Harris qualifies‚ makes it two South Africans at Aussie Open

11 January 2019 - 12:25 By Craig Ray
South African tennis player Lloyd Harris.
South African tennis player Lloyd Harris.
Image: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Lloyd Harris qualified for the main draw of the Australian Open on Friday‚ making it two South Africans in the field of the season’s first Grand Slam.

Harris‚ 21‚ beat Germany’s Dustin Brown 6-1 7-6 (10) in the final stage of qualifying at Melbourne Park to make it into the main draw of a major for only the second time.

Harris‚ the world No 119‚ joins No 5 seed Kevin Anderson as the only two South Africans in both the men’s and women’s singles. Raven Klaasen is in the doubles event.

Harris was one of 16 players to qualify on Friday and one of nine to make it into the main draw in Melbourne for the first time.

The draw for the men’s singles was done on Thursday and Harris was one the qualifiers to be drawn against a seed. He faces No 15 Daniil Medvedev of Russia.

“I had a peep at the draw‚” Harris said before he knew who he was scheduled to meet. “There’s a lot of seeds out there‚ but a lot of good opportunities.

“I’ll be happy with whoever I play. Facing an experienced player on a big court might be just what I need‚ but also to play someone a little lower down and have a chance of winning would also be good.

“Obviously you have to go in there thinking you can beat anyone‚ but some spots are definitely easier than others.”

Harris also made it into the main draw of the US Open last September where he lost in the first round against French veteran Gilles Simone.

For a player such as Harris‚ who is making a steady climb up the rankings‚ playing his way into the field for a second Grand Slam in succession is proof that the hard work is paying off.

On Friday he had to fight for his place after Brown made it an uncomfortable second set.

“I felt I was playing some really good points in that second set‚ but I couldn’t get the break‚” said Harris.

“He just came up with some ridiculous volleys‚ and I was just happy to stay solid and win more of the important points in the end.”

The guarantee of earning $35‚500 (R497‚000) is a vital cash injection for a young man struggling to make ends meet on the financially challenging end of the sport.

Two years ago Harris almost gave up his dream of being a pro tennis player because he didn’t have the funding.

“It was a tough time when I was a junior‚” Harris said. “We ran out of funding‚ my parents couldn’t afford more‚ and sponsors were tough to find.

“But we came up with the money‚ and I started playing really well on the Futures tour and was able to continue my run on the pro tour. I was very fortunate – it’s something I’ll always remember.”