ATP Tour

Tough start for Harris-Ferreira partnership

Lloyd Harris (Graham Denholm/Getty Images)
Lloyd Harris (Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

Cape Town - It was hailed as a "Marriage from Heaven" when it was revealed earlier in the week that top South African tennis prospect Lloyd Harris was linking up with Wayne Ferreira, one of the country's greatest-ever players, on a two-week trial coaching arrangement.

But in what has emerged as an untimely irony, the tennis "Marriage from Heaven" figuratively came crashing to earth on Wednesday when Harris, who turns 22 on Sunday, suffered a crushing 6-0, 6-2 defeat against Great Britain's Dan Evans in the second round of the ATP Tour's Delray Open event after beating another qualifier, Darian King, in the first round.

It was a sombre setback for Harris, who recently broke through the ATP Tour's  much-sought "top 100" barrier and is presently ranked at 98th in the world after improving his ranking by almost 200 places in the past year.

Most disconcerting for Harris in his comprehensive defeat against the gritty Evans must surely have been the fact that he dropped six of his seven service games - and, like top South African player and world fifth-ranked Kevin Anderson, serving is considered his main weapon.

That Harris's one-way loss occurred  immediately after announcing the link with Ferreira, a two-time Australian Open semi-finalist and one-time world sixth ranked player, may be viewed as a coincidence - although the Cape Town-born prospect could have been a little overawed at having Ferreira in his corner for the first time.

Was it only one of those nightmarish days that at one-time or another afflicts almost every player, or has it revealed shortcomings in Harris's repertoire that could halt further progress - something which Ferreira, among others, believe is well within his reach.

"Lloyd is a great kid and a very good tennis player," enthused Ferreira, "and he has the ability to get a lot better and continue the impressive progress he has already made. As to whether we tie up on a long-term basis, we'll see how the next couple of weeks go and then come up with a mutual decision."

Harris, for his part, says he is excited to be working with someone of Ferreira's stature, who is "also a South African" - and he has already picked up some valuable pointers.

And what of the defeat against Evans?

Well the 28-year-old Englishman should not be judged by his present 148th world ranking and the fact that he needed to qualify to make the main draw at Delray Beach.

Evans beat the defending champion, the volatile Frances Tiafoe, in the opening round at Delray Beach, has been ranked as high as 41st in the world, assisted in Great Britain winning the Davis Cup and is on a successful comeback campaign after completing a one-year suspension imposed on him after testing positive for cocaine.

Losing to Evans is by no means a disgrace, but the manner Harris lost 6-0, 6-2 may be construed as disturbing.

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