Tennis guru on Lloyd Harris' 2022 season: 'As a top 30 player, everybody's coming for him'

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Lloyd Harris. (Photo by Sarah Reed/Getty Images)
Lloyd Harris. (Photo by Sarah Reed/Getty Images)

The 2022 ATP Tour season will be a stern test of South African tennis star Lloyd Harris' resolve, renowned coach John-Laffnie de Jager believes.

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It's been a tough start to 2022 for South Africa's number one, who lost in the Australian Open first round on Monday.

Harris, the 30th seed, went down 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-7 (3/7) to Australian wild card Aleksandar Vukic, who is ranked 144th in the world.

"Vukic is a good player. He played for the team that we beat in the semis of World Team Tennis (De Jager coaches the Springfield Lasers). He's got a massive serve... also a guy that went to college," De Jager told Sport24 this week while analysing the match.

Harris' preparations for the year's opening Grand Slam was disrupted by a positive Covid-19 test in Dubai just after Christmas. It initially prevented him from travelling to Australia for a warm-up event in Melbourne.

Harris eventually recovered to make the trip Down Under where he entered the ATP 250-level event in Adelaide.

There he appeared short of match practice, losing 7-5, 5-7, 4-6 in the first round to Korea's 53rd-ranked Soonwoo Kwon.

Harris, 24, had a stellar 2021 season - he reached a career-high ranking of 31 after reaching the US Open quarter-finals and there were also notable wins over former US Open champion, Dominic Thiem, in Dubai and the big scalp of 20-time Grand Slam champion, Rafael Nadal, in Washington.

While 2021 wasn't Harris' first on tour, it was his breakthrough season and De Jager believes 2022 will show what the Capetonian is made of.

De Jager, a former ATP pro and SA Davis Cup captain, said more players would have taken note of Harris after his breakthrough season.

"This is going to be Lloyd's tough year. He fared great last year and now he has to defend all his points, people have more of an idea how to play against him," De Jager said.

"But he's a great player and he did unbelievably well in 2021, but as is the case in any sport, your second year is your tough year because people have started to figure you out. It's not his second year on tour but this will be his second year as a top 30 player in the world... everybody's coming for him, he needs to defend points from the previous year.

"I'm going to watch him carefully and see how it goes. I really hope for his part that he can have a great year again."

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