South African Lloyd Harris’ fairytale run at this year’s U.S. Open faces its biggest hurdle when the 24-year-old comes up against fourth seed and Olympic champion Alexander Zverev of Germany later on Wednesday.
Harris is playing his first Grand Slam quarterfinal having dispatched higher-ranked opponents, like Karen Khachanov (#28), Denis Shapovalov (#10) and Reilly Opelka (#24), in previous rounds to reach the last eight.
Harris is Africa’s sole surviving representative in the tournament following the exits of compatriot and former U.S. Open finalist Kevin Anderson in the men’s draw and Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur and Egypt’s Mayar Sherif in the women’s draw.
Harris has won seven of his last nine matches in three tournaments losing only to Opelka in Toronto and Zverev in Cincinnati.
2021 has been a breakthrough year for Harris who reached the third round at the Australian Open in February, before reaching his second ATP tour-level final in Dubai in March. Last month, he recorded a famous victory against 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal at the Citi Open in Washington and also reached a career-high rank of 46 in the world.
Harris, currently Africa’s highest ranked male player, hopes to emulate the achievements of Anderson who achieved a peak ranking of number five in the world and reached two Grand Slam finals.
Meanwhile, Harris’ opponent, Zverev, is currently on a 15-match winning streak which saw him claim Olympic gold and the Cincinnati Masters title prior to the start of the year’s final Grand Slam.
The pair have met twice before with Zverev winning on each occasion including their most recent encounter last month in Cincinnati.
Zverev paid tribute to the in-form South African noting that their quarterfinal encounter will be anything but easy despite being the overwhelming favourite to advance.
“He (Harris) is playing incredible and he’s also serving incredible. In Cincinnati I was struggling a lot to return his serve in the first set. It’s going be a tough one, definitely,” Zverev told the ATP’s media team.
Victory for either Harris or Zverev will set up a potential meeting against world number one Novak Djokovic of Serbia who is gunning for a record 21st Grand Slam title.
(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)