11 Jan Cinderella Run Continues for Harrison
By STEVE DORSEY
DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – Christian Harrison is not ready to close the book on the Cinderella story of this year’s Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com.
Harrison, who needed to win two qualifying matches to earn a spot in the main draw, continued his remarkable run here Monday afternoon with a 7-6(2), 6-4 win against Italian Gianluca Mager in the first match of four quarterfinals Monday on Stadium Court at the Delray Beach Tennis Center. The victory advances Harrison to his first ATP Tour-level semifinal after also having reached his first quarterfinal here this week.
The 26-year-old American, who turned pro in 2007 as a 13-year-old, arrived in Delray Beach ranked No. 789 in the world and is playing in only his third ATP Tour-level event, having had to navigate an injury-riddled career that has included eight surgeries and limited his ability to enter Tour-level tournaments.
Harrison, who also has won both of his doubles matches with brother Ryan here, has not lost any of his seven matches. His five singles victories so far in Delray Beach have eclipsed the total amount of wins he had (4) when he arrived here. In his post-match interview, Harrison said that “everything is falling into place nicely,” which is an understatement considering what he’s accomplished here so far.
“It’s amazing,” said Harrison, who has won all three of his main draw matches in straight sets. including an upset of No. 1 seed and world No. 22 Cristian Garin of Chile in the second round.
Harrison, who lives in Bradenton on the Gulf coast of Florida, was on the verge of losing the first set Monday, as Mager was serving with a 5-4 lead. But Harrison broke Mager’s serve to tie the set and then went on to win the tiebreaker. From that point on, Harrison was the more aggressive player, particularly on return points, and dictated play.
“I definitely felt a lot more confident after that break point,” Harrison said. “To finally break through at that crucial moment where he could have put away the set, I felt like I was starting to play really well. I definitely knew once I had that break that I was going to have a very good chance. At the beginning of the match it took me a little bit longer to get loose, but I think it was more nerves than anything else that I was thinking about. And the last 30, 40 minutes of the match I felt great, and even now I feel really good, so I think I’ll definitely be a hundred percent fresh going into tomorrow’s matches for sure.”
Reaching the semifinals assures that Harrison will make a gigantic leap up the world rankings, projected to move 444 spots up the ladder to No. 345.
“I used to think about (rankings) all the time,” Harrison said. “But now, as I haven’t really played too much, I feel like my level isn’t reflective of my ranking. I’m really not trying to think about my ranking at all.”
Harrison’s opponent in the semifinals on Tuesday will be Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz, the No. 4 seed here this week who beat qualifier Roberto Quiroz of Ecuador 6-4, 6-4 in the other quarterfinal Monday afternoon. Hurkacz is ranked No. 35 in the world and is seeking his second career ATP Tour title. He received a first-round bye and likewise has won both of his matches in straight sets to reach his third ATP Tour-level semifinal.
Hurkacz win Monday lasted 85 minutes after his opening round win came in under an hour on Sunday.
“It’s going to be interesting because obviously winning so many matches here, Christian has a lot of confidence,” Hurkacz said of his semifinal matchup with Harrison. “He’s been playing really well. I mean, after what he came from (with) so many surgeries, I’m glad he’s in this spot, and I’m happy to play against him.”