JOHANNESBURG – Riding the wave of a stellar 2018, rising South African tennis star Lloyd Harris is feeling bullish about his chances of reaching the world top 100 next season.
The 21-year-old has reached a career high 110th place and to put the cherry on top, Harris has been named an alternate for this week's Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, Italy.
Should any of the top eight players be injured or ill and cannot continue with the tournament, Harris will step in.
Speaking from Milan, the Capetonian said he was delighted to finish his year off in good company.
“I am obviously very happy to be here. It is a good achievement even as an alternate; it is the top eight players 21 years old and under in the world,” Harris said. “It is great to be part of the whole tournament and the process of getting here was extremely tough. I had to win a lot of matches and tournaments, so I feel I really deserve the chance, and if I get to play a match or two it would be great.”
Harris has experienced a breakthrough season since turning professional in 2015, winning ATP Challenger titles at the Kentucky Bank Championships in Lexington and Stockton Challenger in California.
He qualified for his first Grand Slam main draw at the US Open where he lost 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 to Gilles Simon of France.
Harris claimed the biggest scalp of his career when he beat Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 at the Chengdu Open in September before losing to Australian Bernard Tomic.
“It is definitely the best season I’ve ever had as a professional. It’s been tough on and off the court but I’ve found a way to play some really good tennis and I am very happy with my performances and what I’ve achieved,” Harris said. “I think it has been a great stepping stone to build on for next year and achieve great things.”
Harris said he would take a two-week break after the Milan event and was likely to spend his pre-season training in Thailand.
His first goal for 2019 will be to get into the first Grand Slam of the year at the Australian Open in January, while he hopes to edge closer to the world top 100.
“It is certainly the goal (qualifying for the Australian Open). I will take it one match at a time and I have a lot of work to do before then,” he said. “I have a long off-season planned where I will have to put all the hard work in there.
“The stepping stone goal for any tennis player is the top 100 and obviously the sooner the better.”
Harris said he hoped to get his ranking up early in the new season which would enable him to play in some of the biggest tournaments on the ATP Tour.@ockertde