Harrison Storms To Maiden Title In Memphis
Ryan Harrison's game was on song all week at the Memphis Open and the American was rewarded with his maiden ATP World Tour title. Harrison upended Georgia's Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-1, 6-4 in just 76 minutes on Sunday, displaying a dogged defence that saw him deny all 12 break points faced.
The 24 year old is the second first-time winner this year, joining Sydney champion Gilles Muller. He is also the second player to clinch an ATP World Tour title without dropping a set, in addition to Alexandr Dolgopolov, who won in Buenos Aires earlier on Sunday.
"It's always going to be special, but it's even better here in front of a group of people that drove up from your hometown and have known you since you were five years old," Harrison said. "To do it in front of friends and family and people that saw the work I was putting in and my dedication, it definitely makes it more special.
"This was the first place I saw a professional tennis match, driving up from Shreveport. I will always remember Memphis. All those emotions were coming out there at the end. You have dreams and aspirations in life and for me it's trying to be as great as I can in tennis. For me to come back here and win this title when I had thought it was impossible, it's amazing."
Basilashvili rode his bludgeoning forehand to the final, but was unable to penetrate Harrison's defences. The American snatched the first break in the fourth game and forced a backhand error to take a commanding 5-1 lead. After closing out the opener in 25 minutes, Harrison came under pressure often in the second set, but escaped break points in all five of his service games.
The Louisiana native survived a 0/40 deficit in the sixth game and would consolidate the decisive break for 4-2. He crossed the finish line with one of his nine aces after just over an hour.
"I don't think I had a single easy hold in the second set," Harrison added. "He came out and was playing really good tennis. Honestly, he outplayed me most of the second set and I managed to save a bunch of break points and convert on the only one I had. But that happens in tennis. I was fortunate to be the one saving the opportunities."
Harrison has won 10 matches - and 20 sets - in a row after also lifting the trophy at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Dallas two weeks ago. He is the first player to win Challenger and ATP World Tour titles in consecutive tournaments since David Goffin reeled off four victories in four weeks, including his maiden tour-level crown in Kitzbuhel, in 2014. He is also the first to win on both circuits this year.
The World No. 62 adds $114,595 and 250 Emirates ATP Rankings points and is projected to return to the Top 50. The first American winner at the Racquet Club of Memphis since Andy Roddick in 2011, he also finished runner-up with Steve Johnson in the doubles final on Sunday.
Basilashvili, meanwhile, was contesting his second ATP World Tour final, having finished runner-up to Paolo Lorenzi in Kitzbuhel last year. He was bidding to become the first player representing the Republic of Georgia to lift a trophy. The big-hitting 24 year old takes home $60,355 and 150 Emirates ATP Rankings points.
"In the first set, I could not find any rhythm. I was not going for my shots and playing very defensive. Ryan was serving really well on the break points. I had a lot of chances in the second set, but the energy wasn't great today. It hurts so much, but you have to learn from this for the next matches.
"Ryan was playing unbelievable in the 12 break points," said Basilashvili. "He was playing really well. If I had just one, I could have found the rhythm, but I wasn't able to. He made me play a lot of shots, which helped him. He has been playing very good all week."
The encounter between the American and the Georgian was their first in eight years. Harrison triumphed in the semi-finals of an ITF Futures event in Shingle Springs, California in 2009, when both players were 16 years of age.