Harrison: I Can See Daylight Again
American finds happiness again on the tennis court after rallying from rock bottom
Commit to turning it around. Or stop playing.
Five years ago, a teenage Harrison had broken into the Top 50 and was being talked about as the United States’ next Grand Slam champion. But it didn’t quite happen for the Texas native. Not helped by injuries, his ranking fell back outside the Top 100 and the occasional good moments were weighed down by increasing low spells.
Still only 24 years of age, it feels like Harrison has already endured a career full of highs and lows.
“It was tough at times,” said Harrison after his first-round win over Nicolas Mahut at Melbourne Park. “You have some injuries that affect your confidence. You get out there and you're not playing that well and that leads to more bad results. Then you start searching for answers and you start to lose that security in your own ability. One bad thing leads to another and you find that you don’t recognise yourself on the court.
“For me it was a chain of what came first. The chicken or the egg? The bad result or the bad attitude? What was going on? I finally reached a point of rock bottom. You either have to commit to turning it around or you don't even play anymore. At that point I wasn't recognising myself out there.
“So I made that commitment with the people around me, who still had belief in me. I think it was important to notice who was still believing in me in the worst moment and trust those people.
“[After Wimbledon] I felt like I'd had the occasional good result here and there, but the consistency hadn't been there and I was just looking forward to getting home and being around my family. I didn't really have a date for when I wanted to hit a tennis ball again after that. It took me a little bit of time to get back out there. But eventually I did and I felt like once I did, I finally let go of some of that negative emotion. I just got out there and was focusing on enjoying playing again.”
With the enjoyment came success. Harrison qualified for nine tour-level events in 2016, including in Washington and Toronto, where he scored two third-round appearances. Closing on a return to the Top 100 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, Harrison put himself firmly back on the radar at the US Open. As a qualifier he shocked World No. 6 Milos Raonic en route to the third round. It was an extra special week for the Harrison family, with Ryan’s younger brother, Christian, also qualifying.
“I don't think my ability ever left,” said Ryan Harrison. “People talk about me having the potential to win majors and having that sort of ability. That doesn't just go away. You still have ability in you, it's just a matter of putting yourself in the right positions to let that come out and excel.
“So for me, once the mind was better, the good results could follow. With the way tennis is set up, if you're not ranked high enough to be seeded, you have to fight some tough opponents early on in tournaments. I was able to win one or two of those matches and get a little bit of an opening in some draws and capitalise on it. That allowed me to continue to build confidence and here we are.
“I'm just happy, honestly,” continued Harrison, who is focused on purely enjoying the moment and not setting rankings goals. “Things are good. I'm getting married, playing a high level. I can see the daylight again of where I want to be with my tennis career and moving in the right direction. Happiness and confidence leads to better things happening and I think that that's where I'm at. A good level is going to put me in a good position to win and if I win, my ranking will find itself where it does.”