Harrison and Murray share the burden of expectation

British No 1's first opponent is United States' fiery new hope of finally ending a men's Grand Slam drought

Melbourne

His talent is clear but he is regularly criticised for his fiery temperament. He comes from a country desperate to end its long wait for a Grand Slam champion. He has just appointed a new coach. Sounds familiar? Ryan Harrison has much in common with Andy Murray and tomorrow the brightest hope in American tennis will take on Britain's best player in three-quarters of a century in the first round of the Australian Open.

Murray knows all about the weight of national expectation – Fred Perry in 1936 was the last British man to win a Grand Slam singles title – and Harrison is becoming accustomed to similar pressures. America's wait for a champion is considerably shorter but the nine years since Andy Roddick won the US Open is the longest Grand Slam drought in American history.

Harrison, who, at 19 is one of only two teenagers in the world's top 100 – the other is Australian Bernard Tomic – has been hailed as his country's best prospect since his breakthrough year in 2010, when he climbed 249 places in the world rankings and beat Ivan Ljubicic in the first round of the US Open.

The world No 77 made further progress last year, reaching successive semi-finals in Atlanta and Los Angeles and taking David Ferrer to five sets at Wimbledon.

"I enjoy having all the expectations on me," Harrison insisted yesterday as he looked ahead to facing Murray. "It's cool for me. To see my name mentioned with some of the senior names is pretty exciting. You can see it as a pressure which will break you down, worrying that you have to do this or that. That will mess you up. I try to see it as a privilege and say: 'OK, I've done something right to get into this position.'

"People are saying that I am a hopeful and have the chance of winning a Slam. I don't want to be a hopeful, though. There is as much a physical gap as there is a mental gap between the top four and the rest. You can see how they keep reaching the semis in Slams consistently in the past few years. There is a difference.

"Some guys go into matches against the best players probably without a full belief they can win, so that is something I will do differently. I have my game, I believe in it and, if I do things the right way, I can win."

Off the court, Harrison comes across as a bright and level-headed young man. On it, though, he can be a fully paid-up, card-carrying member of the brat pack. A serial racket-thrower, he was fined five times at Grand Slam tournaments last year for misdemeanours ranging from racket abuse to audible obscenities and unsportsmanlike behaviour. His most spectacular offence was in the French Open qualifiers, when he hurled his racket into a courtside tree. Back in his home country, he threw one racket out of the stadium and into the food court at Cincinnati and another into the car park at Winston-Salem.

Roddick, who has become a friend and mentor, admits Harrison "goes a little mental sometimes", and another senior American, Mardy Fish, says: "He's got a lot energy, a lot of good energy. You know he wants to win if he's breaking rackets like that. I think that's a good sign."

Harrison conceded he "had some moments where it has got out of hand at times", but added: "One of the big things this year is to learn how to channel that into positive emotions as much as possible. So one of the big things I am trying to do is get a lot more positive early in matches. I will never be a guy who just goes side to side and doesn't say anything.

"For me, I have got to channel the energy in a correct way. When I am playing well, I am energetic and I have just got to make sure it is positive and not negative emotions."

Murray, who has been trying to follow much the same philosophy, believes that any Harrison tantrums can only be to his advantage.

"I'll try and make him lose his temper early," Murray said. "It's something that helps if you know your opponent can get down on himself, and it affects his game. When you see them getting like that, you want to try to hit the gas and keep going. Hopefully, I'll get off to a good start."

How might Murray get under his opponent's skin? "That's really how my game's kind of worked the last five or six years, so I'll just use a lot of variation, make it difficult for him," the world No 4 said.

"I saw him play quite a lot last year. He's obviously a good player. He's got a big serve, big forehand, can be a little bit erratic. He has a similar game style to Roddick. I think he plays like a lot of the young Americans. He's quick, he's a good athlete, so it's going to be a tough match but I'm going to make it as tough as I can for him, especially at the start."

Just as Murray will be playing in front of a new coach, Ivan Lendl, Harrison will be making his first Grand Slam appearance since recruiting Grant Doyle. Harrison has always been keen to learn, but he is clearly a challenge to coaches. He has had an intense and fiery tennis relationship with his father, Pat, a former director at John Newcombe's Texas academy who now works at Nick Bollettieri's academy in Florida.

Bollettieri, who believes Harrison has started to appreciate the value of controlling his emotions, thinks the teenager needs to have a good first set if he is to give Murray any sort of test.

"I don't believe that he can beat Andy from the baseline," Bollettieri said. "He's going to have to take charge, hit his big forehand, have a good serving day, come in some and force Andy to pass. Andy is just too damned good from the back of the court. If he doesn't have a big first set, Ryan might start to break down a little bit."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us