Ryan's hope: Harrison could be American tennis savior
Ryan Harrison will play Davis Cup tennis for the United States this week.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
American tennis fans have been waiting (and waiting) for their next bright, young men's star. And the wait could be over with Ryan Harrison.
Harrison is a 19-year-old Louisiana native who has steadily, if not spectacularly, been climbing the charts (the ATP World Tour rankings) since turning pro in 2007.
The Shreveport, La., native ended 2010 at No. 173 in the world and 2011 at No. 79 and currently rests at No. 66 heading into this weekend's big Davis Cup quarterfinal between the United States and a quality host French squad at the famed Monte Carlo Country Club in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin.
Harrison, who'll turn 20 next month, was thrust into Davis Cup duty this week when world No. 9 star Mardy Fish withdrew from the best-of-five affair because of extreme fatigue.
Is the teenager really ready for his close-up?
We'll find out.
Harrison actually made his Davis Cup debut in Switzerland back in February, winning a dead singles rubber (a meaningless match) in the States' stunning 5-0 victory over a Roger Federer-led Swiss squad in Fribourg.
What They're Saying
"He's very talented and I'm sure he's going to be making his move up the rankings very easily this year and the coming years," Roger Federer said of Harrison. "He has a big game."
"He bears a resemblance to Roddick, both physically and emotionally," said Justin Gimelstob, a former ATP player and current television analyst. "He's an excellent athlete. You can tell he doesn't want to lose one point. Sometimes that boils over into some negative emotion, but the heart of it is just a pure desire to win and reach his potential. The way he shows his emotions is comparable to the way Roddick reveals his."
"Andy Roddick has also been a big help and mentor for Ryan as he tries to work his way to the top," said Harrison's father, Pat.
The 6-foot (questionable), 160-pound (questionable) Harrison might not be the biggest guy around, but what he has is a huge will to win and one of the best work ethics on the tour.
The possible new face of American tennis is both fiery and cocky and no stranger to the temper tantrum, i.e. frame tossing and kicking balls into the stands (the type of behavior that doesn't belong anywhere in any sport, much less the gentlemen's game that is tennis).
Harrison's behavior was so poor during his straight-set first-round U.S. Open loss last year that almost the entire crowd at that particular match against Croat Marin Cilic decided to boo one of its own. He was acting like, well, a punk (just as Andy Roddick did at that age).
But in terms of his game, Harrison boasts a big serve, for not a big man, and also pulls a big forehand out of the holster.
The floppy-haired "Harry" has had his game compared to Roddick's. Yes, Harrison has the big shots like the once-top-ranked "A-Rod," but the former
seems to be a superior athlete and is clearly more fluid on the court.
And, unlike Roddick and so many other players on tour, Harrison is surprisingly effective at the net, which is particularly unusual for such a young performer.
When Harrison was only 15 years old, he became the third-youngest player since 1990 to win a match on the men's tour (Richard Gasquet, Rafael Nadal). Only 10 men have won an ATP-level match before turning 16.
Oddly enough, however, he only climbed as high as No. 7 in the world on the junior circuit.
Harrison isn't just a one-trick pony like Roddick, who captured the U.S. Open as a spry 21 year-old and ascended to No. 1 back in 2003. He also has a more consistent two-handed backhand, as compared to Roddick, who basically tried to pummel opponents with one of the biggest serves in the history of the sport.
The tenacious Harrison is eager to join tennis' elite and has aspirations of capturing more than one major title, which is all the one-time much-ballyhooed Roddick was able to produce.
Did You Know?: Harrison started playing tennis at the age of 2.
American tennis needs Ryan Harrison to become a star. Our four highest-ranked players right now -- Fish, No. 11 John Isner, a No. 29 Roddick and No. 46 Donald Young -- are simply not going to land in the Grand Slam winner's circle anytime soon. And the average age between Fish (30), Isner (26) and Roddick (29) is 28, which is pushin' it on the ATP.
Note: Harrison is 3-0 against fellow Americans this year and reached the fourth round at the prestigious BNP Paribas Open in the California desert last month.
It's safe to say the rest of the world has caught up to the United States, and then some, when it comes to tennis.
But, hopefully, for Harrison, he can overcome his maturity shortcomings, join tennis' best, and perhaps even win some majors. To this point, he hasn't gotten past the second round at any of the Grand Slam events (2-7 career record) and is still seeking a first-ever spot in an ATP final.