Just 21, Ryan Harrison has a pretty mature understanding of what it takes to make it on the ATP tour.
"You've got to love the process," Harrison said after his 6-3, 7-5 win over former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt on Tuesday in a first-round Citi Open match at William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center. "No matter how tense any moment can get out there, it's what we live for, it's what we play for."
That mantra will be worth recalling today, when he will meet top-seeded Juan Martin Del Potro, a Wimbledon semifinalist and two-time Citi Open champion, in the second round. Del Potro won't be taking him lightly.
"He has a very good game, he serves very hard, he's young, he's trying to break into the top positions," Del Potro said of Harrison. "He likes to play on hard court. He's an American guy, and I think the crowd will be cheering for him."
When asked what song he'd enter the court to if given the choice, Harrison cited Toby Keith's "Made in America" with little hesitation. Fitting for a player many believe could play a key role in the future of U.S. men's tennis.
After hitting a career-high ranking of No. 43 last July, his ranking has plummeted to 107 — prompting him to move to the U.S. Tennis Academy training center in Boca Raton, Fla., to work with USTA coach Jay Berger.
The switch seems to have reinvigorated Harrison's faith in "the process." After a week in Boca Raton, Harrison made an impressive run in the ATP event in Atlanta last week, falling in the semifinals to No.21-ranked Kevin Anderson — and he has followed with the impressive win over Hewitt. But he's not willing to chalk everything up to the switch so early on.
"You never know when [breakthroughs] are going to happen," he said. "I believe that the work that I put in that week and a half down there in Boca and the hard work I was able to put in certainly helped in my Atlanta run and in the win here today."
Joining Harrison in the second round will be Sam Querrey, the top-ranked American in the field.
Querrey's first-round match against Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin turned into the match of the evening.
Querrey, ranked No. 22 in the world, dropped a sloppy first set, 6-3. But Querrey stormed back with a 6-3 win in the second set, setting up a third set that went to a tiebreaker; Querrey survived, 11-9.
Querrey wasn't the only American male to fare well Tuesday, as 20-year-old Jack Sock, 25-year-old Tim Smyczek and 26-year-old Alex Kuznetsov all played their way into the second round.
On the women's side, 18-year-old Madison Keys joined Alison Riske as the only Americans to advance past the first round. There were nine Americans in the 32-player draw.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun