember, one of the great matches of all the Grand Slams. It just wasn’t in the cards for the 26-year-old Zverev to finally win a Grand Slam title.

HE HAD IT, THEN HE DIDN’T

Both players seemed to play a game of “he had it and then he didn’t.”

Alcaraz appeared to have everything under control in the first set, but Zverev rushed through the second set and then made a comeback from 5-2 down in the third set to win five straight games.

Zverev had everything going for him when he started the fourth set with a two-set advantage. It appeared that all the 6-6 Zverev had to do was to continue playing his masterful game of big serves and mighty ground strokes.

But Zverev couldn’t get started in the fourth set until he was down 4-0. So much for a smooth and easy ride to a Grand Slam title. By then, the magic of Alcaraz was heating up.

MAGIC OF ALCARAZ HEATING UP

Zverev still had his chances, even when he fell behind 2-1 in the fifth set. He had to feel pretty good about his chances when he took a triple break point lead against Alcaraz’s serve and appeared ready to even the set at 2-2. Even after Carlos came up with a winner to bring the  game score to double break point.

Zverev still was ready to even the entire match.

That’s when everything seemed to go haywire for the German, while all the while, Alcaraz was able to repeatedly come up with his magical shots as the Spaniard made critical shots that looked almost impossible to make.

ALCARAZ HEADED FOR GREATNESS

Everything for Zverev was lost in the magical racket of Alcaraz.

What was then initially called a game-ending Alcaraz double fault and a 2-2 deadlock quicky reversed itself and Alcaraz stayed alive by winning the next three points while taking a 3-1 advantage.

Zverev did get back to a 3-2 deficit and had a break point in the sixth game, but that was it for the hopes of Zverev. The last two games went rather easily in favor of Alcaraz to wrap up a 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 victory for Alcaraz.

That moved the Spaniard to a higher level of success on the ATP Tour. He became the youngest man to win Grand Slam titles on all of the different surfaces, clay, grass and hard courts.

Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket appear to be headed for greatness.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Tsitsipas Brothers Hit With Trio Of Fines At French Open

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Stefanos Tsitsipas and his brother Petros have been fined more than 20,000 euros for multiple violations of the coaching rules at this year’s French Open. 

The brothers received a financial penalty during three different matches that they played in. Two of those were in the second and third rounds of the men’s doubles tournament. Furthermore, Stefanos was also penalised during his singles quarter-final match against Carlos Alcaraz, which he lost in straight sets. According to French newspaper L’Equipe, all three of those fines were issued as a result of coaching rules being broken.

Ironically, coaching is allowed during matches at the French Open but certain rules must be followed. ‘Verbal’ coaching can only be issued from the coaches and their team if they are sitting in the designated player’s box. Instructions must be limited to a few words and can only be given if the player is in the same half of the court as their coach. Although non-verbal coaching is allowed regardless of what side the player is on. Finally, players can’t start a conversation with their coach unless it is during a medical break, a bathroom break or when their opponent is changing clothes.

However, the Tsitsipas brothers have been found in violation of these rules, which is likely due to their animated father in the stands who is also their coach. Apostolos Tsitsipas has been given coaching violations in the past at other events, including the 2022 Australian Open. 

The value of the fines are €4,600 and €9,200 for the Tsitsipas brothers in the doubles, as well as an additional €7,400 just for Stefanos in the singles. In total, the value of their fines is €21,200. However, the penalty is unlikely to have an impact on the duo whose combined earnings for playing in this year’s French Open amount to roughly €495,000. 

So far in the tournament, the highest single fine to be issued this year was against Terence Atmane who hit a ball out of frustration that struck a fan in the stands. Atmane, who later apologised for his actions, managed to avoid getting disqualified from the match. Instead, he was fined €23,000. 

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