Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
American Hopeful Harrison Fizzles in First-Round Flop
NEW YORK — Martina Navratilova called him “a little bit lazy” and “passive” with regard to his shot selection.
Mats Wilander called him “too cautious.”
In the end, Ryan Harrison couldn’t disagree with the commentators calling the match for the Tennis Channel.
“It’s true because I wasn’t feeling good,” the 19-year-old Louisiana native said after his 6-2, 7-5, 7-6 (6) loss to No. 27 Marin Cilic in a first-round U.S. Open match in Louis Armstrong Stadium. “So you’re passive and you’re playing defensively and behind the baseline whenever you’re not feeling good.”
With only three American men seeded in this year’s Open — highlighted by No. 8 Mardy Fish, who rolled over Tobias Kamke of Germany, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 in 1 hour, 43 minutes — Harrison had a chance to start of the tournament by creating some excitement and knocking off a seeded player for the second straight year.
A year ago, he raised hopes of becoming the next great American player when he made it all the way through qualifying and then upset No. 15 seed Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia in the first round and then held three match points before falling to Sergiy Stakhovskyin a five-set epic.
But Harrison, now ranked No. 66 in the world, said he simply wasn’t feeling right against Cilic, who peaked at No. 9 in the world a year and a half ago.
“It wasn’t comfortable,” said, Cilic, 22. “We both were a little bit tight at the beginning. As the match went on, we both started to play very well.”
Playing on a crisp and sunny day 24 hours removed from Hurricane Irene, Harrison committed 37 errors against just 11 winners, and double-faulted seven times while serving just one ace.
“I felt terrible from the first point till the last point the way I was hitting ball,” Harrison said “So to think that I served for two sets against a guy who is such an established player as him, there are a lot of positives I can take from it.”
Harrison served for the second set at 5-4, but was broken in his next two service games and lost the set. In frustration he threw his racket on the ground and it skidded toward umpire Louise Engzell.
A chorus of boos rose up from the pro-Harrison crowd.
In the third set, Harrison fought off break point in the sixth game to hold at 3-all. After breaking Cilic to go up 6-5, he had a chance to serve for the set but was broken at love.
“Yeah, I was frustrated just because I knew I wasn’t feeling the ball well from the beginning,” he said. “I got broken three times in the first two sets, and I got broken serving for the set in the third set.
“So obviously you’re not gonna feel good whenever that is going on. I didn’t break any racquets; I didn’t say swearwords on court. It could have gotten better and I could have been better. I didn’t really go nuts.”
Harrison appeared as if he might force a fourth set when he took a 5-2 edge in the tiebreak with a 127-mph service winner.
But Cilic won three points in a row to make it 5-5, and Harrison smacked a backhand into the net on match point.
“You know, I just had different chances I could have come through at,” he said, “so just obviously looking to move forward and finish the year strong.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.