First-Time Winner Spotlight: Ryan Harrison
Ryan Harrison stormed to his first ATP World Tour crown at the Memphis Open, not dropping a set en route to the title. He defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-1, 6-4 on Sunday, joining Gilles Muller (Sydney) as first-time winners on the ATP World Tour this year.
ATPWorldTour.com spoke to Harrison after his victory:
How does it feel to win your first ATP World Tour title in a rich tradition tournament like Memphis?
It feels amazing. Memphis was the club I first came to, to watch a pro event. It was the closest club to my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, that hosted an event. It just feels surreal to win here.
When you saw your name going up on the wall with so many great American champions, how did that feel?
It's amazing. I looked at the board and the last American that won it was Andy Roddick. Then I saw all the other guys that won here and it's just an incredible moment. Andy's been someone special for me in my career and we have a great relationship. He lives 10 minutes from me in Austin. When I saw my name go up next to his, I thought it was so cool.
You grew up in the South and played many junior and pro tournaments in this region. Does it mean a little extra to win in Memphis?
Definitely. I grew up coming to all the tournaments in the USTA's Southern section. They were called Bullfrogs. We'd get in the car and drive all over, to Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi and everywhere through the South. So this is like a hometown event for me.
How did you approach going into your first ATP World Tour final?
I was super nervous. Had the excitement of what could happen if you win and all the things that go through your head to play well. I was down 15/40 in my first service game and when I got through that, the nerves let up and I was ready to go.
You turned pro at the age of 15 and had many ups and downs over the years. How does it feel?
I came on the scene early and it's a good thing now, considering how persistent and resilient I am. I've gone through a lot in my life, with the spotlight on it. That is, in terms of maturity and becoming a man. For me, it was really an interesting way to grow up with people expecting a lot of you and then not expecting you to be there. I feel I can achieve my dreams again.
You didn’t lose a set en route to the final and saved all 12 break points against Basilashvili. What part of your game were you most pleased with?
I wasn't trying to think about it too much. I was trying to go day-by-day, do things correctly like eating well on top of my therapy, so I can play well each day. Day in and day out I was able to play at a high level. I've always relied heavily on my serve and I was trying to hit my spots a lot (down break point).
You’re back in the Top 50 of the Emirates ATP Rankings now for the first time since your career-high of No. 43 on July 16, 2012. How does that feel?
I never knew how to get back here again. I've looked at the ATP website and seen the First-Time Spotlight winners every year. Five years ago, I didn't know if I was ever going to get there. After making four or five semi-finals in your teenage years, you expect to at least make one final. But that never happened. I'm just overwhelmed with excitement now.
Not many people realize you’ve been playing as a pro for 10 years, but you’re only 24. Talk about the process.
That's the thing. I started so young that when I wasn't winning Grand Slams by 22 or 23 years old, people felt like my name had come and gone. When you first hear about me by 2009 or 2010 and years later I'm outside the Top 100, people don't expect much from you. That's why the people around me told me to turn it into a positive and that I've had these experiences at such a young age. You can still do something great. That's been my mentality.
Who are the people who have helped you the most during your career?
My parents and my fiance. She's been there the whole way. Whenever I'd come off of a tough loss, she'd always be there and is so supportive. My mom is always there and my dad is the driving trust factor. When I was outside the Top 100 and someone told my dad that I wouldn't be Top 10 one day, he would have lost his mind. He just has that much belief in me. They have always been just so loving.
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