U.S. Open: Ryan Harrison (almost) gives tourney huge jolt [Updated]
Ryan Harrison, an 18-year-old from Louisiana, had three match points in the fifth-set tiebreak, his first fifth set in his career, against 36th-ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine. The fans at the U.S. Tennis Center had mostly abandoned other courts and gathered around the plaza's big-screen television. There was not an empty spot of real estate in the Grandstand court where this dramatic match unfolded.
There had been a 30-minute rain delay, there was unpredictable wind and there were two players who came to the net over 100 times, willing to serve and volley, lob and drop shot. And the only thing that kept the roof from coming off the place (wait, no roof here) was the final shot. It was a huge serve and big overhead from the 24-year-old Stakhovsky, giving him a 6-3, 5-7, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (6) win over Harrison in the second round of the U.S. Open.
Harrison, who had won three qualifying matches just to get into the main draw and then upset 15th-seeded Ivan Ljubicic in the first round, had held a 6-3 lead in that tie-break. Stakhovsky served on the first two, did it big and well and brought the score back to 6-5. Then Harrison had a chance to hit one of his own for a chance to head into the third round. But he missed his first serve, almost double-faulted and then hit a nervous backhand into the net.
At 6-6, Harrison hit a double-fault and at that moment the teenager's shoulders slumped and everyone in the Grandstand groaned. Stakhovsky didn't miss his chance. He also consoled Harrison as a big brother might comfort a little brother, with a sigh of relieve mixed with compassion.
Updated at 2:40 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said the score was 6-feet-6.
-- Diane Pucin, reporting from New York
Photo: Ukraine's Sergiy Stakhovsky, left, is congratulated by American Ryan Harrison after their match at the U.S. Open in New York on September 3. Credit: Eduardo Munoz / Reuters.