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By Richard Pagliaro | Monday, December 3, 2018

Ryan Harrison

Fireworks flared following Ryan Harrison's win over Donald Young at the New York Open.

Photo credit: AP

Welcome to the inaugural Tennis Now 25, where we celebrate the best popcorn moments of the 2018 tennis season, and award 25 "Popcorn Awards" to honor the most breathtaking and memorable performances of 2018.

About the Awards:

The #TN25 is designed not simply to remember the best matches, comebacks or Grand Slam performances. What we aim to accomplish here is to dig deeper into the archives so that we may celebrate some of the more offbeat and difficult to quantify performances.

This is our first time doling out these awards, and our attempt to veer away from the typical year-end rundown is genuine in that we feel it echoes the season of giving. What we aim to give is praise and thanks to those who made the season memorable on many levels...

Surely, with this being a new process for our editorial staff, there will be a few bumps along the road. Here and there we suspect that our valued readership may find a few things to disagree with (surprise!). If that's the case, take to social media using the hashtag #TN25 and tell us what we missed or where we could have done better.

As the players like to say after they win their titles—none of this would have been possible without you guys, and that's why we are going to put some of the awards to a Twitter vote in December, so stay tuned for that.

But for now, we must get to the awards because we have another winner!

The Fiercest Feud: Ryan Harrison vs. Donald Young

The Fiercest Award goes to two players who were incensed by their opponent during the course of battle this season.

And the winner is... RYAN HARRISON vs. DONALD YOUNG.

Former doubles partners turned sparring partners in a wild New York night that nearly required a ring referee rather than a chair umpire.

Trash talk, an allegation of a racist remark, an ATP investigation and a firestorm reaction on social media all erupted from Ryan Harrison's contentious victory over Donald Young at the New York Open in February.

Tennis Now 25

Former teen prodigies turned adversaries at the inaugural New York Open. Young accused Harrison of verbal racism after Harrison's 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory at the Nassau Coliseum.

Young barely made eye contact with Harrison, offering only a slight piece of flesh during a frosty post-match hand-shake.

After Harrison shook the chair umpire's hand, both Americans began barking back and forth at each other.

Bad blood boiled over afterward.

Young took to Twitter implying he heard a racial remark during the match.

Young's girlfriend Valentina Lee, who was court-side, also alleged comments she claimed Harrison made to her partner.

"Ryan Harrison told DY 'That’s what all you black people do' after he was upset that DY cheered C’mon to pump himself up," Lee posted on Twitter. "So who’s the real loser?#racist."

Harrison tweeted this strong denial of Young's claims.

Tensions between Harrison and Young visibly flared up after Harrison held to go up 4-3. Court-side cameras caught the compatriots shouting at each other during a changeover. The former doubles partners seemed to nearly come to blows trying to navigate passing each other at the net post.

After a near week-long ATP investigation that included interviews with ball kids and linescrew on court during the time of the alleged incident, Harrison was cleared.

Harrison reiterated he never made any racist remarks—a story that was corroborated by six witnesses who later came forward and told their stories.

“100 percent. There was never a doubt in my mind that anything I said could even be close to interpreted that way,” Harrison told Tennis Channel's Jon Wertheim. “When I was so clear and so adamant that I wanted an audio [of the incident] it was because I knew that there was no room for doubt. I was 100 percent sure that any evidence that came forward would clear me, I knew that the audio would clear me.

"It was not nice conversation between Donald and I but it was not racial.”

Honorable Mention Fierce Feuds

Someday, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas may square off in Grand Slam finals.

Two of tennis' top young talents already have major rivalry brewing.

The 19-year-old Tsitsipas denied two match points and roared back from a one-set, 2-5 deficit stunning defending champion Zverev 3-6, 7-6 (11) 6-4 to reach the Toronto semifinals.

The comeback conquest was part of stirring run that saw the Greek teenager topple four Top 10 players in succession—Dominic Thiem, Novak Djokovic, Zverev and Kevin Anderson—to become the youngest man to beat four Top 10 opponents at the same tournament.

Zverev, who double-faulted on match point, was not exactly impressed calling the match "absolutely pathetic."

"I don't think today he played that well," Zverev said. "I think the match was absolutely pathetic on all levels. You know, returning, he started to return. I mean, he was serving 125's to my backhand, and I was missing them. That does not happen.

"I mean, I'm very honest with you guys. I always say when the opponent play better. I'm probably one of the most honest guys on tour. Today was a pathetic match from—I don't even think he played well."

Tsitsipas didn't agree with that assessment and didn't try to spin the state of their rivalry either.

"The relationship is okay," Tsitsipas said of Zverev. "I mean, it's all right. It's not too bad. It's not too good. It's balanced."

Stay tuned.

Miami heat can turn a tiff into bickering blaze.

A changeover quarrel grew testy in Miami when Fernando Verdasco complained about a fan in the front row he said was bothering him between first and second serves.

Turns out that dude is a dad—Thanasi Kokkinakis' father, Trevor.

"That's my dad; that's my dad," Kokkinakis shouted at Verdasco.

"No, that's not your dad, it's the one on the left with the hat," Verdasco replied as both men scanned the crowd.

"That's my fucking dad!" Kokkinakis repeated prompting an apology from Verdasco.

Nick Kyrgios jumped into the fray supporting his buddy Kokkinakis and poking at Verdasco on Twitter. Kyrgios deleted the tweet. Oh, but Twitter never forgets. Here’s the tweet in question, as it was screen-capped.

Verdasco got wind of the deleted tweet and posted the following reply:

Kyrgios wasn't done.

The veteran Spaniard sparked a squabble with another Kyrgios friend, Andy Murray, at the US Open as the former No. 1 called Verdasco out as a liar on social media.

Murray raged at officials for what he said was their failure to enforce the rules during the 10-minute extreme heat break.

Murray said Verdasco broke the rule talking to his coach during the break. Verdasco, who snapped a seven-match losing streak to the Scot, said Murray was flat-out wrong.

“I know the rule exactly,” Verdsasco said after his second win in 15 meetings with Murray. “I didn't speak anything to any member of my team… I saw my coach in the locker room, but I didn’t even talk one word with him.

“If Andy said that, I don’t want to say that he lies, but I didn’t talk one word with my coach or any one member of my team.”

Murray pulled no punches in a stinging social media return.

The 2012 US Open champion posted this Instagram image with the sarcastic caption “I'm off to get a health check as apparently I've started imagining things," adding a hashtag liar, liar pants on fire.



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