Harrison Needs 3 Sets To Eliminate Williams

December 17, 2010 11:19 PM
Lauren Davis
Denis Kudla
By Steve Pratt, Specia to USTA.com
NORCROSS, Ga. – Every one remembers the last couple points of Ryan Harrison’s last Grand Slam appearance, his grueling five-set loss to Sergey Stakhovsky in the second round of the U.S. Open.
On Sunday, Harrison, who grew up in Shreveport, La., said thinking back to that match gave him some needed inspiration as he beat fellow 18-year-old Jack Sock in four sets, 7-6 (3), 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-4, to earn his way into 2011’s first major event by winning the USTA Australian Open Wild-Card Playoff at the Racquet Club of the South.
"Absolutely," said Harrison after being asked if the loss in New York made him want to win Sunday’s match even more. "I know people still remember that match. I want to start creating some better Grand Slam memories and there couldn’t be an easier way to do that than to get into the main draw of the Australian Open."
Harrison, currently ranked No. 173 in the world and living in Cortez, Fla., had never played Sock before Sunday but the two matched up evenly Sunday with Harrison just a little bit better on the bigger points.
"That was an all-out battle out there," said Harrison. "Those were four tight sets. I thought there were times when we could have played better and been a little more aggressive but that being said we were also playing for a spot in the Australian Open so there was a lot pressure on both of us."
Harrison won last year’s USTA Australian Open Wild-Card Playoff beating Jesse Levine in the final. He then lost in the first round to Janko Tipsarevic in straight sets in the main draw at Melbourne Park.
Like Harrison, Sock, from Lincoln, Neb., also played in last year’s U.S. Open main draw and won the U.S. Open Junior title.
USTA Director of Player Development Patrick McEnroe said on Sunday that he’s continually impressed with Harrison’s competitiveness. "I think Ryan proved in this tournament that he’s a great young talent and that he’s probably our best competitor right now," he said. "I think that showed with the two three-set matches he won on Friday and Saturday and then how he hung in there after being pushed by Sock in the final."
Lauren Davis, a 17-year-old from Gates Mills, Ohio, defeated 19-year-old Southern Californian CoCo Vandeweghe, 6-2, 6-2, to win the right to play in the Australian Open main draw on the women’s side.
Davis, currently ranked No. 444 in the WTA world rankings, won all three of her matches over the weekend without dropping a set.
Davis, who trains with the Chris Evert Academy in Boca Raton, Fla., has now 27 consecutive matches and 36 of her last 37 matches. She won two ITF Futures events and the recent Dunlop Junior Orange Bowl and the prestigious Eddie Herr Junior Championships.
"I think I handled the nerves well and I handled her power and everything she threw at me," Davis said afterward.
When told she made only eight unforced errors, Davis was shocked. "Really? That wasn’t my strategy at all," she said. "Of course I wanted to be consistent but I wanted to be aggressive too because if I knew if I didn’t she would just go right through me."
Davis got up quickly 3-0 opening the match with a break of serve and getting another after her hold. She was then broken back to make it 3-1, but controlled the match from there on out.
"All the credit goes to Lauren," said Vandeweghe’s coach Tom Gullikson. "She set the tone for the match with those first few games. She didn’t miss a ball. She forced CoCo to hit a couple three, four, five balls every point and Coco just ended up missing."
Women’s Final
Lauren Davis, Gates Mills, Ohio, def. CoCo Vandeweghe (1), Rancho Santa Fe., Calif., 6-2, 6-2
Men’s Final
Ryan Harrison (3), Cortez, Fla., def. Jack Sock, Lincoln, Neb., 7-6 (3), 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-4.
Saturday's story
It’s down to one match for a spot in the coming year’s first Grand Slam with a solid core of four Americans all under 20 years old advancing to the finals with big wins on Saturday
Defending champions Ryan Harrison and CoCo Vandeweghe will be making a return trip to the finals of the USTA Australian Open Wild-Card Playoff on Sunday. Harrison will face fellow 18-year-old Jack Sock while the 19-year-old Vandeweghe will open up play at 1 p.m. at the Racquet Club of the South when she meets 17-year-old Lauren Davis.
Harrison, playing his second collegiate opponent in as many days, had the toughest match on the day as he eked out a .4-6, 6-2, 9-7 win over University of Tennessee sophomore Ryhne Williams.
"U.S. tennis has a lot to look forward to," said Harrison, ranked No. 173 in the world and from Cortez, Fla. "We have a lot of guys who can really play. I’m not playing poor tennis by any means right now and I’m still going the distance with these guys. They’re in college right now but Rhyne Williams, (Michael) Shabaz, Chase Buchanan and Stevie Johnson are just a few of the guys who will be Top 150 in the world once they get done playing college tennis."
Neither Harrison nor Williams had ever gone the distance but said not playing a third-set tiebreaker wasn’t a problem. "It’s a little bit strange to not play the third-set tiebreaker," said Williams, 19, who led at 7-6 and had a chance to serve out the match but was unable to. "But I don’t think it affected me at all."
Added Harrison: "The U.S. Open is the only Slam that uses the tiebreaker to decide a match so I’m used to it. I had a couple of matches at the French Open that were long and had the chance to go the distance but I’ve actually never had to do it in the pros. But you want to prepare yourself anyway."
Harrison probably wishes he could have gone the distance at the U.S. Open instead of playing a fifth-set tiebreaker. He lost in the second round at the year’s final Grand Slam to Sergiy Stakhovsky of the Ukraine, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 3-6, 6-7 (6).
One year ago this weekend, there weren’t many who had heard of Harrison, who said he was the major underdog at this event and upset then No. 110-ranked Jesse Levine in the finals.
Sock, from Lincoln, Neb., rolled his ankle up 3-2 in the second set against Denis Kudla of Arlington, Va., and had to call a medical timeout, but was able to pull through.
After beating Beatrice Capra in straight sets on Saturday, Vandeweghe was immediately back on the court with her coach Tom Gullikson working on her game. "Tom just wanted to work on a couple of things, just to work on my returns and approaches and volleys," said Vandeweghe of Ranch Santa Fe, Calif. "It’s a routine sort of thing but sometimes I need it more than I do on other days."
Davis, of Gates Mills, Ohio, sent 16-year-old Southern Californian Krista Hardebeck packing with a strong all-around game to continue her impressive winning streak. Davis is coming off two big ITF pro circuit wins and two titles from the Dunlop Junior Orange Bowl and the Eddie Herr. Hardebeck should have had the advantage having beaten Davis twice already this year in the finals of the Easter Bowl and at the National Hardcourts in San Diego.
"That’s what I’ve heard," said Vandeweghe, when asked if she knew Davis was on such a roll. "I’ve never seen her play or heard much about her. I’ll talk it over with Tom a little later. It was the same thing playing Tricie earlier today. It’d been so long since I’d played her that I just go out and work on patterns and see what works."
DAY 2: Saturday’s Results
Women’s Semifinals
Lauren Davis, Gates Mills, Ohio, def. Krista Hardebeck, Santa Ana, Calif., 6-2, 6-1
CoCo Vandeweghe (1), Rancho Santa Fe., Calif., vs. Beatrice Capra (4), Ellicott City, Md., 6-1, 6-4
Men’s Semifinals
Jack Sock, Lincoln, Neb., vs. Denis Kudla, Arlington, Va., 6-2, 7-5
Ryan Harrison (3), Cortez, Fla., vs. Rhyne Williams, Knoxville, Tenn., 4-6, 6-2, 9-7
Friday's story
No matter the stage, Lauren Davis always seems to come to play.
The 17-year-old from Gates Mills, Ohio, was back to her winning ways on Friday on the first day of the USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoff being played at the Racquet Club of the South. She beat a player ranked No. 134 in the world, Jamie Hampton of Auburn, Ala., 7-5, 7-5, to advance to the semifinals and is one step closer to an invite into the main draw of the year’s first Grand Slam.
Davis was coming into the event having won 18 straight ITF junior matches – including the Dunlop Junior Orange Bowl and the Eddie Herr – and 10 consecutive Pro Circuit matches.
Davis was asked after the match if she was able to take any time off after all the recent tournaments. "I took one day off," she said. "My legs are feeling a little bit tired. All these matches are starting to take a toll. But I think it’s just short term and then we have Christmas break so it will be fine."
Hampton was just one of several who played Friday who has a local connection to the Atlanta area as she trains at the Olde Towne Athletic Club in nearby Marietta.
On the men’s side, Denis Kudla of Arlington, Va., beat Duluth’s Jordan Cox, 6-4, 6-3, to set up a rematch of this year’s U.S. Open Junior final on Saturday as Kudla will play Jack Sock of Lincoln, Neb. Sock, 18, beat the tournament’s top-seeded player and world-ranked No. 127th-ranked player Donald Young of Atlanta, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4.
Patrick McEnroe, director of USTA Player Development, liked what he saw during the day. "The role of this event is to make the players earn it, that’s the bottom line," said McEnroe. "We want to see all our kids do well, but we want them to earn it. I think the kids get better from it. Any time you’ve earned something you feel better about yourself and about the work you’ve put in."
Said U.S. Fed Cup captain Mary Joe Fernandez: "We’ve been spoiled in this country; we’ve always had a superstar on the women’s side," said Fernandez. "There is a big gap between the Williams sisters and the next group of players. But there is a good group here that should be able to make that push into the Top 100. We have six or seven now but we should be able to have 12 or 15 in the coming years."
Friday’s Women’s Quarterfinals Results
Krista Hardebeck, Santa Ana, Calif., def. Irina Falconi (3), Jupiter, Fla., 6-4, 3-6, 6-1
CoCo Vandeweghe (1), Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., def. Madison Keys, Boca Raton, Fla., 3-6, 6-4, 6-3
Lauren Davis, Gates Mills, Ohio, def. Jamie Hampton (2), Auburn, Ala., 7-5, 7-5
Beatrice Capra (4), Ellicott City, Md., def. Shelby Rogers, Charleston, S.C., 6-3, 6-2
Friday’s Men’s Quarterfinals Results
Jack Sock, Lincoln, Neb., def. Donald Young (1), Atlanta, Ga., 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4
Denis Kudla, Arlington, Va., def. Jordan Cox (4), Duluth, Ga., 6-4, 6-3
Ryan Harrison (3), Cortez, Fla., def. Michael Shabaz, Fairfax, Va., 7-6 (3), 6-7 (6), 6-4
Rhyne Williams, Knoxville, Tenn., def. Timothy Smyczek (2), Hales Corner, Wisc., 6-4, 6-0
DAY 2: Saturday’s Schedule
1 p.m. Semifinals (Court 2)
Krista Hardebeck, Santa Ana, Calif., vs. Lauren Davis, Gates Mills, Ohio
Followed by Jack Sock, Lincoln, Neb., vs. Denis Kudla, Arlington, Va.
1 p.m. Semifinals (Court 7)
CoCo Vandeweghe (1), Rancho Santa Fe., Calif., vs. Beatrice Capra (4), Ellicott City, Md.
Followed by Ryan Harrison (3), Cortez, Fla., vs. Rhyne Williams, Knoxville, Tenn.
DAY 3: Sunday’s Schedule
1 p.m.
Women’s Final; Followed by men’s final