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By Joe McDonald

Ryan Harrison File Photo (August 31, 2012) -- No matter what happens over the next year, Ryan Harrison will have a really good practice partner right down the road.

With Andy Roddick residing about four miles away, the young American knows, he will be hitting balls in the near future against the soon-to-be retiring former champion.

“Andy has way too much energy to sit at the house all day, so he will want to come out and compete with us,” Harrison said. “I think it will be good for his confidence. I get the feeling he will spend a couple of months playing golf and doing his radio show, but when I hit the off-season, he will be hitting me up on the track and the court.”

Well that’s good because if Harrison is the next great American, he will have to take the next step in his development. Getting to the second round of the US Open just won’t cut it, even though he played hard against the No. 7 seed Juan Martin Del Potro, losing, 6-2, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.

“I didn’t serve as well as I normally do,” Harrison said. “I didn’t get the pop on the ball at 135. I think his success with his return, I have been a little more tight with it. Things tend to snowball when you play a guy like that.

“I want to get where I play consistently at these tournaments. It’s a process and unfortunately, it’s going to take more time than I want to. These guys are all really good and I have to win one match at this level before I can consistently win at this level. It’s going to be a long process but I am doing some things better, but it’s going to be one step at a time.”

Harrison is only 20, and in this type of game, you have to be older to really start competing. We are only seeing guys like John Isner and Sam Querrey come into their own right now. But that’s the nature of tennis and every match is a learning experience for the young Texan.

And this year, he was taken to school, with some very tough draws early on in tournaments, he had what he said was 10 or 12 matches against seeded players. It was enough of a learning experience for him that he hopes 2013 can be the year.

“I feel like I can get there,” he said. “I don’t feel unready if that’s a good term. The good thing about the tough draws at the Slams, is that I get a lot of experience playing these guys at this level. I have a lot of conversations about not winning these matches.”

The skills seem to be there, but the experience is not. Harrison says he is not always able to take advantage of fortunate situations, where the top players out themselves in position to succeed.

“I’ve taken sets off those guys,” Harrison said. “I gave up a really good slice on the tape to give up a break in the fourth. They happen to everyone. They happen to Roger [Federer] and Rafa [Nadal], but the only difference is that those guys get broken in that game, they turn around and hold and put themselves in a good position. The inexperience with me, I went out and got broken with on the very next game.”

Even Del Potro thought the game was closer than it was.

“He is very dangerous,” the 2009 Champ said. “He has a big future and he liked to compete with all the players. He has the game to beat all of them.”

So Harrison is getting there and there is still a lot of tennis to play for the young American. He is playing in three tournaments in Asia and also has other things in mind later this year to get ready for 2013.

And then there will be the phone calls from Roddick. You know Harrison’s number will be ringing.

(File Photo: Ryan Harrison at Indian Wells 2012; Credit: Corleve/Natasha Peterson)


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