Less than one year ago, in July 2016, the once promising young American Ryan Harrison was in the midst of a slump that had dropped him to outside the top 150. He had suffered an incredibly difficult 2015 where he did not win a single ATP tour level match after Indian Wells in March, and some of those struggles continued into the 2016 season.
Ryan Harrison drew the attention of American tennis fans in 2008 when he became only the tenth player to win an ATP level match before the age of 16. Harrison battled on tour as a young up-and-comer, and after making semifinals in the hardcourt tournaments in Atlanta and Los Angeles in 2011, saw his ranking reach #79 in the world.
He continued to succeed both on the ATP World Tour and ATP Challenger Tour, and was part of the 2012 United States Davis Cup team that reached the semifinals of the tournament. A difficult stretch followed in 2014 where he found himself not winning many matches on either tour, and these struggles continued into 2015 and 2016. He began to look like another promising American that would be forgotten after a few years in the spotlight.
Work with Peter Lucassen
In the middle of 2016 during a string of losses that took their toll both on his ranking and his mental state, he hired Peter Lucassen, the former coach of fellow American Steve Johnson. With the new coach and a new approach to his game, he entered the American hard court swing by attempting to qualify for tournaments with a ranking of 158.
After qualifying in Washington, he won his first two matches against top 60 players, before falling to Johnson in the round-of-16. He had another round-of-16 appearance in Toronto, beating the top-ranked American at the time, John Isner. He continued to ride this form into the U.S. Open where he notched the biggest win of his career, and only his second victory over a top 10 opponent, when he took out world number #6 Milos Raonic in four sets in their second round match. This came after having to go through three rounds of qualifying to enter the main draw of the tournament. He had an up-and-down finish to the season, failing to qualify for several tournaments yet picking up wins in others. Although he entered 2017 with a ranking of #90, he brought a new confidence that had never been seen before.
Magic in Memphis
After a few respectable yet unimpressive second round losses to begin the year, he won the first Challenger tournament he entered, beating the heralded “Next Gen” American Taylor Fritz in straight sets in the final. After a week off, everything finally came together for Harrison in the Memphis Open. The final year of the tournament before moving to New York saw many Americans enter including Sam Querrey, who Harrison crushed 6-3 6-1 in the second round, and Donald Young, who Harrison beat in the semifinal. He cruised to the title in his first ever tour level final, not dropping a single set or even being pushed to a tiebreak the entire tournament.
The 250 rankings points he earned from the Memphis Open jumped his ranking into the top 50, allowing him opportunities to automatically enter tournaments including Indian Wells, Miami, and Monte Carlo. He received difficult draws in those tournaments and was unable to make deep runs, but he did earn a win over former U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro.
In less than a year Ryan Harrison has come from being almost irrelevant to earning a place among the top American tennis players. At the young age of 25, he has the potential to continue to improve. If he keeps his mental focus and finds major success, he could become a household name in American tennis.