SA tennis star Lloyd Harris says US Open heroics better than win over Nadal

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Lloyd Harris. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Lloyd Harris. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
  • SA tennis star Lloyd Harris says reaching the US Open quarter-finals is his biggest career achievement to date.
  • He reckons the achievement carries more weight than his win last month over Spanish legend Rafael Nadal.
  • Harris is still in New York where he will represent South Africa in a Davis Cup World Group II tie against Venezuela this weekend.

South African tennis star Lloyd Harris says reaching the quarter-finals of the US Open is his career highlight to date - even bigger than beating 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal.

Harris has surged to a career-high ATP ranking of 31 after reaching the last eight at the year's final Grand Slam in New York.

The 24-year-old Capetonian has made steady progress up the rankings in recent years but has taken his game to new heights in 2021.

In March, Harris reached his first ATP 500-level final at the Dubai Tennis Championships, notching wins over the likes of 2020 US Open winner Dominic Thiem, Japanese star Kei Nishikori and Canadian upstart Denis Shapovalov.

Harris also upset three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka at the Qatar Open, but his most notable scalp of the year was beating Nadal in Washington DC last month.

At the US Open, Harris reached his first ever Grand Slam quarter-final with wins over 25th-seed Karen Khachanov, American wild card Ernesto Escobedo, seventh-seed Shapovalov and 22nd-seed Reilly Opelka, before losing to fourth seed Alexander Zverev.

While the win over Nadal was no doubt special, Harris believes his US Open result - which saw him take home more than R6 million - will count for more.

"Obviously when you beat a legendary player like Rafa, who's achieved everything that he's achieved in his career, it's probably one of my most memorable matches that I've ever had," Harris said in an online press conference from New York on Monday.

"Beating a 20-time Grand Slam champion was extremely special but then if you look at a tournament as a whole, it's definitely a much bigger thing to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final. There's a lot more coverage, a lot more people watching and tuning in, bigger stadiums...

"So, I would say the US Open was definitely the better result as a tournament. There were multiple good wins for me at the US Open... beating Khachanov, Opelka and Shapo (Shapovalov) in a Grand Slam... that's not an easy task within itself.

"I did go out [in the quarter-finals] in the end, but it was still one of my best tournaments ever, if not my best, so if I'd have to put it all into perspective then I would have to go with [the] US Open probably being my best result to date."

Looking back on his season so far, Harris said the run to the Dubai final - where he lost to Russian Aslan Karatsev - had "kick-started" something.

"Since then I've been playing with a lot more confidence, I've had a lot more belief on the tour. When you go through a tournament like that, beating some big names and making a 500 [level] final, I think you have to kind of believe that you belong with the big boys and that you're playing that kind of tennis.

"So, it's been really solid from there... I've been struggling a little bit with some niggles and injuries but managing that on the side and still managing to play some good tennis beyond that.

"Right now I'm feeling healthy and fit... the US Open was a good sign for me [that] I'm still feeling physically strong and fit. I definitely got a lot of confidence from that run in Dubai and I've just tried to take that into the rest of the year and it's gone pretty nicely."

Harris is still in New York where he will represent South Africa in a Davis Cup World Group II tie against Venezuela at the West Side Tennis Club this weekend.

The South African squad also features Davis Cup veterans Ruan Roelofse and doubles specialist Raven Klaasen. 

They will be joined by young guns Philip Henning and Sipho Montsi, who are both based in the United States where they compete on the collegiate circuit.

Former professional player, Christo van Rensburg, is the South African Davis Cup captain.

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