ATP Memphis: Ryan Harrison wins maiden ATP title
A tearful Harrison hoists the famous guitar (Photo: Press Association)

ATP Memphis: Ryan Harrison wins maiden ATP title

The American saved twelve break points in his straight sets victory over Georgia's Nikoloz Basilashvili.

Craig Vickers

USA's Ryan Harrison captured his first ATP singles title of his career with a commanding 6-1, 6-4 victory over the Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili at the Memphis Open.

Harrison took just over an hour to dispatch his 24-year-old opponent, saving twelve break points along the way and being overcome by the emotion as he rejoiced with the American crowd.

“For me to be where I am now, 7-8 months ago feeling like there was no light at the end of the tunnel, it's surreal to me,” a tearful Harrison said after the victory.

Manic opening set

Both players entered final’s day having not dropped a set all week.

Harrison, unseeded in Memphis but flirting with the top 60 in the ATP singles rankings, knocked out the third seed, Sam Querrey, in the round of 16 before defeating Donald Young in the semifinals on Saturday.

Basilashvili, likewise, claimed a scalp by dispatching top seed Ivo Karlovic in the last 16 and the Georgian did not lack for confidence entering his showdown with Harrison.

The 24-year-old reached the semifinals in Sofia last week, falling to eventual champion Grigor Dimitrov but stunning Dominic Thiem in round two.

He appeared buoyed by his straight sets win over Mikael Kukushkin the previous day, constructing two break points in Harrison’s opening service game but failing to convert as both players struggled with their footing.

The contest remained on serve until the fourth game of the set.

Basilashvili’s forehand does lack in velocity but its accuracy briefly deserted the Georgian, gifting two break points to the American and, following a tame backhand, Harrison seized the initiative.

The 24-year-old consolidated for 4-1 and, much like his first break opportunity, was banging on the door after an errant backhand from his opponent.

He duly grabbed the double break, displaying supreme defensive ability from behind the baseline that would distinguish his career-first singles title on the ATP tour.

Although baseline grinding can be an uncomfortable watch, Harrison had the Memphis natives on their feet when he slapped a forehand winner down the line that, fittingly, fashioned three set points.

An ace did the trick and 26 minutes were all that was required for the American to grab the famous guitar trophy with one hand.

Harrison becomes the first player since David Goffin in 2014 to win Challenger and ATP titles in consecutive events (Photo: IMG Academy Tennis)

Tight second set

The encounter briefly livened up to open the second set, with Basilashvili striking the ball with menace as he pushed Harrison from sideline to sideline.

The Georgian was beginning to limit his unforced errors, especially from the backhand wing, but his problem lay in failing to convert the countless opportunities he was gifted.

He squandered a pair of break points on Harrison’s opening service game and later at 2-1, netted a routine backhand that ought to have been punished.

Such was the theme of the contest – Harrison showing incredible defensive capabilities as he was pushed around the baseline – that the American was taking only 10% of his shots from inside the baseline.

And if he was ruing his missed chances on break points, he headed to the changeover scratching his head when he double-faulted the gift Harrison the crucial break of serve he required.

More break opportunities arose but, through a combination of Harrison’s serve and unforced errors, Basilashvili could not capatailise.

In total, Harrison saved ten break points in the second set alone and, after fending off two as he served for the match at 5-4, an ace down the center had the embattled American in a state of ecstasy as he capped off a fantastic week.