Back when Ryan Harrison participated in the 2011 edition of the hard-court ATP tournament in the nation’s capital, he was still a teen, still considered the next big thing in American men’s tennis, and still talking about wanting to be, in his words at the time, a “multiple Grand Slam champion.”
Harrison lost to Viktor Troicki that week. As it happens, all of these years and hiccups later, Harrison played the same guy again Wednesday at the same event, and this time he won, eliminating the 10th-seeded Troicki of Serbia 7-6 (4), 6-4 to reach the Citi Open’s third round as a qualifier.
For Harrison, now 24 and nearly a decade into his professional career, it represents the first time he’s won back-to-back main-draw matches in 2016. It also represents a real step back in the right direction for someone who reached his career-best ranking of 43rd in 2012 and is now 158th.
“Mentally, it’s been an up and down ride over the last couple years, because the hardest thing to do when you’ve had early success and you hit a speed bump is to let go of the negative. You can dwell on so many things. At so many stages of my career, I’ve been angry and irritated. I’ve been discouraged. Not depressed in my life, but disappointed with the way that I’m playing,” Harrison said in an interview after beating Troicki in front of a standing-room-only crowd.
“You can get in a sulky mode. Everything that’s built up from negative moments can creep back in,” continued Harrison, who was born in Louisiana and is now based in Texas. “The biggest thing for me moving forward is just being who I am today. I know what I can do, I know the level I’m capable of playing, and when I do let go of all that stuff then I feel I give myself chances to win. Because I don’t doubt myself from an ability standpoint.”
Harrison converted only three of 22 break points, but he counted it as a positive that he didn’t let all the missed chances get to him.
“When you’re in a situation like I’m in _ that you haven’t won a ton of matches _ it seems like it’s tough to convert on opportunities. And it’s easy to get discouraged. You miss your first couple, and you feel like you’ve lost the match,” he said. “For me, the biggest turning point for this week, compared to other weeks, has been when I’m not getting that first opportunity, (I’m) staying in there and creating more.”
Next for Harrison is an all-American matchup against fifth-seeded Steve Johnson, who beat Adrian Mannarino of France 6-3, 6-4.
Others advancing included top-seeded John Isner, No. 2 Gael Monfils _ who hadn’t won a match since early May and said he’d missed time on tour recently because of a virus _ No. 3 Bernard Tomic, No. 6 Jack Sock and No. 15 Marcos Baghdatis.
In a match between two of the three teens in the ATP’s top 100, seventh-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany saved all five break points he faced and overwhelmed Taylor Fritz of the U.S. 6-4, 6-2. They were born six months apart in 1997, but Zverev brushed off the idea that this was a significant meeting of two members of tennis’ next generation.
“It doesn’t mean a lot for the future,” Zverev said. “We both know that there’s a lot of improvements to be made for both of us.”
The third teen in the top 100, Borna Coric, won Wednesday and faces Monfils next.
In women’s play, top-seeded Sam Stosur, the 2011 U.S. Open champion, moved on when former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki retired from their match in the second set because of an injured left arm. Wozniacki took the opening set 7-5 despite getting treatment from a trainer after feeling pain in her arm while hitting a backhand late in the set. She stopped playing right after getting broken to trail 4-3 in the second.
Earlier, wild-card entry Jessica Pegula defeated Christina McHale 7-5, 6-2 to reach her first WTA quarterfinal.
McHale, who pushed Serena Williams to three sets at Wimbledon, is the sister of Harrison’s fiancee, Lauren.
Their wedding date is in next March, which coincides with the closing weekend of the Masters tournament in Miami.
“So,” noted Harrison, smiling and sounding as confident as ever, “we are hoping to have to reschedule.”