NEW YORK • Ryan Harrison, trumpeted for years as America's next big tennis star before he was written off as a case of unfulfilled potential, scored the biggest win of his career on Wednesday.
He saw off a depleted Milos Raonic for the first major upset at this year's US Open.
The 24-year-old qualifier from Louisiana dropped the first set but rallied back for a 6-7 (4-7), 7-5, 7-5, 6-1 victory before a rollicking crowd. When he pounded a forehand winner to close it out after 3hr 37min, he found himself in the third round of a Major for the first time in 20 appearances.
Raonic, the fifth seed and Wimbledon runner-up, cramped badly as the sun disappeared over the west end of the new Grandstand court.
He was visited by a physio for his left wrist early on, was hobbled by a leg issue, and repeatedly looked towards his team as the match pushed into the fourth hour. He appeared on the verge of retirement at any point. Most glaringly, he committed 15 double faults and his average serve speed, already below his norm at 188kmh in the first set, had dropped to 156kmh by the fourth.
That was when Harrison, ranked 120th in the world, stayed disciplined. He committed only one of his 33 unforced errors in the decisive fourth set.
Raonic said he started cramping "halfway through the second set".
"Probably just nerves and stress, a mental sort of over-exuberance," he said. "The left arm, the right forearm there towards the end of the third (set), both quads, a little bit hip flexor on the left. It was just catching me all over.
"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 racket. I couldn't switch grips from one point to the next."
But the world No. 5 praised Harrison's ability to close the show.
"He played well, he did a lot of things well," the Canadian said.
Harrison first popped up on the radar as a 15 year old, when he became the youngest player since 1990 to win a Tour-level match.
His arrival was eagerly received in a country that has gone without a men's grand slam singles champion since Andy Roddick won the US Open in 2003. But, after peaking at No. 43 in the rankings four years ago, Harrison regressed and bottomed out at No. 197 in 2014.
"I guess that's a good thing, that I started so young, because we're not sitting here having the conversation about me playing well right now and I'm 30," said Harrison, who entered Wednesday's match with a win-loss record of 1-26 against top 10 opponents. "I'm still young. I'm 24. I've got (some way) to go, especially with guys playing well into their 30s now."
He will face unseeded Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis today.
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS