World No. 789 Harrison's Fairytale Run Continues In Delray Beach
The 26-year-old American, who has undergone eight surgeries, defeated 2020 Rio de Janeiro finalist Gianluca Mager 7-6(2), 6-4 on Monday afternoon to reach his first ATP Tour semi-final.
“It feels pretty amazing,” Harrison said on court after the match. “I’m just happy that I have everyone here, all my friends and family around that are here to support, especially here in Delray being so close to home.”
Entering the week, Harrison had just two tour-level singles wins. The qualifier has three this tournament alone, and he is also into the doubles semi-finals alongside older brother Ryan Harrison.
“I’m feeling very good. I feel fresh, still. I think a couple days off in between helped,” Harrison said. “One of the days off we only had one doubles, which was probably a good recovery anyway. Looking forward to the semis tomorrow.”
Initially, nerves appeared to be getting to Harrison in his first ATP Tour quarter-final. The home favourite hit two double faults and made two baseline errors in the first game of the match to immediately lose his serve. But Harrison never panicked, and he settled in after that.
“I just kept doing the same thing because I just played a sloppy first game of the match and got broken,” Harrison said. “Then I felt like he was playing solid the whole time, hitting a lot of good first serves, and sometimes there was nothing I could do. I had a lot of break points in the first couple games that I didn’t really get, so I honestly just tried to do the same thing.”
Harrison won 83 per cent of his first-serve points and faced just four break points in the match. Although he only converted two of his 11 break points, the American kept battling to earn more opportunities. At 2-2 in the second set, Mager double faulted a break away, and that was the only advantage Harrison needed.
The World No. 789 is the second-lowest-ranked semi-finalist in tournament history behind Juan Martin del Potro, who accomplished the feat as World No. 1,042 in 2016. This is uncharted territory for the American, who had not played a tour-level main draw since 2018 Newport.
But now, Harrison is two wins from becoming the lowest-ranked ATP Tour titlist in history (since 1990). He will next play fourth seed Hubert Hurkacz in their first ATP Head2Head clash.
“I’m pretty even keeled right now,” Harrison said. “Just happy to keep playing and hopefully could have two solid matches tomorrow.”
Early on in the day’s second quarter-final, it looked like Harrison might face another player making an unlikely Cinderella run through the draw. Hurkacz, the 23-year-old Pole who is No. 35 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, was heavily favoured to beat the Ecuadorian Roberto Quiroz, ranked No. 293. Quiroz was a highly touted junior and has royal tennis blood—his uncle is tennis legend Andres Gomez and his cousin is former Top 10 player Nicolas Lapentti. But at 28, Quiroz came into the event with just one ATP Tour main draw victory and didn’t make it out of the qualifying in seven career attempts at the majors.
Quiroz saved three break points down 0-1, parrying off the final chance with a deft half volley. Then he broke the Pole, who trains at the Saddlebrook Resort near Tampa, at love in the following game. But Hurkacz, moving well for a man of 6”5’, wisely began to attack Quiroz’s slice backhand, and broke back to level the match at 4-4. Hurkacz then held and broke again to take the first set 6-4 as errors began to creep into the Ecuadorian’s game.
Both players served their way out of trouble on a number of occasions in the second set—Quiroz saved seven of 10 break point chances in the match. The Ecuadorian certainly punched far above his weight in the rankings throughout the match, but the Pole finally broke through at 5-4, forcing an error with a forceful backhand approach shot down the line to ice the match, 6-4, 6-4 in one hour, 26 minutes.
“Roberto is tricky to play against,” Hurkacz said after the match. “He slices a lot of balls. I tried to stay competitive and stay in the first set. I’m happy with the win…hopefully I’ll play a great match tomorrow.”