Is Ryan Harrison the Next Donald Young?

Aug 29, 2011 by

American Ryan Harrison makes a quick exit from the US Open, losing his first round match in straight sets to 27th world ranked Marin Cilic of Croatia.

Ryan Harrison, the 19 year old American tennis player, is the feature subject in a Reeves Weidman piece posted today on the Bill Simmons website, Grantland. Weidman posed the question, “Is Ryan Harrison the future of American men’s tennis?” Weidman never really got around to answering that question and I am not all that sure he cared to. I don’t think Weidman can assess Harrison’s tools to determine if he can even be a top ten player.

Here’s what I learned about Harrison after reading the article. Ryan Harrison is temperamental. He throws his racquet a lot. He makes ridiculous statements. The future of American tennis is gloomy at best with Harrison at the helm. In Weidman’s piece, Harrison comes off very similar to every other talented young tennis player who’s ever pursued a professional tennis career. So the answer to his question is simple, the answer is no, he is not the future of American tennis and it’s not even close.
Now that Weidman got the answer to his question, I want to point out two aspects of the article that I found worth noting. First, Weidman falsely represents Harrison’s skill set. Of Harrison’s skill, Weidman writes:

“This is what had scouts excited about Harrison: big serve, moves well, deft at the net, and really, really hates to lose. As the next great American, Harrison endures countless comparisons to his predecessors. Try hard enough and anyone fits: He has Sampras’ serve-and-volley game, Agassi’s movement, Ashe’s creativity, Roddick’s forehand. Most visibly, he has John McEnroe’s on-court demeanor.”

I would say try really really hard because none of it fits. Roddick’s forehand, which I saw up close, last week at the Winston-Salem Open, is mediocre at best. I am not sure why on earth you would want to possess a Roddick forehand or even compare it favorably. Harrison might yell at umpires that echo past McEnroe antics. However, McEnroe, unlike Harrison, used his anger as match strategy to get in the head of his opponents and disrupt their concentration. McEnroe’s temperament was a product of where he grew up-New York City. Harrison is from the South and comes off as spoiled and winey. Harrison rarely wins, so the attitude just comes off as a typical asshole tennis player. As for having the movement of Agassi, the creativity of Ashe, and wait for it…The serve and volley game of Sampras? Absolutely laughable.

Secondly, Weidman quoted Harrison saying this about Roger Federer:

“I think, personally, if Federer had a little more fire, it would help him get back to the top.”

Really?  The guy with 15 Grand Slam titles who’s consistently present on the final weekend of majors needs more fire. Surely Federer will take that sound advice to his next sports psychology session and get to work on it immediately. I am envisioning it now, Federer on the couch practicing yelling and fist pumping, as well as rehearsing his diatribes during mock line-call arguments.

One of Federer’s key assets is he never displaying any emotion to his opponent. Hell, he doesn’t even sweat. The reason for Federer’s decline has more to do with father time than fire. And I suppose Nadal’s success against him plays a factor. Harrison is just 19 and I understand that teenagers are dumb and make regrettable statements. However, ask Uncle Toni (Nadal’s coach and uncle) what would have happened if a young Rafael Nadal had been quoted saying similar things. Of course, Nadal would never have said anything remotely similar to Harrisons’ remarks, but if he did, Nadal would have been forced to make a phone call to Federer and apologize for any disrespect.

By the way, Harrison has a losing record in 2011. He also might want to look into some staffing changes. Reading Weidman’s piece gives the impression that Harrison’s father, coach, trainer, and agent may not be equipped to properly handle any aspect of Harrison’s development. Harrison’s early career results might have little to do with his skill, and more to do with his head and advisors.

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  1. Mike Ankerson

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I have been following Harrison the past two years and from my close observation, he might be considered the next Paul Goldstein. But to be compared to some of the greatest tennis legends of all time is a complete joke! I will admit he does move well but who doesn’t when you come in at a buck sixty and barely eligible to vote. His serve would be more comparable to the likes of Michael Cheng and forehand to Krickstein. Regarding his court awareness, creativity, and attitude, well, it’s difficult to make a fair assessment considering he very rarely gets through to the 2nd round.

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