Tottenham fan Lloyd Harris looking to end title drought in Dubai
CAPE TOWN - South Africa's Lloyd Harris extended his sensational fairy-tale run at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Friday when he survived a highly charged centre court duel to emerge victorious 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (6) in a semi-final against third-seeded Canadian Denis Shapovalov.
Harris, world-ranked at 81, yet again made the ATP rankings table look like a comic strip as he ground out a win against an opponent ranked much higher, yet again.
It was yet another stirring performance by the South African qualifier, and one pressman, at the post-match presser, was moved to remark that the event was looking like the "Lloyd Harris Grand Slam".
The media knows Harris is an ardent Tottenham Hotspur fan. The North London side suffered a shock Europa League exit after Thursday's 3-0 defeat by Dinamo Zagreb.
"I did not catch the game (on TV), but maybe it was good that I did not watch because I would have been frustrated," he said. "I am still backing my boys and hope they bounce back."
He will now play the biggest match of his career in Saturday's final against the Russian wild card Aslan Karatsev, a semi-finalist at the Australian Open earlier this year. It will mark Harris’ maiden ATP 500 final.
The Canadian ranked 11th in the world led by a set and 4-2 in the second set when Harris bravely fought back to win five games in a row.
Afterwards, Harris said "it was one heck of a battle" after extending his unbeaten streak to seven matches.
"It was a difficult match. It came down to one or two points," he said at the post-match presser.
"I felt I was competing super hard in that third-set breaker. I got in some good serves, but it was one heck of a battle, so I was happy to get through that.
The media tried to probe Harris thoughts on the upcoming final.
"For me, that is tomorrow's worry. I need to recover and take in this win first. Then I will get ready for the match (final).
"It has been a lot of matches for me, but if you play in a final, you find some energy. I am going to give every bit of energy that is in the tank. Hopefully, I will play even better tennis."
The media was curious about his connection with fellow South African Kevin Anderson.
"The amazing thing about Kevin is his big-match temperament. When he plays the top guys, he plays at a good level. He is such a professional and brings a good intensity.
"There are so many positives that I can take from Kevin."
Harris is happy with his progress but feels there is a lot to do after the tournament ends.
“This week, I have found my game. I have found the way I want to be playing,” said Harris.
“There are still some tweaks I want to make, and things to improve on. I am looking forward to the work that lies ahead after a tournament like this.
"There are so many things to do better, even though I am playing exceptional tennis."
The fast Dubai surface has been right up Harris' street.
"With this court speed, I get a lot of extra pop on my serve," said Harris. " I don’t feel I have to force it too much,” said Harris.
“Extra free points help you out. In the third set, it was very beneficial to me.
"I had quick service games, whereas his service games lasted longer. That created pressure (for Shapovalov),
"With my serve, the faster courts are always good for me.”