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 when he saw off a depleted Milos Raonic on Wednesday afternoon for the first major upset at this year’s US Open.
The 24-year-old qualifier from Louisiana dropped the first set on a close tiebreaker, but rallied back for a 6-7 (4), 7-5, 7-5, 6-1 victory in 3hr 37 min before a rollicking crowd on the new Grandstand court and moving into the third round at a major tournament for the first time.
Raonic, the fifth seed and Wimbledon runner-up who had entered the season-ending grand slam at Flushing Meadows on the short list of contenders, was visited by a physio for his left wrist early on and hobbled by a leg issue as the match pushed forward. He repeatedly looked toward his team as the match pushed into the fourth hour and appeared on the verge of retirement at any point. He committed 15 double faults and his average serve speed, already below his norm at 117mph in the first set, had dropped to 97mph by the fourth.
That’s where Harrison, currently ranked 120th in the world, showed a disciplined finishing kick. He committed only one of his 33 unforced errors in the decisive fourth set.
Harrison first popped 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’s gone without a men’s grand slam champion since Andy Roddick won here in 2003. But after peaking at No43 in the rankings and appearing on the cusp of a breakthrough four years ago, Harrison regressed and bottomed out at No197 in 2014.
But Harrison recommitted himself to his fitness and paid his dues on the Challenger circuit, slowly building his ranking back up. This summer included runs to the last 16 at Washington and most recently the Toronto Masters, where he dropped a hard-fought three-setter to eighth-ranked Tomas Berdych.
“He has been around for a while, but he’s still very young,” said John Isner, the American No1 and Harrison’s Davis Cup team-mate. “He turned pro at 16. He’s still very young. Good thing he’s figuring it out again.”
Harrison will faced an unseeded opponent on Friday – the Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis – with a chance to book a place in the last 16.