CHRISTIAN’S COMEBACK CONTINUES

CHRISTIAN’S COMEBACK CONTINUES

By STEVE DORSEY 

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – Christian Harrison is a fan of the NFL, so he’s familiar with the amazing comeback of quarterback Alex Smith, who has overcome a devastating leg injury two years ago that required 17 surgeries to help lead the Washington Football team to the playoffs this season.

Harrison can relate to Smith’s ordeal and the perseverance that the veteran quarterback has shown and his determination to return to a sport he loves. Harrison certainly knows all about professional setbacks and comebacks. The 26-year-old American has a medical resume that resembles a M.A.S.H. unit – eight surgeries, including operations on both legs, both hips, his right wrist and both adductors. Oh, and also a bone infection. All have threatened to end his pro career.

So it’s understandable that Harrison fully appreciates just being able to still play professional tennis. Winning matches makes it all that sweeter. And so far this week, Harrison has enjoyed those special moments three times at the ATP Tour’s Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com. He won two matches in the singles qualifying – including a nearly three-hour three-set marathon in the second round — to earn a spot in the main draw.

Harrison’s winning streak continued Friday afternoon on Court 1 at the Delray Beach Tennis Center when he defeated Tomas Martin Etcheverry of Argentina 6-4, 6-2 to advance to the second round. It’s his first ATP Tour main draw win since Newport in 2018.

“At this point, every (win) is special,” Harrison said after the win. “Right now I’m feeling good with my body and just hopefully get a lot more opportunities in the future over the next couple of months.”

Harrison said he doesn’t specifically draw a comparison to what Smith has endured to what he has gone through with all the injuries and surgeries. He said he just likes watching and following athletes who have a strong work ethic and overcome obstacles in their career and life.

“I’m just a big sports fan in general, and you can appreciate somebody who perseveres through circumstances that aren’t always easy,” Harrison said.

Harrison next faces Chilean Cristian Garin, the No. 22-ranked player in the world and the No. 1 seed here this week. Harrison knows it will be a tall task to upset Garin, who received a first-round bye, but it’s just another mountain to climb on his comeback trail, and he’s certainly no stranger to tough challenges. His current comeback began last September following a year-and-a-half absence from the ATP Tour following surgery on his left femur.

“I’m just excited to be playing (a second-round match) now,” said Harrison, whose match against Garin will be Saturday afternoon on Stadium Court. “I came here just hoping to play good tennis and wasn’t really thinking about wins. And now that I’ve won a couple of matches, I get that match (against Garin) that you kind of want to have. It should be a good test and a good challenge. It should be a lot of fun.”

Harrison was one of two qualifiers here to win a first-round match Friday afternoon. Former USC Trojan Roberto Quiroz of Ecuador beat American wild card entry Noah Rubin 7-6(1), 6-3. It’s the second ATP Tour-level win for Quiroz, whose second-round opponent will be the winner of Friday night’s match between 2015 Delray Open champion Ivo Karlovic and Spaniard Pablo Andujar, who is the No. 7 seed here this week.

“I had two surgeries last year and couldn’t play most of the year, and I wasn’t even sure I was going to get into the qualies here, and then I’m in the main draw,” said Quiroz, whose uncle Andres Gomez was the 1990 French Open champion and played his final ATP Tour career match at the inaugural Delray Beach Open in 1993 when it was held in Coral Springs. “I’ve been training real hard for these kind of moments, and hopefully the whole 2021 is like this.”

Also advancing to the second round was American Bjorn Frantangelo, who ousted fellow American qualifier Kevin King 6-2, 6-2 to become the sixth American to move on to the second round. It was Frataneglo’s first ATP Tour match win since August 2019 and he is looking to continue to his own comeback.

“Given the few amount of matches that I really played, being injured and everything I’m definitely on the comeback,” Fratangelo said. “I think I’ve got a little ways to go to find my best form, but you know, I think these matches are gonna help.”

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