|Ryan Harrison is the 10th player to win a main-draw
match before turning 16 [GALLO/GETTY]
Fifteen-year-old Ryan Harrison beat Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas 6-4, 6-3 in the U.S. Clay Court Championship to become the 10th player in the Open Era to win a main-draw match before his 16th birthday.
Harrison 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 Cuevas, 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 teenager said.
“Hopefully, I can keep it going.”
Big challenge looms
Next up could be top-seeded James Blake, who plays wild card Kei Nishikori of Japan in a first-round match scheduled for Wednesday.
Harrison started playing when he was 2, and was coached by his father, Pat Harrison, a club pro.
The younger Harrison was ranked No. 7 in the world in juniors.
He entered the match on 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.”’
Earlier, American Donald Young beat Spain’s Fernando Vicente to advance to the second round.
Each player was broken four times in the second before Young closed out the tiebreaker.
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.