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LaRosa's Sweet Spot: Oct 7, 2009

10/7/2009 12:00:00 AM

LaRosa's Sweet Spot Main Page

Oct 7, 2009

Andy Roddick crashed out of the China Open this week and last week Sam Querrey crashed through a glass table, but have no fear America. There's a bright spot on the horizon in 17-year-old phenom Ryan Harrison. The Shreveport, Louisiana-native picked up his first racquet at age 2, turned pro at 15 (!) and became only the 10th player in the Open Era to win a main draw match before his 16th birthday (the last dude to do that? Just some schlub named Rafael Nadal). PS, Ryan did it on clay. He's had a busy summer, gobbling up so many points on the Challenger circuit that he's rocketed up 1300 ranking spots since May. And he still found the energy to swing by the Sweet Spot. Ah, youth.

America meet Ryan Harrison

Ryan, give us the basics. Where have you trained and what's your style of play?

I was born in Shreveport, Louisiana but moved to Texas to train at the Newcombe Tennis Academy when I was about 10. About a year ago, me and my family moved to Bradenton so my brother and I could train at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy and get some higher level competition on a regular basis. I've always been an aggressive player and I like to attack the net. I would serve and volley a lot even as a young kid.

You made a big splash last spring at the U.S. Clay Court Championship in Houston by winning a main draw match just shy of your 16th birthday. Since 1990 only two other guys have done that: Rafael Nadal and Richard Gasquet. Nice company.

It all kind of happened very quickly, and looking back I just remember how excited I was to beat a top 100 player.

It was Pablo Cuevas, who was No 95 in the world. What do you think this guy was thinking being trounced in straights by a 15-year-old?

I'm sure Cuevas was not happy losing because no one likes to lose to a young kid. I'm sure he would like to play me again though, too, and get a little revenge. That's what makes tennis a fun sport. Every time you play someone it's a different match, different court, different surroundingsā€¦

Talk about different surroundings, you were a hitting partner for the Davis Cup team in Croatia this year. They haze all the newbies. Did they mess with you at all?

Of course they did. And I was kind of expecting something, but nothing so humiliating. They made me sing Don't Stop Believin' by Journey at the opening dinner in front of everyone. It was so bad because I cannot sing at all but I just got up there and went all out with an over-the-top performance. It was all in good fun, but I was glad when it was over.

Fast forward to this past weekend. You just won your second pro title, a $10,000 Future in Laguna Nigel, California. You made the final last week in Costa Mesa. You're flying up the rankings. What's clicking for you?

Most importantly it just feels good to be healthy and back on the court full-time. I had a stress fracture in my back last year and had to sit out for more than sixth months, so I really just started from zero. It took quite a while to get back in match shape, but I'm definitely learning a lot from these matches and ready to keep working my way up.

With all the talk about American tennis and your being one of the bright spots, how do you deal with the pressure?

It's an honor to be considered one of the best young Americans coming up, but I know I still have a lot of work to do and a long way to go. I really just try to focus on improving my game every day. I think if I do that, the results will take care of themselves and hopefully one day I will be at the top.

Who's your tennis idol?

Where's the Sweet Spot bus?

I really admire Roger Federer. He is just so good from everywhere on the court. I got to hit with Roger at the US Open. It was really cool being on the court with him. [And] I always liked Pete Sampras because of his all-court attacking game.

You're playing an exhibition in China in a couple weeks with Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. What's going through your mind right now? Are you aware your picture is on the side of a bus driving around China as we speak?

It's kind of surreal because I grew up admiring both of these guys and watched them play countless matches on TV. I'm really excited to get on the court with them and learn some things from them. When it comes to having my photo on the side of a bus, it is just really strange. I don't think anyone really gets used to seeing their own faces in public places like that, or at least not me.

You might just have to start getting used to it, Ryan.


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