Harris Saves 2 MPs, Ousts #NextGenATP Star De Minaur
Millman beats Mannarino
When Lloyd Harris double faulted to hand eighth seed Alex de Minaur the second set of their first-round match at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships on Wednesday afternoon, it seemed the South African’s chances of springing an upset over the #NextGenATP Aussie were as long as his second serve.
But Harris stayed the course, saving two match points in a final-set tie-break en route to a 6-3, 6-7(6), 7-6(8) triumph over World No. 25 De Minaur, who has won three ATP Tour titles this year. This was the 22-year old’s best victory by ATP Ranking.
“[It feels] incredible, honestly. I felt like I had chances to close out the second set and it didn’t go my way. In the third set it was just a battle. He was playing at a really high level, giving me no points. I was just getting through my service games and just holding on, trying to get some opportunities,” Harris said. “To see off some match points, play an exciting as heck tie-break, I just feel fantastic after coming through that.”
Harris has found his best form, having reached his first ATP Tour semi-final last week in Chengdu as a lucky loser. The Cape Town native has won 10 of his 20 tour-level matches this season.
At 5/6, Harris delivered a big first serve that elicited a short ball, which he pounced on with his forehand to force an error from his speedy opponent. Then at 7/8, Harris rocketed another booming serve, which De Minaur was barely able to get his racquet on.
“Every time it was match point I was just like, ‘Big first serve, and strike.’ That was going through my head, ‘Don’t get into the long exchanges,’” Harris said. “He’s unbelievable when you get to the longer end of the rallies, so I was just thinking to be aggressive, go for my serve, back myself.”
The South African No. 2 converted on his second match point. After carefully playing a short backhand, Harris left the line open for a passing shot, but De Minaur missed wide, and the victor dropped his racquet in celebration.
“I was just proud of myself. I was telling myself how big that was because mentally it’s so difficult after having so many chances to finish the match,” Harris said. “I felt I was just clinical in the end and I’m glad to get through it.”
Last year’s Next Gen ATP Finals alternate will next face Aussie John Millman, who rallied past Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 after two hours and six minutes. Millman saved four of the five break points he faced and seized the only break chance of the decider to advance to the second round.
The World No. 80 went through qualifying, and now he will have a chance to reach his fourth ATP Tour quarter-final of the season, and his second at an ATP 500 tournament (Acapulco). Millman is making his debut here in Tokyo.