“I passed the qualies in the US and Australia, and lost tough matches in the first round, but I knew that a victory was only a matter of time,” says Lloyd Harris. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

PARIS – South Africa’s Lloyd Harris reached the second round of a Grand Slam for the first time at Roland Garros on Monday, lending weight to his nickname of ‘The King’.

The 22-year-old from Cape Town defeated Czech veteran Lukas Rosol 6-1 4-6 2-6 6-1 6-2 before revealing how he came upon his regal alter-ego.

“I was only 19 when I made it into the South Africa Davis Cup team, which was a group full of older guys – 27, 28 and into their 30s,” Harris told AFP.

“I started beating all of them all the time, so one of the guys, Nicolaas Scholtz, said I was the king of all of them.

“It was something different for South Africa, where usually players come through much later.”

In fact, the entire squad of South Africa Davis Cup players are given nicknames, said Harris, the World No 90.

“Tucker Vorster was ‘Dragon’, Scholtz is ‘Shark’ and Ray (Raven) Klaasen was ‘Fox’. Tucker and Ray were always referred to as ‘Dragshark’!”

The team will be relying on the ‘King’ when South Africa host Bulgaria in September in Cape Town, with Davis Cup promotion at stake.

Harris, who is South Africa’s only man in the Roland Garros draw following the withdrawal of top-10 compatriot Kevin Anderson, had never won a match at the Slams before Monday.

He qualified for the US Open last year and Australian Open in January, but fell in qualifying at Roland Garros in 2018.

“I am super happy right now to have won a match in that fashion, having been down two sets,” added Harris, who next faces Croatian 13th seed Borna Coric.

“I passed the qualies in the US and Australia, and lost tough matches in the first round (Gilles Simon and Daniil Medvedev respectively), but I knew that a victory was only a matter of time.”

Should he get past Coric in the next round, Harris will turn his attentions to football and Madrid, and the Champions League final between his team Tottenham and Liverpool on Saturday.

“I was never a big football fan when I was a kid, but one day my friends and I watched Man United against Tottenham.

“I became more interested in the game, and realised that all of my favourite players were Tottenham players.

“I’m a diehard fan of Harry Kane.

“I’d love to be at the final in Madrid, but the timing is obviously not great. However, we’ll win. I’m sure of that.”

AFP