Ryan Harrison has inaugurated his tour-level trophy room with an eye-popping title run at the 2017 Memphis Open without dropping a single set along the way. He was also spotless earlier in the month when he conquered the Dallas Challenger.
Two weeks of work, ten straight victories, only one tiebreak needed and 350 ATP points. That’s how dominant the Shreveport wonder boy has been lately. This red hot streak has vaulted the 24-year-old to the no. 43 position in the world rankings, matching his previous career-high set back in 2012.
Former savior of US men’s tennis captures maiden title
Yes, you read the previous sentence correctly: Ryan Harrison is still 24 years of age. It feels like he burst onto the scene in the 20th century, but his passport certifies he has yet to reach the quarter century mark.
When Harrison notched his first tour-level main draw win over Pablo Cuevas in April 2008, Victor Estrella had a grand total of one Challenger tour win to his name. For the record, the Dominican is almost 12 years older than the American. Let that sink in.
The Louisiana native was one month shy of his 16th birthday by the time he scored that impressive victory in Houston. He was the 10th youngest player in the Open Era to ever win an ATP match.
Indeed, precociousness is the word that perfectly sums up his early career. If we throw it back even further in time, we can observe how Harrison was the only 12-year-old among the eight 2005 Les Petits As quarter-finalists.
By the time he turned 15, he was consistently competing toe to toe against the best junior players in the world, winning the 2007 Osaka Mayor’s Cup, a prestigious Grade A.
It was official: Harrison was the anointed youngster to save men’s tennis in America. The media quickly labeled him as Andy Roddick’s heir. He actually lived up to the hype for a while as he steadily climbed up the rankings until 2012. Despite lacking a world class weapon, his warrior mentality allowed him to beat inferior foes, nab some upsets (e.g. first round win over Ivan Ljubicic at the 2010 US Open) and play the top guys close.
Wow. Words can’t desribe how much this means to me. So blessed with all the love and support I have in life. Thank you all! pic.twitter.com/ORdorj7kPg
— Ryan Harrison (@ryanharrison92) February 20, 2017
Fall from grace
However, a combination of stagnation and historically bad luck at Grand Slam draws almost derailed his career. He finished 2014 barely inside the top 200.
The high points (2015 Happy Valley Challenger title, 2015 ATP 500 Acapulco semi-final) were remarkable, but the consistency was missing. As recently as in the spring of 2016, Harrison strung together five consecutive losses.
His embarrassing spat with Thanasi Kokkinakis at the 2015 Cincinnati Masters and his political feuds on Twitter were the only news the average tennis fan had from the former prodigy. The racket no longer did the talking.
Return to form
Nevertheless, Harrison was able to dig himself out of the hole. Not only that, but he is poised to soar in the rankings, considering he only competed in two Masters and two Grand Slam main draws over the last 52 weeks.
At the time of writing, Harrison sits at no. 11 in the live ATP Race. Making it to London is probably not a realistic goal this year. Yet, it is undeniable his rollercoaster ride is on the way up.