Harrison joins elite club with win at U.S. Clay Courts

Updated: April 15, 2008, 1:39 PM ET
Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Fifteen-year-old Ryan Harrison beat Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay 6-4, 6-3 in the U.S. Clay Court Championship on Monday to become the 10th player in the Open Era to win a main-draw match before his 16th birthday.

[+] EnlargeRyan Harrison
AP Photo/Pat SullivanRyan Harrison became the youngest winner on the ATP Tour since 1990 on Monday.

The Texan is also the youngest player to get a main-draw win on the ATP Tour since Rafael Nadal, the current No. 2 in the world, won his first tour match in Mallorca in 2002 and the third player this decade to do it before his 16th birthday.

Richard Gasquet of France was 15 when he won his first match in Monte Carlo in 2002.

Harrison, who will turn 16 on May 7, won 17 of 18 points during one stretch of the first set. He closed out the set on his first opportunity by breaking Cuevas' serve at 15. In the second set, he faced only one break point.

He broke the South American, who is ranked 95th in the world, in the fourth game of the final set and closed out the match on four straight points -- including an ace to open his service game. He yelled "Yeah!" and pumped his fists a few times while looking toward his family in the crowd.

"You always want to feel like you can win," Harrison told the crowd after the victory. "To go out and make it happen is another thing."

A short time later, he admitted he hasn't yet grasped the significance of his win.

"I'm pretty sure when I get alone by myself later, probably just laying around the hotel, it'll really kind of sink in what's happened," the teen said. "Hopefully, I can keep it going."

Next up could be top-seeded James Blake, who plays wild-card entry Kei Nishikori of Japan in a first-round match scheduled for Wednesday night. Two months ago, Blake lost to Nishikori in three sets in the final at Delray Beach, Fla.

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Harrison, who grew up in Shreveport, La., and started playing when he was 2, is coached by his father, Pat Harrison, a pro in New Braunfels, Texas, who moved his family to the Lone Star State four years ago because of tennis. The younger Harrison is ranked No. 7 in the world in juniors.

He entered the match Monday ranked No. 1,277 in men's world rankings and was expected to improve that to about No. 704.

"It gives you a wake-up call that you can play that level," Harrison said. "Whenever you actually make something happen like that you feel like, 'I can do this.'"

In the first night match, sixth-seeded Dudi Sela of Israel took out American Robby Ginepri 7-6 (5), 6-2. Sela set up match point on a sharply angled cross-court winner off his backhand and Ginepri netted a forehand on the next point to give the world's 60th-ranked player the win in a first ever matchup between the two.

Eighth-seeded Oscar Hernandez of Spain rallied from a set down to beat Argentine Juan Pablo Brzezicki 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to cap the tournament's first day of play.

Earlier Monday, American Donald Young beat Fernando Vicente of Spain 6-3, 7-6 (5) to advance to the second round. Each player was broken four times in the second before Young closed out the tiebreak. On the final point of the match, Vicente appeared to give up on a lob that was well within reach.

In a first-round match that pitted two Americans, Wayne Odesnik beat Amer Delic 6-3, 6-3. Another American, Hugo Armando, beat Carlos Berlocq of Argentina 6-3, 4-6, 7-5.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press