South Africa's Lloyd Harris in action. Picture: GLYN KIRK / AFP
South Africa's Lloyd Harris in action. Picture: GLYN KIRK / AFP

SA’s rising tennis star Lloyd Harris has a date with Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman in the first round of the Australian Open starting on Monday and will take on the 14th seed confidently after reaching his maiden ATP Tour title final on Saturday.

While Schwartzman has a world ranking of 42, the 22-year-old Capetonian will climb from 91 to 72 when the latest world rankings are released on Monday.

Harris came through the qualifying rounds of the Adelaide International and went on to down world No 30 Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3 6-3, Chilean world No 36 Christian Garin, 7-6(5) 3-6 6-4 and Serbian world No 40 Laslo Djere 7-6(5) 6-3 en route to the final of the ATP 250 event.

But he was no match for Russia’s Andrey Rublev on Saturday who breezed to a 6-3 6-0 victory in less than 57 min for his 12th consecutive win heading into the first Major of 2020.

The 18th-ranked third seed became the first player since Dominik Hrbaty in 2004 to lift two trophies during the first two weeks of an ATP season after winning the Qatar Open in Doha the previous weekend.

Harris served well at times and aced his opponent four times to make it 3-5 in the opening set but made too many errors on his forehand and failed to capitalise on a number of breakpoints handling a service pace matching his speed of more than 200km/h.

But the experience gained can only benefit the youngster who turned professional in 2015.

Raised confidence

“Andrey was just too good for me on the day,” said Harris. “He was on fire and has been since the start of the season. But it was a fantastic week for me. I played a lot of matches and grew in confidence by the day. But Andrey had my number.

“The last couple of weeks have raised my confidence levels,” he added. “I represented my country at the ATP Cup in Australia. That was a great experience and then [I] came here and got to a final, so there is much to be proud about. The aim now is to improve on an up-and-down year in 2019. I struggled with the body a little but that’s behind me now.

“Now I need to keep on improving, fighting hard each week and try to break some ranking barriers as well as get that first trophy.”     

Harris is a product of the Match (Make a Tennis Champion) Foundation founded by Anthula Markovitz of Cape Town.

Standing at a tad less than 2m, he cut his teeth on the third-tier Futures Tour winning 13 singles titles and four doubles titles, before making the step up to the Challenger Tour where he bagged three singles titles and two doubles titles.

His first ATP Tour victory was against France’s Gael Monfils.

In 2018 he played in his first Major after coming through qualifiers at the US Open. He repeated the feat at the Australian Open in January the next year and not long afterwards broke into the world top 100.

Last July, at Wimbledon, he drew eight-time champion Roger Federer and won the opening set before succumbing in four to the Swiss maestro.

Harris’s previous best finish at an ATP 250 was in September when he reached the semifinals of the Chengdu Open in China.

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