In a brutal opening day first round match, South African Kevin Anderson came from behind to win a five-set thriller against American Ryan Harrison 7-6 (7/4) 5-7 4-6 6-3 6-4 to move into the second round of the US Open in New York late on Monday evening.
But first-time US Open qualifier Lloyd Harris wasn’t as lucky, going out in the first round to Frenchman Gilles Simon, 6-2 6-2 6-3.
Anderson, who fell to Rafael Nadal last year in his first Grand Slam final here in New York, grabbed at his left calf during the third set but had enough left to win another lengthy match which he has become accustomed to.
Anderson, seeded fifth, needed 4hours 14min to clinch victory against a ‘gutsy’ Harrison and a large partisan crowd on court 17.
Harrison, who beat Anderson in Tokyo last year, played a solid game for a player, with respect, who has no real weapons and troubled the South African expat from start to finish with clever pace and angle.
But Anderson used his experience and power to get the better of the American. The 6ft 8in South African slammed in 26 aces and 73 winners en route to victory.
‘I was expecting a challenge out here today against Ryan. I have a lot of respect for Ryan, he played great tonight. I have played Ryan a few times and it shows you how many great players there are in the draw and each match is indeed a challenge’ said Anderson following his victory.
Anderson said that the conditions on court were ‘incredibly tough’.
‘It was so hot and humid and I was losing so much fluid it made it real tough.’
Anderson concluded by saying he loved competing and playing in New York as it was a terrific tournament for him last year. ‘It means so much to me and I try my best for every singles point, you don’t win them all but the ones you do win like this match make the hard work and pain definitely worth it.
‘And as for the crowds, there was good support for both Ryan and I, which makes it so much enjoyable and I must thank all those who came out to give us support.’
In round two, Anderson will play his close friend and doubles partner Jeremy Chardy of France. That match is scheduled for Wednesday.
A Youth Olympian four years ago, Harris was making his first grand slam appearance.
He qualified on Friday for the main draw after an impressive run which saw him win three qualifying rounds without losing a set. But when the draw was announced, he drew one of the most seasoned and respected players on the pro circuit, Gilles Simon, ranked 40 in the world, playing in his 12th US Open Championships, a winner of 13 career titles and former world number six.
Harris was motivated going into Monday’s match, but his body was tired, and it showed as Simon won in 2hr 18min.
It was the usually effective serve that Harris uses as a weapon that let the 21-year-old South African down with a low first serve percentage of 39% (first set), 61% (second set) and 53% (third set) telling the story.
Also, Harris, according to former South African great Wayne Ferreira (who was courtside supporting the South African), said the youngster wasn’t aggressive enough against Simon. ‘Lloyd has an impressive game that will get him deep into the world’s top 100.
‘A pity his serve was not on song today and that he didn’t play aggressive which to have any chance against Gilles you need to do’ said Ferreira.
Harris agreed with Ferreira. ‘I tried to play aggressive, but I was missing a lot more than usual and battling to find my range.’
Harris said that Simon was a real tough opponent. ‘I have enormous respect for Gilles, he is tough to play, he made it difficult, made a lot of balls and played the big points well when it mattered.’
Eitan Adams, a coach at the Anthony Harris Tennis Academy in Cape Town admitted that Harris hadn’t fully recovered from a long couple of weeks of good tennis going into the match against Simon. ‘Without making any excuses for Lloyd, Lloyd has played a lot of tennis the past few weeks, he has played deep into each event and his body was really tired after his final qualifying match on Friday.
‘We had two days to recover and we did our very best to get Lloyd to the best possible shape for the Monday opening round. One could see on court he was tired, his serve as a result suffered and his footwork was not its usual self which resulted in a high percentage of unforced errors giving Simon a clear advantage,’ added Adams.
But Adams said a lot of positives have come from his charges good run. ‘Lloyd can be so proud of himself and we have taken a lot of positives from the past few weeks. As fit as Lloyd is we need to make him stronger which will help him raise the level of play when he needs to most.’
Harris said he was happy to have qualified for his first Grand Slam. ‘I’m proud of my efforts and it’s very motivating to see the hard work paying off here in New York. I gave my best out there and wish I had more in the tank but taking everything into consideration I feel good and ready to make the improvements I need to make to take me to the next level.’