‘Belief’ carries Harris into maiden ATP final

17 January 2020, by Reem Abulleil

South African qualifier Lloyd Harris advanced to the first ATP final of his career here in Adelaide and his coach Anthony Harris (no relation) is understandably emotional about it.

After all, their journey together began eight years ago in Cape Town, where Lloyd started by contesting junior ITF tournaments across Africa, and has somehow carved a path to the top 100 and now to a maiden ATP final.

Both Anthony and Lloyd are particularly proud of the fact that they were able to achieve such milestones while remaining in South Africa, rather than moving away to a place where tennis is more established.

“I think the belief factor is the biggest thing, especially for us where we come from and that nobody really, for so many years, [has made it] from South Africa – since I think the last one was maybe Wayne Ferreira. It’s hard to believe that we can actually do it from there and do everything from South Africa,” Anthony told adelaideinternational.com.au after Lloyd’s three-set win over Tommy Paul in the semi-finals on Friday.

“Everybody tells us, ‘You have to go out, you have to have bases outside’. But we believed we can do it and we’re getting there slowly.”

Lloyd unleashed 13 aces en route to his 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-3 triumph over fellow qualifier Paul at Adelaide’s Memorial Drive Tennis Centre to set up a final with either Felix Auger-Aliassime or Andrey Rublev.

The 22-year-old raced to a 5-1 lead but was pegged back while serving for the opening set, as Paul broke for 3-5. The South African struck again though and took a one-set lead. Paul opened up a 4-1 gap in the second, and despite losing his advantage, managed to force a decider by taking the tiebreak.

In the final set, Lloyd broke early and had a match point on Paul’s serve in the eighth game. The American saved it with some impressive defence to hold for 3-5, forcing Lloyd to serve for the win.

Lloyd squandered another match point the next game, but found his big serve when he needed it to secure a place in the final on his third opportunity.

“To be honest it doesn’t seem very realistic right now,” Lloyd told Channel Nine during his on-court interview.

“It was a really tough match. I think we were both a little bit nervous. I’ve known him for a long, we’re so competitive; right now I’m just really, really happy with the win.”

Lloyd has been gaining confidence over the past several months, during which he took a set off of Roger Federer in their Wimbledon first round last July, reaching his first ATP semi-final in Chengdu in September, and had strong showings at the ATP Cup last week.

With this new breakthrough in Adelaide, he will hit a career-high ranking on Monday, where he will at least rise to just outside the top 70.

“It’s amazing. First final, I’m just happy and proud of him and excited,” said Anthony.

“He’s been working really hard, he’s been focused on the process, believing a little bit more. And I think a few wins against the top players gave him a lot of belief.

“If we keep working on his game and keep improving, the results will come. So our goals are just to try and get his tennis a little bit better, there are some things we are still working on. So we’re just focusing only on this.

“We believe he needs to get a little bit stronger, physically. Now that he’s starting to get a bit stronger, these are the things we’re focusing on and we believe the results will come from that.”

Lloyd is the first South African to reach an ATP final since Kevin Anderson won in Pune 12 months ago. Anderson, a two-time Grand Slam runner-up, has been his nation’s leading man for more than a decade and Lloyd is happy he is now joining the conversation.

“I already got a message from him saying congrats and well done. That’s really awesome,” Lloyd said of Anderson.

“I think it’s great for tennis in South Africa and for myself and just for us to have someone different. Kevin has kind of been leading the pack, and it allowed me to see what he’s done and learn from him.”