by Kevin Craig
Ryan Harrison upended the No. 5 seed and 2016 Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic in the second round at the US Open on Wednesday, 6-7(4), 7-5, 7-5, 6-1.
“This is the tournament you dream of growing up,” said Harrison. “This has been a really special year. I’ll never forget it.”
Harrison’s younger brother Christian also qualified for this year’s US Open, so this event had already been a special one for the Harrison family. Ryan’s performance on Wednesday on the new Grandstand Court only helped to sweeten the already great experience.
The 24-year old American, who has been on a great run of form this summer, got off to an impressive start and made it clear that he would not back down to the powerful Raonic. After getting an early break for a 3-2 lead, Harrison, the former No. 43 player in the world, was broken right back but kept his composure to force a tiebreak in the first set. Raonic, though, looked to take charge of the match at that point as he raced out to a 4-1 lead before eventually taking the tiebreak and the set.
Once again, though, Harrison, who finished with 48 winners, was able to keep his composure early on and not back down. The No. 120 player in the world got out to an early break and held a 4-1 lead before seeing six set points on Raonic’s serve at 5-3. The Canadian was able to fend all of those off, though, before breaking Harrison in the next game, looking like he had fought off the effort from Harrison.
That was not the case, though, as the theme of the match continued. A mentally tougher Harrison fought back again, breaking in the 12th game of the set to level the match.
“It’s mental maturity, a little bit of stabilization with everything around me that is allowing me to play with a sense of calm and also with excitement,” said Harrison of his new mental toughness that helped him battle through adversity in the first two sets to keep the match tight.
Raonic was able to fight through that stumble late in the second set as he jumped out to an early break lead in the third. The match completely turned after just a couple games in the set, though, as the Wimbledon finalist began to feel some physical issues.
After calling the trainer for an issue with his wrist, Raonic began to limp around the court, allowing Harrison to break back to get back on serve before once again breaking in the 12th game to take a two sets to one lead.
“The left arm, the right forearm there towards the end of the third, both quads, a little bit hip flexor on the left. It was just catching me all over,” said Raonic.
The match was well over as the fourth set began as Raonic clearly had nothing left in the tank. After a surprising hold to start off the set, Raonic was broken in his next two service games while Harrison lost just two points on serve in the whole set, including a hold at love in the final game. A fine recipe for Harrison to close out the match and earn his best career win, putting him in the third round of a major for the first time.
“I’m excited that emotionally and from an execution standpoint I was able to put enough in play and be aggressive enough to take the win,” said Harrison, who was able to break the big serving Raonic seven times in the match. “I’m still young. I’m 24. I’ve got a-ways to go, especially with guys playing well into their 30s now.”
While Raonic’s injury played a factor in Harrison winning the match, nothing can be taken away from the American’s performance on Wednesday, as well as throughout the entire summer, as he has earned a spot back in the Top 100 for the first time since January of 2014.
“He’s been playing well…I didn’t create this pressure for myself or this kind of stress on myself…he did that,” said Raonic of Harrison’s performance.
Harrison, who had previously beaten Raonic in Indian Wells in 2011, will take on Marcos Baghdatis in the third round of the US Open.