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Harrison claims Memphis Open for first tour title

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 11: Ryan Harrison of USA plays a backhand in his match against Jack Sock of USA on day ten of the ASB Classic on January 11, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)
February 19, 2017 05:42 PM

By E.J. Crawford, USTA.com

Ryan Harrison completed a perfect run through the Memphis Open on Sunday, defeating Nikoloz Basilashvili in the final, 6-1, 6-4, to secure his first career ATP crown.

The victory put a bow on an impressive tournament for the 24-year-old, who did not drop a set en route to the title. His victories included a 6-3, 6-1 drubbing of No. 3 seed Sam Querrey in the second round a 6-4, 6-4 win over Donald Young in the semifinals.

"It's always going to be special, but it's even better here in front of a group of people that drove up from your hometown and have known you since you were 5 years old," Harrison, who grew up in Shreveport, La., told atpworldtour.com.

"This was the first place I saw a professional tennis match, driving up from Shreveport. I will always remember Memphis. All those emotions were coming out there at the end. You have dreams and aspirations in life, and for me, it's trying to be as great as I can in tennis. For me to come back here and win this title when I had thought it was impossible, it's amazing."

Harrison’s previous best tour result was the semifinals, achieved on seven different occasions, including in Atlanta in 2011 and Newport in 2012. That same year, he achieved his career-high ranking of No. 43 in the world and qualified for the Olympic Games in London.

After being heralded as a potential future star following his breakout 2012 season – and earlier, after defeating No. 15 seed Ivan Ljubicic in his US Open debut in 2010 – Harrison has struggled with consistency in recent years, dropping to No. 190 at season-end 2014.

But the current resident of Austin, Texas, climbed back into the Top 100 last year and has been playing the best tennis of his career so far in 2017. Prior to the Memphis Open, he won the $100,000 Challenger in Dallas for his first USTA Pro Circuit title in two years. According to the ATP, Harrison is the first player to win Challenger and tour titles in back-to-back weeks since David Goffin in 2014.

On Sunday, he saved all 12 break points he faced – including two in the final game – to top Basilashvili, who defeated top seed Ivo Karlovic and former Top 50 player Mikhail Kukushkin to reach the title match. In all, the unseeded Harrison served nine aces against no double faults and won 62 percent of his second-serve points (to 39 percent for Basilashvili). He converted three of seven break-point chances.

"I don't think I had a single easy hold in the second set," said Harrison, who also reached the Memphis Open doubles final, with Steve Johnson. "He came out and was playing really good tennis. Honestly, he outplayed me most of the second set and I managed to save a bunch of break points and convert on the only one I had. But that happens in tennis. I was fortunate to be the one saving the opportunities."

The title will deliver Harrison back into the Top 50 for the first time since July 2012.