Johannesburg - South African tennis player Lloyd Harris (21) has bucked the trend that sees players move overseas to be closer to major tournaments and better facilities, opting to remain in his house in Cape Town.
At number 145, he is the second-highest ranked South African in the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) world rankings, after sixth-seed Kevin Anderson.
Harris told City Press this week that he saw no need to relocate.
“It is amazing to have Cape Town as my base. I have amazing training facilities and I get to see my family and friends,” he said in a written answer to questions.
A rising star, he recently impressed all and sundry by reaching two Challenger finals two weeks in a row, despite his base being located thousands of kilometres from the rest of the tennis world.
Harris won his maiden title at the ATP Challenger Kentucky Bank Tennis Championships in Lexington in the US two weeks ago. He beat Italy’s Stefano Napolitano 6-4, 6-3 in the final without dropping a serve.
Speaking to City Press from West Vancouver in Canada, where he was playing in the Vancouver Open this week, Harris said of his win: “I feel like l lifted my game in important moments and stayed solid at times when I had to.”
Harris became the first South African to win the Kentucky championships since Rik de Voest in 2013, and the youngest from the country since Anderson in 2007.
“Hard work on and off the court really paid off to get me my first title,” he said.
Last Sunday, he reached the finals of the Nordic Naturals Challenger in California, but lost to fourth-seed Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia 6-2, 6-3.
The Cape Town-born player said reaching two finals in a row showed he belonged at the top.
“Once again, it was another good week for me. I beat some quality players en route to the finals. I feel like I showed everybody I’m not just around to win matches in one week, but that this is where I belong – and higher up.”
On why he chose to stay at the southern tip of the continent, unlike other prominent players who move abroad, he said he got the best training here.
“I am out there competing in so many tournaments at this stage of my career that it has not been a problem for me at all.”
His fine form saw him shoot up the ATP rankings, with his title victory taking him 47 spots up the world rankings to a career-high 161. And, reaching the final last week – even though he lost – took him even higher, to his current position of number 145.
Harris believes he has potential.
“I still have a long way to go as a player and know that no goal is unreachable. I am pushing myself every day to become the best player I can possibly be.”
In an interview with City Press last year, SA Davis Cup captain Marcos Ondruska predicted that Harris would soon break into the top 100. By the looks of things, this prediction appears to be spot-on.