ATP Tour

In-form Harris ready for Davis Cup challenge

Lloyd Harris (BLD Communications)
Lloyd Harris (BLD Communications)

Lisbon - Lloyd Harris jetted into Lisbon on Monday to join his South Africa team-mates for this weekend's all-important Davis Cup Euro/Africa Group 1 play-off tie against Portugal.

The 21-year-old arrived in the Portuguese capital playing the best tennis of his career.

Harris keeps racking up the achievements as the 2018 season rolls along, and the South African #NextGenATP is pressing towards yet another - the Top 100 in the ATP rankings.

Two weekends ago Harris dominated the field in Stockton, California, to claim his second ATP Challenger Tour title, defeating fellow #NextGenATP Marc Polmans of Australia 6-2, 6-2 in the final.

In August, he became the first South African to lift a trophy in five years at the ATP Challenger in Lexington. Now, the Cape Town native proved that he's not done with just one.

Following his title win in Stockton Harris joins as exclusive club in becoming the third #NextGenATP with multiple titles this year.

And most importantly, Harris is up to a career-high No 112 in the ATP Rankings and rises four spots to 10th in the ATP Race to Milan. Having resided in 20th place prior to his triumph in Lexington, he is now firmly in contention to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals.

Behind a ruthless run that has included a pair of Challenger titles, a successful US Open qualifying campaign and a first Top 50 win over Gael Monfils at the Chengdu Open, Harris has fast become one of the hottest players in pro tennis. He's showing no signs of slowing down as the season nears its conclusion.

This coming weekend Harris will play in his seventh Davis Cup tie for South Africa. Since his Davis Cup debut against Luxembourg at home at the Irene Country Club outside Pretoria in 2015, Harris has made impressive improvements to his game and world rankings and with Kevin Anderson not making himself available for Davis Cup duty, the hopes of the nation lie firmly on the shoulders of Harris.

"It's always an honour to play for my country and each time I walk onto court in the green and gold I feel extremely proud," said Harris. 

"I have been really confident lately on court and I've played a lot of matches this year. Getting a lot of wins in the last couple of months has really built my confidence up nicely. Two weeks back I had the biggest win of my career (defeated Monfils at Chengdu Open) and that really helps for sure. I'm just playing very good tennis at the moment."

Harris said that he aimed to secure a top 100 ranking in the next few months.

"The key for me is to keep improving my game and doing the hard work. I feel like if I keep doing that, the tennis will stay good. As long as I keep a positive mindset, I'll play better and have strong results in the future. I'm not expecting anything and giving it my all every day," he said.

Commenting on the adjustment of playing on the regular tour to Davis Cup in a week, Harris said that it would always remain a challenge for the team playing away.

"It's not easy but that is what makes Davis Cup so interesting. This week the Portuguese are hosting, and they have chosen red clay. I have been on the hard courts of the USA for the past two months and only have three days to adjust to the clay. It's tough but part of the competition. I have to make the adjustments, get over the jet lag and get into the correct mind-set and get used to the clay. But I have some very supportive team-mates, a great physio in Karen Frye and an experienced captain in Marcos Ondruska to guide and help me in this regard."

Harris said that he was constantly trying to improve his game.

"I'm constantly trying to work on things. It's a mixture of tweaking small things in my game, like moving forward and working on my volley game, and also the transition from playing defense to being more offensive. Just the small things and I felt that it's really paying off. After a great run in the American summer, I went home and took three weeks to think about how I want to improve and what I want to do with my game. I've come back even stronger and am playing even better than I wanted to before."

On the mental part of his game, Harris said that a lot of players are challenged.

"I have been working hard at keeping the focus throughout an entire match and an entire tournament. At the Challenger level and at the ATP level, you can't not be strong in that area. Any dips will cost you the match. So, I feel like I've really improved on that. I'm trying to compete in every single point. It doesn't matter if it's 0/40 or whatever the score may be. I'm trying to compete hard. In the last couple of months, I've really done that well and made a mental shift."

Harris said that he was feeling the support from South Africa as he was making the improvements to his game and ranking.

"My success I think is massive for the country. One thing we've been lacking as a country has been depth. We've only had Kevin Anderson at the top and also Raven Klaasen in the doubles. A country is not a great tennis country with only one or two guys succeeding. So now, we're getting closer and closer and hopefully I'll be in all the main draws of the Grand Slams as well. I want to be right there competing with the top guys. I think it's great for the country and to have a support group behind me. It's also awesome that I can inspire the younger kids and upcoming juniors that they can also achieve that. That's what we're looking for."

Commenting on this weekend's tie against Portugal, Harris said South Africa were up to the challenge.

"It's not going to be an easy tie, Portugal have a strong line up, three players in the world's top 200 and are playing at home. But regardless me and my team-mates are putting our all into being best prepared for this weekend and want to do not only ourselves but our country proud."

South Africa take on Portugal on Friday and Saturday, October 19-20.

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