Rising South African tennis star, Lloyd Harris of Cape Town won his biggest title on Sunday at the $75,000 ATP Challenger Kentucky Bank Tennis Championships in Lexington, Kentucky, USA.
On a hot and humid day in Lexington, sixth-seeded Harris was on fire at the Hillary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Centre on the campus of the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Harris was impressive all day, not dropping serve once and only facing one break point in the match to upset No8 seeded Stefano Napolitano of Italy in straight sets, 6-4 6-3 in the final.
A Youth Olympian four years ago, Harris broke at four-all in the first set and then served out a 6-4 win in the opening frame. Harris then broke twice early in the second set to win the 2018 title, 6-3 in the second set.
‘I went down an early break and was a little upset with myself,’ admitted Harris following the victory. ‘I looked at my coach and decided that I just need to get back out there and get back to my game plan. I felt I really started to play more aggressive from that point on. I went after the shots, tried to move forward a little more, got excited, pumped up and motivated more.’
The 21-year-old Harris didn’t drop a set all week in the five matches he played.
Harris not only celebrated his maiden crown, but joined an exclusive club of South Africans that have lifted Challenge trophies in recent years.
He now becomes the first South Africa to win the title since Rik de Voest in 2013 and the youngest from the country since Kevin Anderson in 2007.
The victory takes Harris 47 spots up the ATP world rankings to a career-high No161. Harris remains the second – highest ranked South African behind Anderson.
Harris had good things to say about Anderson after his win. ‘What Kevin has done is remarkable, getting to No5 in the world and reaching two Grand Slam finals. It’s really special.
‘Our country needs even more players coming up. We don’t have tennis as a priority sport in our country and South Africa doesn’t have multiple guys doing well on the tour to help boost the game back home.
‘So I think it’s great for South Africa to have another player like myself coming through the ranks and I hope that my success will motivate others to do better as well.’
Photo: Harris posing with his winner’s trophy, by Matt Goins Photography