Time for youngsters to kick out ’big three’, says US Open star Lloyd Harris
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CAPE TOWN – While the Covid-19 pandemic almost brought the world to a standstill in many respects, South African tennis star Lloyd Harris says the time off court allowed him to work his physical strength, which he feels is the key to his success this year.
The 24-year-old from Cape Town capped a remarkable northern summer of tennis by going all the way to the quarter-finals of the US Open last week.
He went down in three sets to German Alexander Zverev 7-6(8/6) 6-3 6-4 at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, but has pulled off a number of outstanding victories in the US season.
The highlight for Harris was arguably the 6-4 1-6 6-4 win over Spanish legend Rafael Nadal at the Washington Open earlier this year, while he also knocked over Austrian star Dominic Thiem 6-3 6-4 in Dubai.
He topped it off with a sizzling performance in the third round of the US Open, where he beat Canadian Denis Shapovalov 6-4 6-4 6-4.
“Davis Cup has always been a part of my schedule – I don’t think I’ve missed a tie in the last four years or so. Very important to represent your country and get out and play. We’ve done some great results over the last couple of years,” Harris said from New York during a press conference with South African media on Tuesday.
“With my game, with all these Covid restrictions and lockdowns, I actually got a lot of time to work a little bit more on my body – the physical aspect, the fitness aspect – and I think that has helped me a lot in my game.
“Physically, it allows you also to be mentally a lot stronger. That has helped me to continuously play at a higher level, not having to worry so much about the conditioning aspect.
“And also, when you look at a run to the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam, it’s a pretty physical task – especially also playing doubles. It was day-in, day-out, playing five-set, four-set, three-set matches. It was a lot of tennis being played, but I still felt in great shape and still ready to go for more.
“So, I think that has really propelled my tennis game to the next level.”
Harris is still in New York, getting ready for this weekend’s Davis Cup World Group II tie between South Africa and Venezuela at the West Side Tennis Club.
He hopes the team can progress to the World Group one day, but also has his sights set on bigger goals in his own career. Russian Daniil Medvedev’s US Open triumph over Novak Djokovic last Sunday – which prevented the Serbian from clinching a calendar Grand Slam – has given Harris even more belief that the “new generation” can rule the tennis world going forward.
“Dubai (beating Thiem) really kick-started something because since then, I’ve been playing with a lot more confidence, a lot more belief on the tour,” he said.
“When you go to a tournament like that and make the final, you have to kind of believe that you belong with the big boys. It has been really solid from there, and managing some niggles on the side, and still playing some good tennis.
“It’s been coming for a while. It’s just so hard for the younger generation to kind of crack into those Grand Slams.
“Novak’s just really been unstoppable until the very last match. I just think he came up against an extremely difficult opponent on the day. Daniil has played some really good tennis throughout the whole summer, and that just kind of reflects on this newer generation – Zverev winning the gold medal, Medvedev won a Masters (event) in the summer.
“So, this young generation is really coming through, and if you look at the top-50 now, there are more young guys there than in the last 20 years.
“These older guys that I grew up with, it’s incredible how we are all within one year of each other: we are all between 96 and 98 almost, which is pretty incredible.
“I’ve known these guys for a long time, and we’ve been competitive in the juniors already, and it’s nice to see all of us progressing. Now I think it’s time to kick out the big three (Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer) and let the young generation take over.”