Cape Town - In an exclusive interview, LLOYD HARRIS talks about the Davis Cup experience in Cape Town, making significant strides in his career and teaming up with Kevin Anderson at the ATP Cup in January 2020.
Sport24 asked: How has your career advanced since we last spoke?
Lloyd Harris: Things have progressed pretty well since we last chatted (in September 2018). I have enjoyed some cool experiences this year and have got to play in so many bigger tournaments and against many more top players. The fact that I have made Grand Slam main draws is a really big change in my career. (Harris enjoyed his best Grand Slam result so far by reaching the second of Roland Garros 2019). I’m learning so much and enjoying the experience out there and working hard every day to try reach my goals to get to the top. Slowly but surely I am moving up in the world (from 145 to No.106). It’s tough to set ranking goals because it’s about defending your points and then gaining. Tennis is a game of margins but I do set goals in terms of what I want to achieve. Getting to the second round of Roland Garros was a phenomenal experience and the fact that my first rounder against Lukas Rosol was an epic match made it more memorable. It was my first five-setter and the team and I were so pumped and happy. I had a tough second round match against Borna Coric but gave it my all. I think it was breakthrough to get past the first round of a Grand Slam and mentally it will help me a lot. (The 22-year-old has made great strides this year by qualifying for the main draws of all four Grand Slams). I know can go further now and it will be a big boost for majors to come. In general, I have become stronger and more confident in matches. The fact that I’m playing at a higher level gives me more belief. I really believe I can compete against the top guys.
Sport24 asked: What goals are you setting yourself going forward?
Lloyd Harris: In terms of what I want to achieve moving forward, I’m just looking to improve and go deeper into tournaments. The next step is to really go deep in the ATP events because if you win one of those you get your ranking up. (Harris played in his first-ever ATP tour semi-final at the Chengdu Open in China in September, ultimately bowing out against Alexander Bublik). At the same time, it’s important to keep improving and working on the things that we are doing. Even if it doesn’t come in the next few months, I feel like it will come sooner or later. I still have plenty of time on the tour and only have to look at Roger Federer, who is still playing at 38 and remains at the top of his game, to gain inspiration. I still have many years to go and we are just focused on the process at the moment.
Sport24 asked: How crucial is your support team to your success?
Lloyd Harris: I love travelling with both Anthony Harris and Eitan Adams, they help me all the time and I can’t do it without them. (The Anthony Harris Tennis Academy is a High Performance centre for junior and professional tennis players. It focuses on producing future tennis champions and runs a full day, intensive training programme six days a week). You need that support system and it’s not just on the court. It’s off the court as well and is a whole combination of things. It’s not an easy thing to achieve otherwise every coach would make top 100 players all the time. Anthony and I have a good connection and we enjoy working with each other. We have fun but when it’s time to be serious on the court we are. It’s a good balance. We decided to add a fitness trainer to my team and Allistair McCaw is amazing. That was the next step in my development and if I can make some improvements in terms of my body and movement, it will enhance my game because I have the shots. My tennis is there but it’s now about putting everything together. If you can move better into position, you can hit the forehand with more precision and if you are physically stronger, you can last longer and endure for five sets. Allistair is so motivational and he lifts me up. The partnership has been going strong since last December and we are really enjoying it and will look to continue it.
Sport24 asked: How are you handling more money and attention?
Lloyd Harris: I was on the tour for a long time playing the futures and it was a couple of years when I really didn’t earn anything, so winning prize money now is good. It’s obviously a bit of a change having some money come through but there are still a lot of expenses involved. You make a good amount of money but there is still a lot going out. There are a lot of expenses to be covered but at least I am now much more comfortable financially. It makes life easier for me. In terms of the greater amount of publicity, it’s nice because people know me more now and it’s a little bit different walking around the grounds of a big tournament. The increased attention is cool in a way and is not to an extent where it’s too much. There is a good balance right now and I’m enjoying it. I have got a good team around me who are helping me with my finances, so it’s about making the correct choices in terms of where to put my cash and what I want to invest in. It’s still the very start of it all.
Sport24 asked: Which players inspire you within the game today?
Lloyd Harris: I enjoy watching Federer. His finesse and the elegant way in which he plays on the court is always amazing. The one Next Gen player to really watch out for is Stefanos Tsitsipas. He is unbelievable and every time I practice with him, every third shot he hits is just wow. He hits the ball so big and so clean and mentally I think he is so tough. For me, he will be the next big star for sure. He is definitely one to look out for just in terms of the way he has jumped up through the ranks. How he has gone about his business is incredible and something to try to follow and learn from. The Next Gen are coming up more and more. If you look at the likes of Stefanos, Daniil Medvedev, Sascha Zverev and Denis Shapovalov, there are so many young guys coming through. It’s crazy and their turn is going to come in the next couple of years for sure. (With Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer the top three-ranked players on the circuit for now experience is still trumping youth).
Sport24 asked: How would you sum up the Davis Cup experience?
Lloyd Harris: For us to finally get the Davis Cup to Cape Town was awesome. So many people wanted to watch me and my team-mates but never had the chance to do so until this year. (Davis Cup tennis returned to the Mother City after an absence of 20 years). It was exciting for tennis in South Africa and, as expected, it was a great atmosphere. (South Africa won the tie against Bulgaria 4-1 and will face Bosnia and Herzegovina away in the 2020 Davis Cup World Group play-offs). My nickname within the SA Davis Cup team is ‘The King’. It was just what I got and I didn’t have any say in it! At the time when I first came in to the team it was Nicolaas Scholtz, Tucker Vorster, Raven Klaasen, Ruan Roelofse and Fritz Wolmarans, who were in the mix and older than me. I think it was Nick who decided to call me ‘The King’ because I was this youngster balling and playing well. We have such cool Davis Cup tradition and our team spirit and atmosphere is one of a kind… I hope Kevin Anderson will join (our team) in the future but we don’t know. I understand that he wants to focus on being a top 10 player but if he makes the time to play it would be amazing. Obviously it would be great for me, the whole team and South African tennis at large if Kevin plays for South Africa but I understand the situation, which is not easy. We would love him to play but it is what it is. (Harris and Anderson will represent South Africa in a new national team event: the ATP Cup in 2020).