By Laura Amato
Ryan Harrison, meet the world. World, meet Ryan Harrison.
The 24-year-old American qualifier notched the biggest win of his career—and the first major upset of the U.S. Open—on Wednesday afternoon, defeating No. 5 Milos Raonic, 6-7 (4-7), 7-5, 7-5, 6-1 in the second round of play in front of a jam-packed crowd at the new Grandstand court.
Harrison is currently ranked 120th in the world. He’s now front and center in Flushing Meadows.
“It’s exciting to have a big win like this at a slam,” Harrison said. “I’m trying to approach it, you know, just like I would any other match right now. I’m trying to stay in the moment, go through my routines tomorrow, I guess the rest of tonight, like I would any other match.”
Raonic had been riding a wave of recent success and, last month, became the first Canadian to man to reach the Wimbledon final. He came to Queens looking to take the next step in his career, but stumbled against the upset-ready Harrison.
The pair had met twice before, splitting matches, but Harrison never looked out of sorts. In fact, as the minutes stretched on in the marathon three-plus hour match, Harrison was the picture of calm, cool and collected.
“That’s the thing, you know. Everyone hits these two- or three-game patches at some point in time in matches where you’re just like, ‘Everything I’m touching right now is going near the line and going off like a rocket,’” Harrison said. “The cool and exciting thing was that I had a great win today, and there was no point where I felt like I was red lining or playing a level that wasn’t consistent. I didn’t feel I was playing above my level to get up the break.”
Harrison played within his own game in the victory, but he also got a bit of help from Raonic who suffered cramping throughout the match, visibly struggling after the second set.
“Sort of the really painful cramps started to pass at some point in the third set, but then I started getting small ones where I couldn’t hold the racquet,” Raonic said. “I couldn’t switch grips from one point to the next. There were a few points where I would hold the racquet with my left hand and trying to stretch out my right hand in between shots, and that’s not going to work.”
Harrison flew relatively under the radar heading into the main draw, but he had an extra boost of confidence after a successful summer competing with WorldTeam Tennis. The additional matches helped Harrison refine the smaller parts of his game and he saw that work pay off in this latest victory.
“I’ve had notably some issues in the past with staying focused, not letting distractions get a hold of me when I’m playing,” Harrison said. “All through the World TeamTennis season I had fun with it. I played at a really high level the whole time.”
In the early stages of his career, Harrison was regarded as the potential next big thing in American men’s tennis, but the Louisiana native has struggled to find a rhythm in recent years. His third-round appearance later this week will be the farthest he’s ever advanced in a Grand Slam.
He knows it’s still early—there’s still plenty of tennis to be played—but, for right now, Harrison is going to relish this moment.
“This is really fun,” he said. “Life is great. This will be a U.S. Open to remember on so many different occasions. First one, being engaged. First one me and my brother both competed in. I know it’s a special U.S. Open.”